Nature Gardens, Schools and Conservation Education in the Bangweulu Basin, Northeastern Zambia

Geographical location:

Africa/Madagascar > Africa General

Africa/Madagascar > East Africa > Tanzania
Africa/Madagascar > Southern Africa > Malawi
Africa/Madagascar > Southern Africa > Zambia


The project aims to introduce awareness of environmental issues in school children in the Bangweulu basin, Zambia. It is widely recognised that effective environmental education increases public awareness and knowledge of the relevant issues and can lead to a better understanding of how individual and collective actions affect the environment. This creates a personal responsibility for the preservation and restoration of the environment.


The Bangweulu basin, a massive wetlands dominated by swamps and Lake Bangweulu covers some 58,000 km2 of land and is home to both endemic and threatened species, including the shoebill stork, black lechwe, and the wattled crane. It has been listed as an area of biological significance (ABS) by WWF-SARPO on the basis of the numbers of invertebrates, mammals, plants, birds and herps. The area is also rich in fish and home to the Unga and Twa (lowlands and swamps) and the N’Gumbo and Makulu (uplands).

The ABS has an ample network of protected areas and forestry reserves. However, there are concerns that natural resources in the Bangweulu basin are threatened by shifting agriculture, charcoal production, overfishing, illegal hunting, and a breakdown in resource allocation and control systems. Woodland loss has been estimated as 2.6% per annum accelerated by charcoal production and shifting cultivation.

These threats were noted by WWF-SARPO and a project was developed which focused on sustainable livelihoods, critical sites and conservation. Over the past 2 years, the project has addressed capacity issues, gender, conservation of critical conservation sites but has not really focused on public awareness and knowledge of environmental issues.


To facilitate awareness of environmental issues in school children at an early age.


1. Environment Mobile Unit (EMU)

The dearth of information on environmental issues in Bangweulu is particularly pronounced in schools and amongst the general public. The EMU will provide environmental programmes to schools on a roster basis. The unit will be mounted in a self-contained vehicle with a power generator, film/video projector, screen and cameras. It will also distribute pamphlets and other materials to school children and teachers. The EMU’s main objective is to screen environmental information to help educate both children and their parents.

To enable this, the project will need to:
a) acquire relevant information about environmental issues from Bangweulu, Zambia, the South African Development Community (SADC) region and further abroad;
b) generate and package the environmental information, demonstrating links between the environment and local and higher level realities; and
c) ensure that all the competitions and field days in schools are covered and relate to the key conservation themes in the Bangweulu.

2. Nature Gardens

The proposed nature gardens are pupil-run facilities, providing children with an outdoor classroom for them to learn, hands-on, about sustainability. The garden agreed on by the school management authority and the local leadership will be under a school champion, a teacher or local person with an interest in environmental issues and a pupil. They will jointly decide and agree on a theme for the garden, and establish mechanisms for the participation of all classes.

Some micro-projects that may be undertaken in the garden include heritage orchards, vegetable production, tree nurseries, and conservation agriculture trials. It is up to those managing the nature garden to decide on the main theme (e.g. soil and water conservation, greening of landscape, birds) and how the other themes will be addressed within the garden. The project will encourage and support the use of local materials. In this case the local extension workers, forestry, fisheries etc should be used as much as possible. The project will put in place competitions among participating schools for the best nature garden.

Each participating school will announce a theme for each year in the life of the project. To ensure that there is active participation of the schools as well as the pupil-body a 2-tier competition is envisaged.
1. School level competitions in which different classes or grades at the same school will compete with each other. This will use judges from the surrounding schools. In this case, a class or grade could decide to plant indigenous trees in the nature garden while another may want to plant indigenous vegetables, rear rabbits and so on but there must be agreement on the principles of access and management of the garden as an entity.
a. The link between pupil activities in the garden and the home will need to be explored and developed as a criterion for success.
b. Filed/open days for parents to see what will be happening in the nature garden

2. Inter-schools competitions will be limited to Samfya and Mpika districts schools with the 2 best schools competing against each other in the final. These will be judged by outsiders with the help of government extension workers.

While the project will provide prizes for the best nature garden initially, it is thought likely that the private sector and other institutions will become interested in subsequent phases.

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