How I fight climate change through education in Zambia

Read how the Alliance for World Change, founded by GPE youth leader Clement Kaponda of Zambia, is raising awareness and working with partners to combat the effects of climate change in his country.

November 16, 2022 by Clement Kaponda, Alliance for World Change
3 minutes read
Collins Nzovu, the minister of green economy and environment of Zambia, plants a tree during an activity led by the Alliance for World Change.
Collins Nzovu, the minister of green economy and environment of Zambia, plants a tree during an activity led by the Alliance for World Change.
Credit: Clement Kaponda

In Zambia, I see the impacts of climate change are visible from the shifts in temperatures and weather patterns. Floods have damaged school infrastructure, deforestation has caused famine and led to poor crop yield and scarcity of water. This means more girls need to help fetch water for household use, preventing them from accessing education.

Sandra Mwewa, a 15-year-old girl I met during a field trip to the Matero area in Lusaka District, said that as a first-born in a family of 4, she has to fetch water 600 meters away for chores and cooking, and this makes her too tired to attend school.

In mitigating the effects of climate change, education empowers citizens with knowledge, skills, behaviors and attitudes necessary to make informed decisions that preserve the environment.

On the African continent, climate change is an emerging issue. In Zambia, climate change effects are slowly being recognized and receiving attention from the government. In 2021 the Ministry of Green Economy and Environment (MGEE) was created with the responsibility to coordinate all environmental and climate change programs.

Pupils at a local school pitching a climate-smart idea.
Pupils at a local school pitching a climate-smart idea.
Clement Kaponda

Educating young people for climate action

My organization, Alliance for World Change (AWC), has been playing its role in combating the effects of climate: we have set up 5 Climate Ambassadors Clubs (CAC) with more than 1,300 members in selected primary and secondary schools in Lusaka and Copperbelt provinces.

The members of CAC are pupils from grades 7 to 12 and aged between 14 and 18 years. The clubs provide behavior change lessons through debates, school presentations and local interactive games.

AWC conducts tree planting activities, particularly mulberry and Mexican apple trees, that help with water retention and provide shade and fruits, thereby promoting education in a green environment.

AWC is also training 105 traders at Chiwempala and Lulamba markets on the dangers of climate change and providing refuse bags to separate plastic bottles from other waste.

The bags are later collected and sold to recycling companies and the money realized is used to finance the trader’s children’s education. In this regard, education and environmental protection are connected.

Clement interacting with pupils.
Clement interacting with pupils.
Clement Kaponda

Need to step up awareness and action on climate change

Because climate change is a relatively new subject among Zambians, more community work is needed for people to assimilate essential information. For example, traditional farming methods locally called “Chitemene system”, imply cutting down trees for farming and wood as a source of domestic energy, which continues to injure the environment at an alarming rate.

Additionally, climate change financing is poor among local organizations and the implementation of the 2021 Zambia National Climate Learning Strategy requires momentum.

AWC engages with partners such as MGEE, the Center for Environmental Justice (CEJ), Zambia Climate Change Network (ZCCN) and Mizu-Ecocare, a climate responsive education system and others. AWC will continue to dialogue with the government and stakeholders through courtesy calls, symposiums and community hall meetings to raise climate awareness and lobby support.

In the future, I long for a homegrown climate fund, more youths to join this fight and actual implementation of activities in line with policies and recommendations from COP27.


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