|The Valley Tonga live in the lower Zambezi Valley on both sides
of the Zambezi River in Zambia and Zimbabwe. Up stream are the
Victoria Falls, downstream is Kariba Dam. The Valley Tonga are
the third largest ethnic group in Zimbabwe after the Shona and
The best known fact about the Tonga is that they were forcibly removed from the banks of the Zambezi River forty years ago to make way for the building of Kariba. Once deported from their habitat, they were abandoned. In recent years, they have gained some outside attention largely through the beauty of their material culture (in particular their basket work and their goblet drums) which have become popular with the tourist trade. Before the dam, the Tonga were able to grow two crops a year. Their winter gardens were made possible by the flooding of the Zambezi river which brought rich alluvial soils every year. The ground they now live on since their displacement is desperately poor and barely sustains one yearly crop of drought-resistant sorghum. Furthermore, they are plagued by damage done to their crops from wildlife which they are now forbidden to hunt .
The Tonga are marginalised people who do not share in the luxuries of modern life in Zimbabwe. Until recently, they viewed outsiders with suspicion and their remote position has not encouraged investment in the area. Even the advantages of electricity and tourism which Kariba dam brought to the cities, have bypassed the Tonga almost completely. Although the Tonga lost so much with the coming of Kariba, they managed to maintain their cultural identity.