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Makgadikgadi Pans Expedition, a 160 km kitebuggy trip across the Kalahari desert

EC CommunityJames HipkissComment

Adventurer and former Zimbabwean commercial farmer Ben Freeth and his two young sons will attempt the first crossing of one of the worlds largest salt pans in a home-made, kite-powered go-kart during mid August 2012 to raise funds for the recently formed Mike Campbell Foundation.

The wooden craft will sail approximately 160km across the Makgadikgadi salt pans, which are located on the fringes of the Kalahari desert in north-eastern Botswana and cover a vast area of more than 15,540 square kilometres.They are home to the second largest migration of zebra and wildebeest in the world, with up to 75,000 animals crossing their seasonal grasslands each year. Named the Mike Campbell Dune Dancer, the go-kart was designed and built by Joshua (12) and Stephen (10), the late Mike Campbells grandchildren, and originally had an Optimist dinghy sail.The body is lightweight, with wheels large and wide enough to go over the pans thin crust, as well as clearance to allow it to run over tussocks and rocky areas.For the expedition, it will be propelled by a five-metre kite.

Earlier in the year, the go-kart passed its trials with flying colours on the Mozambique coast. The Mike Campbell Foundation was set up last year to honour the courage of Mr Campbell, a Zimbabwean commercial farmer and conservationist who fought for justice and the protection of human rights after the violent government-led farm invasions decimated his country and resulted in the dispossession of hundreds of thousands of farm-workers and their families.Through the expedition, the UK-based foundation hopes to raise R130,000 for its work. The money raised will provide training and survival skills, medical assistance and educational support to additional destitute Zimbabwean farm workers who have lost everything due to the political violence. The foundation is also involved with justice work and a lobby campaign to reinstate the Southern African Development Community (SADC) Tribunal which was dissolved by the SADC heads of state in May 2011.

This tribunal was the only regional court where victims of human rights abuses could go when justice systems failed in their own countries as has happened in Zimbabwe. Commenting on the expedition, Freeth said, The desolation of the area is symbolic of the barren lives of the injured and destitute people were helping, but like the Makgadikgadi pans, which sustain themigrating herds, the Mike Campbell Foundation can help people to survive and rebuild their lives. With just US$ 50 (R400), the Mike Campbell Foundation can supply a family with seed, inputs and the training they need to feed themselves for a whole year and buy the seed and inputs for the following year.

The Foundation sends farm-workers on conservation farming courses, teaching them to farm sustainably from a base of absolute poverty. Every donation will contribute to rebuilding shattered lives in Zimbabwe and protecting peoples rights.

To follow the expedition and make a secure donation online: www.justgiving.com/Mike-Campbell-Foundation