MARGARET CHISANGA, Lusaka
WHILE a group of children play excitedly around tables in the Regus room of Elunda House in Lusaka, one of the special guests at the childrenâ€™s educational dinner sits in an adjacent room, with her mother patting her arm to calm her nerves.
Her name is Kisha Butcher. She is a seven-year-old girl who has cerebral palsy. The little girl has been invited as a special guest by Patrick Glynn, aged 16, to witness the launch of the Magcor Forbes Zambia and Support for Education and Economic Development (SEED) Foundation Plant one million trees per year initiative.
The two organisations want to encourage young people to care for the less privileged in society, and also empower youths to engage in sustainable development activities by planting trees to protect the environment from degradation.
â€œI desire to be a source of inspiration to other children by motivating them to stay away from alcohol, drug abuse, early marriage, laziness, absenteeism from school and inspire them to take part in tree planting, recycling of waste into profitable small businesses and activities to do with energy conservation,â€ he said.
As a special gesture towards Kisha, the children present her with gifts. The organisation also presents Kishaâ€™s mother with some funds to ease her burden of providing for her daughterâ€™s needs.
Patrickâ€™s father, Michael Glynn, who is chairman of MAGCOR (Z) Holdings, said his firm has partnered with SEED Foundation Zambia because it has an interest in the preservation of natural resources for future generations through providing education on how to counter the negative effects of industrialisation.
The firm, which is involved in promoting renewable-power projects around the world, has satellite offices in Botswana, Canada, Mozambique, Namibia, Seychelles, South Africa, Zambia and Zimbabwe.
Patrick is an African-Canadian, born in Benin, west Africa, who has seen adverse effects of industrialisation on nature through his travels with his father around the world. Thus he has taken an interest in the Magcor Forbes initiative to woo youth involvement in environmental management through Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, YouTube and LinkedIn.
SEED Foundation national director Clara Nthembe said the main focus of the organisation will be to inspire the opening of SEED clubs in schools around the country through which the initiative to plant a million trees per year would be realised. She said the plan was conceived to ensure that future generations get the necessary benefits from abundant plant life.
â€œOnce a school SEED club has been formed in a school, our partners Tigris Timbers will provide the seedlings, and we will all work together to identify perfect ground for the tree-planting exercise,â€ she said.
She said the clubs would also be structured to inspire young people to become entrepreneurs through promoting awareness in sanitation, environmental preservation, hydroponics (method of growing plants without soil using fertile water) backyard and roof-top gardening.
After the formation of the clubs, the organisation will run a social media competition urging the clubs to develop entrepreneurial project proposals for protecting the environment such as recycling paper, bottles, plastic bags and related waste. These will be conducted through the MAGCOR (Z) Forbes sites on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, LinkedIn and YouTube.
â€œWorking with school authorities, the clubs will be encouraged to develop a project proposal for the purpose of protecting and developing an interest in the environment. The best proposal will be given a grant of US$5,000 to kick-start the project,â€ she said.
Other prizes will include a laptop with a library on â€˜Appropriate technologiesâ€™ and sustainable development, an educational tour to Namibia, a workshop tool box, 100 fruit trees and packets of seeds to start a nursery bed of 1,000 trees.
And Tigris Timbers Sustainable Restoration Forestry managing director Neil Rowley, said the firm has been involved in projects to restore the growth of forestry through the planting of trees.
â€œIt is vital that children know from an early age the role they can play in supporting and preserving the environment,â€ he said.
Dr Rowley said the firm has been involved in sustainable restoration of forests through collection of seeds and replanting of hundreds of trees over the years.
â€œWe are also involved in a project to empower families in rural areas by providing them with fruit trees. Once these trees grow and they start bearing fruit, we then buy the excess fruits from the villagers to provide them with income,â€ he said.
During the educational dinner, Dr Rowley had an interactive session with children and their parents on the importance of having trees in the backyard, neighbourhood and schools.
He said while many young people understand that trees provide fruits and shade, the intricate role that forests play in the greater purpose of sustainable development would be explained over a period of time during their club meetings.
Every guest walked away from the dinner with a mango tree seedling to plant. If those trees count towards the million trees in the SEED Foundation agenda for 2017, it could be safe to say the first few baby steps towards achieving the goal have been taken.
MARGARET CHISANGA, Lusaka