Danga Forest: A taste of traditional conservation Part 1

Sifelani Tonje

THE land lying between Birchenough Bridge and Jack Quinton/Zaba Bridge gives an image of denuded forests and receding savannah grassland. A visitor to this Save Valley belt would dismiss it as a desert in formation.

Such an image hides the beauty of a place which lies near Save River at Chibuwe.

The recently tarred Tanganda-Ngundu Highway stole public attention leaving the natural beauty wanting.

Many visitors thus return from Chipinge without paying a visit to this natural gem which if most people come to known of it, would not go without experiencing its facination.

The place is no other than Danga Forest.

The forest has a meaning to the local community and beyond. It’s impact goes to other areas of interest in the livelihood of the Ndau people and their ornamemnts such as the biggest communal irrigation scheme in Zimbabwe, Musikavanhu.

It also doesn’t ignore other economic activities that became the product of the historical yet perennial Save River called PaMbare where villagers come as far afield as Chegwite in Zaka to do business with the people of Chibuwe.

This market attracts people from distant places such as Mbeure, Rimbi, Mwangazi and Manzvire. It is also home to an unidentified tree species called Mutiusinazita in vernacular language.

Danga Forest of Chibuwe is the pride of the valley. This forest is heavily under-publicised and a lot of aggressive awareness is needed to market it to the world. This forest is one of the remaining but receding forests in Zimbabwe.

In Chipinge district, Chirinda Forest is the most visible to the world since it has one tree with a world record which is the Big Tree.

It should be revealed that Chipinge is not home to only one natural forest, but others also exist.

These include Danga Forest of Chibuwe, Bhanyule of Mahenye, Mazovhi of Bangira, Ngomahuru of Sakuinje, Chinyadzamapofu, Hadoi and Gwasha ReNgaone in Ngaone communal lands. Such places have come about as a result of a deliberate policy by traditional authorities.

Danga Forest can be ranked as among the second biggest forests in Chipinge after Chirinda Forest. It is found in the heart of Chibuwe, some three hundred from Mutape Chibuwe residence. It derives the name from Danga meaning, Dziya Guru also Chibi Le Lizwe, a phrase well captured in the salutation to the leader.

What strikes a visitor’s interest is the suddenness of the density of the trees and foliage. The thickness of the trees will easily tell one that centuries of conservation have culminated in this product, standing lonely yet resolutely in a largely denuded area.

“When people of Chibuwe say ‘Chibi Le Lizwe’, vanonga veitoronza gwasha rineri,” (When they say Chibi Le Lizwe, they will be referring to this forest) says Cephas Mwatsinza Chibuwe (75).

It’s believed that the conservation of Danga Forest started way back in pre-colonial times. It is said that the programme started in the times and the days of the founding patriarch of the Chibuwe family called Mukumiriweshango.

He is said to have reserved the place as a burial site and where chiefs would be installed.

Madzimambo aibva Mariseta echiuya kudziya, Chibi Le Lizwe. Ndimwo mwakaata Mukumiriweshango, Taanahwo, Mutorwa naMaronga,” (Chiefs came from Chimanimani to this forest. This is where Mukumiriweshango, Taanahwo, Mutorwa and Maronga are buried) chipped in the current Mutape, Phineas Mwandiona Chibuwe (88).

Danga Forest is puzzling in that in the hottest season, it is probably cooler than most places found in the eastern highveld such as Chikore, Madziwa and Tuzuka.

Once one is on the precincts and threshold of the imposing forest, the world suddenly comes together into a cool, assuring yet forbidding presence. Within the thick forest lies the resting place of the founding fathers, Mukumiriweshango, Taanahwo, Mutorwa, Mbezura and Maronga.

The big lake called Chibi Le Lizwe also called Dziya is believed to be the drinking place for the three lions used by Mukumiriweshango. The lions are called Gavhinya, Muchabvira and Mushoshereyi. It is this lake that cools the place and gives it a soothing ‘Chirinda Forest’ environment.

Different species of animals and tree can be found in the forest. Trees such as mushuma, mutovhoti, murwiti, munga and mibvee have made the place their home. It is a verdant forest which becomes an oasis in an apparent desert.

Very close to this magnificent natural forest is the Bare area which is so saline that only the barest of vegetation can be found in the place, it being the source of the much sought after traditional salt called Bare believed to have medicinal qualities.

Is Danga Forest significant and important this day? The forthcoming article shall answer.

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