Creating Environmental Awareness Among Zambian Children

20 Jan 2014

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Planting a tree, learning how rain forms and playing games about the circle of life are among things that have helped many children understand and appreciate the importance of their natural surroundings, but these extra-curricular activities are not always available to school-children in regions of the world with low education levels and few resources, such as Zambia.

Game Rangers International (GRI), one of four local NGOs supported by the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP), the Zambian Government and the Danish Government, through Small Grants totaling over US$1 million to NGOs and Community Based Organizations (CBOs), is helping to promote conservation and a sense of responsibility in protecting the environment among youth and school children in the country.

GRI is working with students in grades five and six of ten primary schools in Mufumbwe and Kasempa Districts, Northwestern Zambia, to instill awareness on the ecological value of their surroundings. The two districts are located in remote areas with limited power supply and minimal mobile telephone network. Most households here rely on subsistence farming, using charcoal burning and illegal wildlife hunting widely to supplement income.

“People in these communities depend directly on the environment for their wellbeing and if current behaviors continue, the next generation will suffer from environmental degradation which could lead to food insecurity,” says Sarah Davies, Fundraising and Public Relations Manager of GRI Zambia.

Conservation clubs dubbed “Chongololo” (millipede in the local language) were set up in Mufumbwe and Kasempa Districts in the 1970s under a government initiative. However, due to the lack of support and trained leaders, few remote conservation clubs remain active even though many of the teachers in the area had been Chongololo Club members in the past and were very enthusiastic about reinvigorating them.

After a round of interviews by GRI, 25-year old local community teacher Peter Kilalo from the village of Kaminzekezeke was appointed to serve as the local “Muzovu”/ Awareness Project Officer. Peter’s task is to deliver the first lesson on a conservation curriculum to each school.

This resource filled with fun lessons and activities is then handed over to the Chongololo Club leader to continue its implementation. Peter will visit each school once a month to monitor and encourage the clubs as well as conduct extra-curricular activities.

Every year, an environmental quizzing competition determines the three best performing “Chongololos” and they are invited to travel into the Kafue National Park to stay at an environmental activity centre.“ Protecting our environment is a concern that every individual shares, regardless of age. It is never too soon to teach children their roles in the community. 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 GRI initiative is being replicated in other areas in the country to enhance community capacities in the environmental protection and effective management of the natural resources around the Kafue and West Lunga National Parks which harbor a fantastic diversity of wildlife including endemic bird species with a variety of habitat types. Both parks have over the years been affected by human activities, mainly hunting and fishing by the local communities.

These interventions are geared towards contributing to poverty reduction through introduction of sustainable livelihoods in communities. The selected NGOs and CBOs are serving as peer educators and are facilitating the transformation in the effective management of resources.

Peter Kilalo is convinced that this outreach will make the children and youth become an important ally in the efforts to enhance the environment and create a sense of responsibility towards sustainable behavior. "I am thrilled to help my community learn about protecting the environment – Kasempa Chongololo Clubs are going to be the best!" says a beaming Peter.