This morning we have a talk with Timothy Phiri, and his students. Timothy in an environmental educator lectures about sustainability at UNZA (University of Zambia). The Environmental Education undergraduate programme is a relatively new in Zambia, having been introduced in 2008. The programme focuses on various sustainability issues including energy issues. He arranged a meeting with some of his students, where we expose our travel, and have a discussion with them about the energy and environment project we have seen. We also discuss their opinion of such projects in Zambia. We meet very motivated students: It is lunch time now, and that the students are currently on holidays. Yet 15-20 of them come to this meeting and actively participate to the debates, adding comments, personal reflexions, “local success stories”,… !

Timothy explains us that one of the main reason for the lack of accelerated development in Zambia is that the number of those that have been to school and are educated is relatively small. There are 14 millions people in Zambia but very few make it all the way up to the university: only 6000 new students admitted every year in UNZA, one of the few government universities. As a consequence, Zambia lacks adequate skilled human resource to develop the country.

The students tell us that lack of sustainability in Zambia comes from lack of policy implementation and enforcement. The Zambian government is reluctant to push forward the Renewable Energies, and the only actions come from local or private initiatives. Employment is another problem as graduates struggle to find a job once they finish their studies. In the case of environmental education the graduates should have become teachers of environmental education, but the government is yet to intorduce Environmental Education as a single subject in schools. So chances are they will end up working in some other field- maybe they’ll end up in the banks instead, because there is money in this field!

There is a lack of guidance and debate or discussion on key environmental issues as from the government and from the parents who don’t take time with their children and prefer to let them in front of the TV (probably this problem is recurrent in some other countries!). People are not aware from the benefits of protecting the environment.
There is also a problem of generation: the older workers stay in employment for a long time hence not creating space for the young ones, they don’t want to retire early (or probably cannot from a financial point of view). And they don’t accept critics from recently graduated newcomers. Thus it is impossible to change the behaviour inside the institutions towards more sustainability.

Zambian’s economy is too dependent on the mining sector, which is also devastating the environment. Zambia has a lot of hydro (80% of its electricity), but electricity is very expensive because the production cannot follow the demand. Therefore people go for the cheaper solution for their energy need: they cut trees and make charcoal which leads to the deforestation.
There is clearly a shift in the rain patterns, and it is felt even in Lusaka-it doesn’t rain as much as it used to. They also tell us than 90% of the population has no access to clean water tap water; and that effort must be made to save water. But resources are available: Zambia has 40% of the water resources of all Southern Africa! It also still has a huge reserve of woodlands in the region. The problem is the inability to harvest and use these resources appropriately.

The students make it clear that though they mention a lot of things that are negative it not to make their country look bad. They do so to make sure it does not make the mistakes have made in failing to mange their resources and eventually losing them. They acknowledge that strides are being made in different sectors of the economy by NGOs, Zambia Environmental Management Agency (ZEMA)and universities to improve things in relation to environmental management. The new Environmental Management Act of 2011 is evidence of this endeavour by ZEMA. The University of Zambia itself in a leading Centre for Education for Sustainable Development as it carries out numerous community outreach programmes related to environmental awareness. It is also the only university offering Environmental Education as a programme of study in Zambia-and the first in Southern Africa to offer it as an undergraduate programme. The major concern of the students is that government should do more to increase the capacity of NGOs, ZEMA, universities and all stakeholders to make sustainable development are reality in the beautiful country of Zambia.