VIOLET MENGO, Lusaka
ANDOZILE Simwinga is a UNICEF youth climate change ambassador based in Mpika district.
He tirelessly offers trainings, motivation and facilitates activities in Mpika district on climate change that are focused at young people.
He also sensitises his peers on the dangers of HIV and AIDS as well as early marriages.
Because of his active involvement in ensuring communities are aware of various issues that mostly affect them, Andozile is being groomed as the Zambian negotiator on climate change and has been actively involved in the Conference of Parties (COP) Zambia preparation workshops.
â€œMy role as a climate ambassador is to sensitise my fellow youths in communities, schools and general public on the impact of climate change and to ensure they too get involved to address it.â€
â€œI feel honoured to be considered in sensitising young people on climate change in order to ensure tomorrowâ€™s generation is well- informed.
Andozile says young people should be involved in climate change negotiations.
He says when young people are involved in the climate change fight, they will have an understanding of dealing with climate change related challenges.
Young people in Zambia have in the past been taking a backseat in the climate change debate and awareness. Not anymore.
As the effects of climate change hit many parts of the country, exacerbating hunger and unemployment, many young people are now actively involved in climate change fight.
Like Andozile, who has been engaged in the Zambia negotiation process to become one of the countryâ€™s negotiators in future, it is a clear indication that young people have potential to do better.
He says being part of the climate change negotiations is an opportunity to see the effort being put in the fight against climate change and the extent to which young people are being involved.
Other than Andozile, the Ministry of Lands, Natural Resources and Environmental Protection have a policy to involve young people in the COP preparations, a move that has accelerated the level of engagement of young people in climate change debate.
Green Enviro Watch executive director Abel Musumali has equally been active and involved in climate change negotiations for a long time now and he commends Government for embracing young people and giving them a platform.
Mr Musumaliâ€™s message is clear.
â€œWe are all affected by climate change, and as youths, we are taking an active role in creating awareness to ensure many young people and adults alike are reached with information on climate change,â€ Mr Musumali said.
As it is, Zambia is already experiencing the effect of climate change resulting in droughts and floods.
The country is experiencing serious water scarcity as a result of drought and the country is struggling to deal with this challenge because water is the countryâ€™s major source of energy.
United Nations Youth Association co-ordinator Matthews Kalabo, who is also involved in climate negotiations says it is evident that the water levels at Kariba Dam are very low and may run dry if the country does not receive good rains this season.
Mr Kalabo said because of water scarcity, the majority of rural communities that depend on rain fed agriculture have been affected with some experiencing food insecurity.
â€œI believe we need more engagement on climate change issues from the youth from both urban and rural,â€ Mr Kalabo said.
He said the current lack of interest in climate change by some youths in the country has to do with lack of awareness and comprehending climate change effects.
â€œSo, we still have a lot of work to do,â€ Mr Kalabo said.
According to the Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO), the worldâ€™s population is young, with nearly 2.2 billion people under the age of 18, of which 85 percent are living in developing countries.
â€œChildren and young people are concerned, thoughtful citizens, capable of participating in, and changing the society of which they are a part; and they have an important role to play in addressing and affecting the issues of our world,â€ FAO said.
In addition, children and young people have enthusiasm, imagination and abundant energy to undertake local actions, act as effective communicators in their communities and be involved in international arenas.
At the final COP preparatory workshop held in Chibombo recently, Ministry of Lands, Natural Resources and Environmental Protection permanent secretary Trevor Kaunda urged the Zambian negotiators to ensure the formulation of national plans and activities fit in global issues.
Mr Kaunda says climate change is a global challenge that requires multi-faceted approach.
He encouraged the delegates to take advantage of the regional groupings such as SADC, COMESA and the least Developing Countries (LDCs) because such groupings carry a larger mandate and voice at international level.
â€œIf we have to be heard as Zambia in as far as our position on using agriculture in terms mitigation and adaptation, we have to bargain with a strong voice together with those with similar circumstances like ours,â€ Mr Kaunda said.
The 2016 climate summit is dubbed: Cop of action as it would discuss rules and procedures on how to implement the Paris agreement.
VIOLET MENGO, Lusaka