WILDLIFE and Environmental Conservation Society of Zambia (WECSZ), a civil society organisation, has been the implementing partner for the Unite4Climate programme under the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF).
For the past six years, the programme has led to the planting of over 30,000 trees in over 200 schools countrywide, implementation of climate change adaptation projects such as setting of demo sites for conservation farming, training of 1,325 youths in the programme, cleaner and greener schools and reuse, reduction and recycling of materials such as waste paper, cans and plastics.
WECSZ Environmental Education Programme also raises awareness on climate change and other environmental problems through education materials (Chongololo and Chipembele magazines) which they send to conservation clubs in schools across the country. The organisation plans to continue with its awareness-raising activities, but more so through engaging local traditional leaders as well. This is in a bid to also reach community members at their level.
Currently, WECSZ is running a project in the Mafinga Hills Key Biodiversity Area where the causes of climate change are highly perpetrated, and the impacts are plainly seen. A closest example is the reduction of the water level and flow of the Luangwa River just few kilometres from its source, due to unsustainable agriculture methods which involve indiscriminate cutting down and burning of trees along the riparian corridors. To address this, WECSZ has conducted a number of awareness campaigns, nursery establishment in villages and Beekeeping training as an alternative livelihood activity. The aim is to rehabilitate the riparian corridors of the Luangwa River. WECSZ assistant environmental officer Enock Mwangilwa says the organisation advocates for a better and conducive environment.
“We have plans to build capacity for communities through developing community adaptation action plans (CAAPs) with them. The aim is to link community actions to the National Policy on Climate Change and other related strategic responses at national level,’’ he stated.
“Our needs include more collaboration with other CSOs and government bodies, financial and technical support for capacity building in climate change adaptations.
“[They also include] enhancing awareness raising on climate change through the magazines, awareness campaigns and simplification of the National Policy on climate change.”
WECSZ was founded in 1953 as the Game Hunting and Preservation Association. The organisation has undergone several changes to suit the changing conservation demands of those times. For instance, the society, in 1957, mobilised international resources through ‘Operation Noah’ to rescue animals that would have otherwise been destroyed by the newly-created Lake Kariba.
When the rescue work, Operation Noah, was completed, the assets were sold and the proceeds used to create the Wildlife Trust Limited, whose purpose was one of supporting the work of the society. Around the same time, its name was changed to Wildlife and Environmental Conservation Society of Northern Rhodesia.
In 1995, the Society’s focus changed to reflect the shift in emphasis from solely wildlife to broader environmental issues. Thus, on the World Environmental Day, the society came to be what it is today, the Wildlife and Environmental Conservation Society of Zambia (WECSZ).
WECSZ has so far received three awards for its work in wildlife and environmental protection, namely the 1990 Global 500 Award (now called the Champions of the Earth Award) from the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP), the 2014 and 2017 Environmental Activism Award from Zambia Environmental Management Agency (ZEMA) respectively. These awards were based on WECSZ’s sustained contribution to promoting environmental protection through awareness across the country.
At policy level, the society was actively involved in the Zambia Biological Diversity Strategy and Action Plan, the Zambia Wetlands Strategy and Action Plan and the National Environmental Policy. The society is a member of the Board of the Environmental Council of Zambia, Natural Resources Forum and the Zambian Environmental Conservation Fund, and works with a variety of local private sector organisations with whom they continue to discuss ways of enhancing our contribution to environmental work. Other notable achievements include the creation of the Lochinvar and Blue Lagoon National Parks, aerial wildlife census and biodiversity mapping, conservation work on black lechwe and sitatunga populations on the Kafue Flats and Bangweulu Basin, the operations of the Chongololo radio programme, a world recognised environmental education programme that WECSZ has run since 1972, and the implementation of the Unite4Climate Change, in collaboration with UNICEF. With regard to the Unite4Climate programme under the United Nations Children’s Fund Zambia (UNICEF), for the past six (6) years, the programme has led to more environmentally sustainable efforts which include the planting of over 30,000 trees in over 200 schools countrywide, the implementation of 13 climate change adaptation projects, the training of 1,325 youths, cleaner and greener schools, and reuse, reduction and recycling of materials such as waste paper, cans and plastics through interpersonal communication and community sensitisation. It will plant 1,000 indigenous trees using the “cocoon technology” recently introduced in Zambia by Land Life Company.
WECSZ Environmental Education Programme also raises awareness on climate change and other environmental problems through education materials that are sent to conservation clubs in schools across the country. The Chongololo and Chipembele Conservation Club members get to learn about climate change, its causes, impacts, mitigation measures and adaptation measures through various topics contained in the educational materials.
Currently, WECSZ is running the Afromontane Ecosystem Conservation Project in Mafinga Hills Key Biodiversity Area where the causes of climate change are highly perpetrated, and the impacts are plainly seen. A closest example is the high reduction of water levels and flow of the Luangwa River just few kilometres from its source, due to unsustainable agricultural methods which involve indiscriminate cutting down and burning of trees along the riparian corridors.
To address this, WECSZ has conducted a number of awareness campaigns, nursery establishments in villages and beekeeping training as an alternative livelihood activity. The aim is to rehabilitate the riparian corridors of the Luangwa River. The trees will not only be supporting the Luangwa River, but they will act as carbon sinks as there is a lot deforestation in the area. These activities contribute to community climate change resilience.
WECSZ is also involved in advocacy work to protect Zambia’s forest reserves (including a Supreme Court appeal against developments in the Lusaka East Forest Reserve); support to information dissemination on wetlands, biodiversity, desertification and pollution control, in co-operation with the Ministry of Education, Ministry of Environmental and Natural Resources, World Wide Fund for Nature (WWF) and World Conservation Union (IUCN).
A projection into the future of the society shows a focus on four key areas as outlined in the 2018 -2022 Strategic Plan which is under development: forest, water, policy and wildlife. The strategies to be employed include education, research, practical conservation and policy advocacy. Climate change, gender and human rights are some the cross cutting issues that will also be taken into consideration.
The author is a Zambia Daily Mail sub-editor.