Building Environmental Sustainability, One Village at a Time
Peter Kilalo, a 25-year-old community teacher from the village of Kaminzekezeke in north-western Zambia, has been recently appointed to serve as the local “Muzovu” or Awareness Project Officer.
His task is to provide environmental awareness lessons to elementary school children in the north-western part of the country, where most people depend on the ecosystem to survive and need alternatives to poaching and logging.
Aiming to tackle these issues, a UNDP-sponsored programme has been working with all generations to raise awareness of the dangers of natural-resource depletion and help people find alternative sources of living.
The scheme is the result of a partnership between UNDP, the Government of Zambia and Denmark. It provides small grants totalling over US $1 million to non-governmental organizations (NGOs) and community based organizations (CBOs) involved in conservation efforts.
- More than 300 children and youths and 60 teachers are involved in environmental education activities in poor and remote communities.
- Around 1,200 farmers were trained in sustainable techniques, and received seeds and equipment.
- By the end of 2014, the programme aims to improve biodiversity, environmental protection and reduce poverty levels in the target communities.
- The programme will be expanded to the Northwestern, Central and Southern provinces.
Game Rangers International (GRI) is one of the four local NGOs that were chosen for this project. The NGO operates in the Kafue national park, 150 miles northwest of the capital Lusaka, raising awareness of environmental issues among students in grades five and six in ten primary schools.
GRI has been working with 300 children to plant trees, learn how rain forms and play games about the circle of life, helping them understand the importance of their natural surroundings and educating their parents in the process. Around 60 teachers were trained to teach the curriculum.
“If children and youth learn to take care of the environment, by the time they grow up they will be environmentally sensitive,” said Viola Morgan, UNDP Country Director.
The schools are located in remote areas with limited power supply and minimal mobile telephone networks. Most households here rely on subsistence farming, burning charcoal and poaching to supplement income.
Because these extra-curricular activities are not always available to school children in these areas, GRI has been working with local conservation clubs known as “Chongololo” (meaning “millipede” in the local language).
"I am thrilled to help my community learn about protecting the environment – [our] Chongololo Clubs are going to be the best!" says a beaming Peter, after giving his first lesson.
Because creating viable livelihoods and reducing poverty is at the core of the issue, the programme has also been teaching sustainable farming techniques to the same communities.
Around 1,200 small-scale farmers were given early-maturing maize and beans, in addition to seeds and fertilizer. One hundred of the farmers were trained to grow them and share the seeds they produce and techniques they learn with their peers. The proceeds from the farms will be used to buy more seeds and equipment.
This year, people living in the Kafue and West Lunga National Parks will also learn to set up businesses so they can sell local crafts and produce, and get involved in the tourism industry. Beekeeping will be another important activity.
Ultimately, the programme will be expanded to the Northwestern, Central and Southern provinces, benefitting 100,000 households.