Forging friendships in forest


ONE of the challenges that many conservationists face is finding the best way to get people to genuinely care about the environment and everything in it.At this point, telling people to care is simply not enough. They have heard it before.
Conservationists find themselves itching to devise interesting activities that people find engaging in while helping them to develop an appreciation for nature.
That is what this year’s second ‘Women for Conservation Meeting’ on June 9 was all about.
Over 40 women, men and children took part in a nature walk in Lusaka’s Leopard’s Hill forest reserve.
The walk, which lasted almost two hours, was meant to help people see and realise the importance of conservation and its undeniable remarkable benefits. It was also an opportunity for people to interact and share ideas on conservation.
The Leopards Hill forest reserve was gazetted for conservation purposes and to protect the Chalimbana River, which is a source of water for hundreds of families.
The forest reserve is also important for education, heritage and provision of ecosystem services such as sequestration of carbon emissions and a habitat to flora and fauna.
Zambia has in recent years lost some of its forests to massive agricultural activities, land encroachment for settlement and infrastructure developments.
Natural resources such as forests significantly contribute to livelihoods and economic benefits to many people and yet all these values go unnoticed to the people.
It is therefore crucial for people to realise the importance of conservation, and probably take part in conservation efforts.
With support from the Woodtiger Foundation, Wildlife Crime Prevention has developed a project that is aimed at enhancing women’s participation in conservation.
Women for Conservation also encourages women who are already working in conservation to share their experiences with others who may want to join the sector or who simply have a passion for the preservation of nature.
The initiative was necessitated by the fact that very few women are active in conservation issues, leading to poor female representation in this sector.
Some women in Zambia probably perceive and consider the conservation sector to be full of challenges that cannot be tackled by a woman.
The voice of women is critically important to conservation matters; the inclusion of women in different work sectors will help take in their views and concerns on environmental issues as well as contribute to policy formulation processes that help in protecting the environment.
Women are now taking interest in environmental conservation issues by actively engaging in various activities such as studying environmental-related programmes, participating at environmental conferences, and being a part of networks such as Women for Conservation.
This is because women are actively becoming aware of their role in protecting the environment.
Therefore, women who are naturally care-givers are challenged to take up the lead in conservation issues and demonstrate their knowledge and competences.
The author is Zambia Daily Mail Livingstone bureau chief.

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