By Nyaradzo Nyere
Climate change has been a huge topic in Zimbabwe.
In the past, Zimbabwe has shown great commitment to addressing climate change by being among the first countries to ratify the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC).
Climate change refers to the average long-term changes over the entire Earth. These include warming temperatures and changes in precipitation.
A research by the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) states that climate change impacts in Zimbabwe are related to water supply and food security. The country is already prone to droughts, which have become more recurrent over the last two decades.
Adaptation measures to address climate change impacts are as a result required to reduce impact in key economic sectors; especially agriculture, states the UNDP report.
While Zimbabwe’s contribution to global emissions of Green House Gas (GHG) is very small, there is growing concern over the potential impacts of climate change on the country in the future.
Given the heavy dependence of the country on rain-fed agriculture, absence of natural lakes, frequent occurrence of droughts in the region and a growing population, the potential social and economic impacts from climate change could be devastating.
Green Energy Zimbabwe spoke to Jean-Betrand Mhandu, the National Co-ordinator for African Youth Initiative on Climate Change in Zimbabwe, a 25-year-old youth who is raising awareness on climate change. Mhandu is also one of the Earth Day Africa coordinators. Below are the excepts from the interview:
- What motivated you to raise awareness on climate change?
Personally, l found an area of belonging in terms of giving back to the community. I was exposed to caring for the environment through volunteering with Zimbabwe United Nations Association. I started noticing some of the issues that are important that we do not pay attention to and the environment is something that l could relate to.
I grew up in Rusape (in Zimbabwe’s Manicaland Province), seeing the benefits of trees and this is something that l did not want to lose because l appreciated the value of the environment. I had my affection towards making change because, if not me, then who else?
- What is Zimbabwe’s biggest challenge with regards to climate change?
Zimbabwe’s biggest challenge is climate adaptation, the ability to cope with the negative impacts of climate change. Given that climate change is quite uncertain, it is very difficult to anticipate or predict what’s coming your way and when.
However, its impacts for the country are in the scope of variable harsh weather conditions such as high temperatures, storms, high rainfall, cyclones, colds and others that cause conditions such as heat waves, floods, crops distractions (e.g. invasive species, such as Fall army worm), land degradation, wildlife and ecosystems, destruction among others. We are still far as a nation from foreseeing what is about to come as a result of climate change.
- What is Zimbabwe’s biggest achievement with regards to climate change?
In terms of communicating the environment – what climate change is, explaining and raising awareness, Zimbabwe has done ‘something’ to try and inform people on what it is and in raising awareness. In terms of raising public awareness on climate change, the country has done a lot, it’s not yet at 100% but great strides have been made.
Our country has developed and produced a sound climate change policy as well as a national adaptation plan that is under development. The other thing that they have also developed is low emission development strategy which the country has also fused, this is done with consultations and engagement of all relevant stakeholders including the public, civil society, but communicating these or decentralising these hasn’t been done to its fullest capacity.
Hopefully, this will improve. In terms of trying to restore and balance some of the nature and wildlife, there is a lot that has been done and in terms of food relief, other stakeholders are coming in providing food relief as a measure to deal with hunger in the short term.
- What other work have you done as a young person to raise awareness?
Some of the work that l and other youth within our network are doing with regards to climate change is raising awareness among people so that they are aware of what is transpiring in relation to climate change. We have come up with waste management initiatives, we have done quite a number of clean- ups as well as setting up litter transfer centres around the country.
We have also planted trees, advocated for the protection of wetlands and volunteering time to educate others and also do the actual work on the ground. We have partnered with Environmental Management Agency (EMA), Zimbabwe Parks and Wildlife Management Authority, and others.
- What are your words of encouragement to other youths out there?
My words of encouragement are going towards how ignorant young people have grown and how individualistic people have become. As Africa, we are more communists than capitalists. Capitalism has the disadvantage that it’s more like the survival of the fittest kind of lifestyle, whereas with communism it’s more like we will be taking care of each other and making sure that everyone gains from what we have. So for us to survive, we protect what we have. So l’m just encouraging young people so that they are not passive anymore and they should be proactive and pay attention to things such as land degradation, pollution, and social accountability because all these things affect our lives. If we have low crop yields and productivity as a country, it means that someone out there, including us will suffer. This is something we have to start fixing now; we need to do something now as youth.
- As a parting short, what is your vision for Zimbabwe?
My vision is the ability to live on a living planet in which humans live in harmony with nature; a world where there is no pollution and people are not doing things that are harmful to others. I want restoration and the ability to admire the world that we have so that we all experience the glory of it and enjoy it as people … without causing harm to one another. We have to live in harmony with nature!
Jean-Betrand Mhandu, the National Coordinator for African Youth Initiative on Climate Change in Zimbabwe.