Catch them young: Promoting Environmental Education in schools and communities in Bangweulu, North Eastern Zambia



Posted on 22 September 2008  | 
School children after a video show
© WWF-Canon Alan Carlson Enlarge
Without environmental education there is a danger that citizens will take natural resources for granted and expect such resources to avail themselves for exploitation whenever the need arises. This contributes to the wanton destruction of natural resources for immediate gain and to the insufficient appreciation of their importance to national economies and to sustainable livelihoods.

A project by WWF Southern Africa Regional Programme Office (SARPO), that encourages more responsibility for the conservation and restoration of the environment in the Bangweulu basin in North Eastern Zambia, has seen more players become involved in spreading the message of conservation and restoration among communities using tools such as drama, video shows and nature gardens in government and community schools.

The project is financially supported by the founder of M Magazine through WWF Sweden. It has reached out to 46 schools in the Chiundaponde and Kalasamukoso areas. The schools formed conservation clubs that act as a platform for sharing knowledge and teaching school children and their families on the importance of natural resource conservation. The clubs were registered with the Wildlife and Environment Conservation Society of Zambia. The latter gives the clubs environmental Teacher’s hand books, magazines and posters on a quarterly basis.

“Our main task under this project is to popularize environmental issues through participatory social learning in schools and their communities, and to capitalize experiences and lessons for purposes of informing and influencing management and decision-making processes,” says WWF SARPO’s Miombo Eco-region Leader, Dr Enos Shumba.

Undeterred by lack of adequate resources, the project improvised an Environmental Mobile Unit (EMU) by mounting the relevant equipment - a generator, DVD/VCR combo player, LCD projector and screen - on a Land Cruiser vehicle. The Unit visits the 46 schools on a roster basis for environmental video shows and distribution of relevant literature. This has resulted in sharing of experiences between and among schools and their neighbouring communities.

One of the project field officers involved in facilitating the environmental video shows, Richard Kalyata, explains how the shows are conducted. “Environmental mobile shows are normally conducted in schools and community centres and target school going children, youths, teachers and female adults - who happen to be the major natural resource users in the area”.

Mr. Kalyata further explains that most of the video shows are locally generated and focus on local environmental issues affecting the Bangweulu basin such as deforestation, wildlife poaching and inappropriate fishing methods. The shows also highlight sustainable natural resource use options being promoted by the project in the area. These include bee keeping, fish farming and conservation agriculture.

To spice up the environmental issues, the shows provide clips on the importance of education in order to generate a culture of appreciating the value of education in both children and parents. Each show takes about 40 minutes followed by a question and answer session where participants share lessons learnt.

“The shows have generally been appreciated by both children and adults as they are considered educative in as far as the conservation of natural resources is concerned. Participants also view environmental shows as a motivator for children to attend school and the parents to send their children to school. This is important considering that most children in the area do not attend school. They engage in other livelihood activities such as fishing and girls are forced into early marriages”, continues Mr. Kalyata

Eight of the conservation clubs have established nature gardens. The gardens are used to demonstrate good natural resource stewardship to school children and communities within which they live. Practices demonstrated in such gardens include intercropping of cereal crops with multi-purpose trees and planting exotic and indigenous fruit trees.

The Miombo Environmental Evening Education (3E): Of Nature Gardens, Schools, and Conservation Education in the Bangweulu Basin, North eastern Zambia is a project under the Miombo Ecoregion Conservation Programme financed by the founder of M magazine through WWF Sweden. Its goal is to encourage communities (especially school children and female adults) in the Bangweulu basin to take responsibility for the conservation and restoration of the environment.

The project has 3 objectives:
  • to popularize environmental issues through Participatory Social Learning;
  • to set up an Environmental Mobile Unit (EMU) that provides environmental awareness; and
  • to capitalize experiences and lessons to inform and influence management and decision making processes.

It is hoped that through the project, people of the Bangweulu basin will gain a deeper understanding of how their individual and collective actions affect the environment and equip them with skills for better and informed decision making.
School children after a video show
© WWF-Canon Alan Carlson Enlarge

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