by Costa Chisvo
“For me the Book Fair is an opportunity to explore and discover some of the greatest literary minds. During the Fair week I won’t feed on food but books”.

These exuberant words were spoken by Jessie Chinganga, a high school head girl as well as an active “live wire” member of the Budding Writers Association.

Jessie isn’t the only one looking forward to the 7th Zimbabwe International Book Fair in Harare. Book Fair organisers expect thousands of people to converge on displays of some 84 publishers from 10 different countries. Writers, librarians, booksellers, and publishers from all over Africa will mingle and “talk books” for a week.

The Fair, to be held in the Sculpture Garden of the National Art Gallery of Zimbabwe from 4-8 August, is the second to be run by the Zimbabwe International Book Fair Trust (ZIBF Trust), established in 1990.

”The Fair is headed for success” predicts ZIBF executive director Trish Mbanga. The removal of the 20 percent surtax on books by the Government of Zimbabwe is a welcome move which will facilitate the smooth running of the Fair. And, for the first time in its history, the ZIBF will allow exhibitors to display goods other than books.

With funding from the Swedish International Development Agency (SIDA), the Norwegian Agency for Development Cooperation (NORAD), NOVIB (a Dutch development organization), Ford Foundation and the Canadian Organisation for Development through Education (CODE), the Book Fair has been described by UNESCO Press as “the most significant literary event in Africa south of the Sahara.”

Half a million dollars is being spent on the Fair at a time when drought, hunger, “environmental denudation, urban migration and increased lawlessness H are troubling the region. “But books are vital”, says Mbanga. ”They are the ladder, the lifeline, the only way to climb out of morass of mass starvation, environmental denudation, urban migration and increased lawlessness.”

It has been tradition at the Book Fair each year for critical issues in the sub-continent to be highlighted as focal themes.

This year’s theme is “environment.” Apart from tying in well with current global issues, the theme presents a timely follow-up to the UN Earth Summit held in Brazil in June. The Fair will be an
opportunity to reflect on the Summit.

The setting in the National Art Gallery Sculpture Gardens is appropriate for the theme and, as Trish Mbanga explains, offers an escape from “dreary exhibition halls which inevitably look and feel the same whether in Tokyo or Timbuktu.”

The focal point of the environmental theme will be two writers’ workshops. The workshops are called, “Writing for the Environment”, and ”The Literary Environment in Zimbabwe.”

The Writing for the Environment Workshop is to be a practical one, according to Mbanga.

More than 25 participants from the southern African region are expected to attend and share experiences in environmental reporting. Countries to be represented at this workshop are Botswana, Lesotho, Swaziland, Tanzania, Zambia, Zimbabwe and South Africa.

Print media participants will exhibit maps, photos, posters, leaflets, booklets and text.

“Electronic media participants will be provided with facilities for the public to hear their work on tape or see it on video”, explains editor Max Chivasa, who is coordinating the workshop.

Participants will also present short papers outlining problems they face when covering environmental issues.

The workshop proceedings will be published by Development Dialogue. The “Communicating the Environment Programme” (CEP) will be a major feature at this year’s Fair. CEP is a partnership initiative of the Southern African Research and Documentation Centre (SARDC), the Word Conservation Union (JUCN) and the PANOS Institute. It is aimed at improving the flow of
environmental information in the southern African region. CEP sponsors include the Canadian International Development Agency (CIDA), Oxfam-UK, the MacArthur Foundation and the Federal
Ministry for Economic Cooperation, Federal Republic of Germany (BMZ).

SARDC’s stand at the Book Fair will demonstrate the two computerised data bases which are a major part of CEP. One database consists of more than 900 contact people who do environmental work in the southern African region. The second database is a listing of information SARDC has collected, on the region’s environment, as part of the CEP programme. The environmental collection includes reports, books and unpublished materials.

“We hope the Book Fair will be an opportunity for SARDC to market the CEP programme and attract further contacts in the region,” says Andrea Booth, one of the CEP programme coordinators.

SARDC’s acquisition lists, bibliographies, catalogues, environmental features, mailings, apartheid updates and books published by SARDC will also be shown at the stand.

Other environmental Book Fair participants include the World Wide Fund for Nature (WWF). A Ford Foundation grant to ZIBF Trust is making it possible for publishers who emphasise “environment” to participate from ten additional countries.

Environment 2000 is staging a play entitled “Greenies” for the young audience. ZIBF Trust, in conjunction with Environment 2000, is sponsoring a book collection drive to enable children in rural
schools to have access to second hand books remaining unsold after the Fair. The second hand books will only be sold to school children attending the Fair in uniform.

The Fair will be brought to life by poetry readings, music, drama and cultural dances. (SARDC)

For more information on the Writing for the Environment Workshop contact Trish Mbanga in Harare, tel. 729904/5.