MTN Bushfire 2017 announced its theme of environmental sustainability through its call to action #GREENYOURFIRE, a spin-off from the festival’s long-established commitment to igniting social change through personal action, promoted as #BRINGYOURFIRE.

As the winner of the 2017 Gold Star for Best Responsible Event at the Responsible Tourism Awards, (part of the World Responsible Tourism Awards), MTN Bushfire has always been committed to bringing this environmental mission to life.

In order to make this commitment a reality, MTN Bushfire created a number of initiatives leading up to and during the 2017 edition of the festival. These projects  included the BRING YOUR FIRE ZONE, a fully interactive space where key environmental partners presented a variety of opportunities for MTN Bushfire guests to actively engage with this theme and to make their personal contribution to environmental sustainability.

One of the key partners in this zone was the United Nations Development Programme that created an interactive space with opportunities for tourists, the youth, families, artists, and exhibitors to learn about the UNDP’s global goals, to take part in a Sustainable Development Goals (SDG) quiz, to express their views on what the goals mean to them and to identify their role as individuals.

Swaziland’s Minister of Agriculture, Hon. Moses Vilakati, had this to say in response to a question on sustainable agriculture, “I was so happy to see a variety of fruits and vegetables on sale at the Bushfire Food Market. As a ministry we encourage farmers to produce more and more vegetables to ensure food security,” He further expressed a positive impression of the festival, citing his conversation with the Minister of Tourism and Environmental Affairs, Hon. Christopher Gamedze.

Another successful green initiative at this year’s event was the partnership between All Out Africa and Greenpop,the ‘Khula Tree Project’. The aim of the project is to engage people to plant indigenous trees around Swaziland and raise awareness about the importance of protecting indigenous trees. 30 festival goers took part and 30 indigenous trees were planted in Mlilwane Wildlife Sanctuary on the Sunday morning of MTN Bushfire 2017.

The tree planting ceremony was opened by Ted Reilly, the CEO of Big Game Parks and the founder of Nature Conservation in Swaziland. The ceremony was led by Misha Teasdale, the founder of GreenPop, as well as Kim Roques and Roland Thorne, the co-Founders of the All Out Africa Foundation and the Khula Tree Project.

Within the context of a major increase in the visibility of the arts in creating awareness and cultivating action and reaction towards climate change and environmental issues, Yebo Art & Design has been working on reducing its own environmental footprint through redesigned permaculture gardens, water saving and harvesting, recycling stations, solar energy investments, and more. At MTN Bushfire 2017 Yebo curated an art exhibition titled ‘The Burning Question’, that explored climate change issues together with 23 artists from Southern Africa.

As part of the exhibition, The Swazi Observer partnered with Yebo and Londza Designs to create a newspaper edition that was set in the year 2050 and created a lot of discussions and awareness on climate change.

Yebo curator Aleta Armstrong had this to say of the exhibition, “Climate change is happening despite many ignoring this fact and we hoped that visitors to the show would be inspired by the artists’ passion and different viewpoints to get involved in this urgent issue. It was a good beginning but much more has to be done.”

Greenpeace’s  was another festival partner whose objective at MTN Bushfire was to create awareness about the environment and the realities we are faced with from the effects of fossil fuels, and the team managed to engage and sign up hundreds of interested people.

Conservation Music, a newly formed organisation that uses music to educate communities on climate change,  also set up in the Bring Your Fire Zone and recorded music based on environment conservation.  Their “crowd studio” had hundreds of visits and the team believed the event was a turning point for the organisation.During the 3 days of Bushfire, Conservation Music recorded 44 artists, 32 of whom were featured in a final compilation. Over 56 songs were recorded by people from over a dozen countries.

Every activation at MTN Bushfire was also designed to be environmentally sustainable, with even the KIDZONE being included. All the activities in the zone were specially crafted to have little or no impact to the environment. Kids were exposed to a wholesome experience that allows for interactive edutainment centred around recycling, wellness and expressive art.

The young guests were also able to take part in a seedling transplanting project where they transplanted seedlings from trays into little pots that they could take home to grow in their gardens.

MTN Bushfire also took on climate change through ensuring a green and eco-friendly event with a recycling programme that targeted a minimum of 50% recycling of waste. Throughout the festival attended by over 29 000 people, in every zone, there were green bins for recyclables and black bins for general waste.

Through this recycling effort the festival was able to reduce its general waste sent to landfills, despite an increase in guests in attendance.  There was a decrease of 8.3% waste sent to landfill in spite of an 11.53% increase in the number of people who attended the festival.  The festival achieved a recycling rate of 48.63%, an increase of over 10% from the previous year.

MTN Bushfire 2017 proudly lived up to its GREEN YOUR FIRE call to action, and hopefully inspired the thousands of guests in attendance to continue to live the message of environmental sustainability.

MTN Bushfire guests partied with a purpose and saved the world while we were at it, by not letting good waste go to waste.