VIOLET MENGO, Lusaka
â€œIT is imperative to promote an economy which favours productive diversity and business creativity; small scale food production systems which feed the greater part of the worldâ€™s peoples using a modest amount of land and producing less waste.â€
This is an extract from the Laudato si page 129, an encyclical of Pope Francis on care for peopleâ€™s common homeâ€“earth.
Pope Francisâ€™ encyclical on ecology, Laudato si, a Latin phrase which means Praise be, stresses the fact that climate change is real and mainly â€œa result of human activityâ€.
The encyclical notes that the problem of climate change is urgent, and that reducing greenhouse gases requires honesty, courage and responsibility.
Laudato si encyclical accepts and affirms what people know about climate change: that it is mostly due to greenhouse gases emitted by human activity; that seas are rising, oceans acidifying, polar ice melting; that the weather is at the extremes; and that basic systems of life on earth are being disrupted.
It calls on all people to change their daily actions for them to live more sustainably.
The encyclical, written in May 2015, came ahead of the United Nations climate change conference that took place in Paris in December 2015, where governments reached a universal climate change agreement to keep the average global temperature from rising beyond two degrees Celsius.
On a larger scale, the encyclical urges global leaders to be held accountable for those who will have to suffer the consequences of environmental degradation.
Pope Francisâ€™ encyclical underscores the moral imperative for urgent action on climate change to lift the planetâ€™s most vulnerable populations, protect development and spur responsible growth.
His call that â€œhumanity still has the ability to work together in building our common home . . . Truly, much can be done!â€ is what prompted the Zambia Episcopal Conference (ZEC) through the Jesuit Centre for Theological Reflections and Caritas Zambia to hold a two-day conference in Lusaka recently.
The conference, held on the theme â€˜Care for Our Common Home in the Context of Large- Scale Investments â€“ Mining and Agricultureâ€™, brought together the clergy, civil society organisations and selected community leaders for dialogue.
The conference was aimed at discussing Pope Francisâ€™ encyclical, with a special focus on mining and agriculture.
Catholic priest Leonard Chiti said the Church felt it was important for the Popeâ€™s message to be passed on to all people in an effort to protect the planet.
â€œWe organised the conference to contextualise the message from the document in the Zambian situation,â€ he said.
Father Chiti said the conference was aimed at looking for ways to address climate change by discouraging harmful practices such as cutting down of trees indiscriminately.
The conference sought to understand what is leading to environmental degradation, ecological damage and fuelling global warming.
â€œThe basic message is that if we do not do something to address climate change, which is largely being accelerated by human activities, then in a few yearsâ€™ time, we will have no home nor planet,â€ Fr. Chiti said.
And Chief Mumena of the Kaonde people of Solwezi said his participation in the conference was aimed at finding ways of addressing environmental degradation, which is adversely affecting the country.
â€œI am here as a community leader as well as a national leader to see how best we can enforce the norms and regulations that can help save the environment,â€ the traditional leader said.
His chiefdom is working with First Quantum Minerals under the Kansanshi Foundation and has introduced hundreds of farmers to ecological farming practices.
â€œWe are working with Mutanda Farms Limited in poultry farming and we distribute manure to various parts of the chiefdom so that the farmers can use more manure and less fertiliser,â€ he said.
And Minister of Lands, Natural Resources and Environmental Protection Christabel Ngimbu said government has welcomed the call by Pope Francis for all people to dialogue on the importance of preserving planet earth.
â€œWe fully share the concerns expressed by the Pope regarding the plight of our earth and the need for us to take stock of our actions and commit to prudent environmental management,â€ Ms Ngimbu said.
She said government has put in place several policies, strategies and programmes aimed at helping to prudently manage the environment and natural resources.
The minister said government has also formulated specific policies on such natural resources as forests, wildlife, fisheries and water to govern their sustainable utilisation.
â€œThe country has remained committed to international agreements that address climate change and environmental challenges,â€ she said.
In April 2015, Zambia joined the rest of the world in signing the Paris Agreement, which was adopted at the climate change conference in Paris.
And Cardinal Peter Turkson gave an overview of the Popeâ€™s encyclical and urged the Lusaka conference to translate the message into action and change attitudes towards all creation.
The two-day conference ended with participants unanimously agreeing to promote Pope Francisâ€™ encyclical on caring for the environment.
In a communique read by ZEC president Telesphore Mpundu, the bishops urged government to harmonise all policies on mining, game management, agriculture, water and land.
The bishops also expressed concern about the environmental impact of large-scale mining and agriculture.
â€œWhile appreciating that the two sectors are cardinal in creating jobs and meeting our daily needs, there is need for prudent and sustainable management of earthâ€™s resources to reduce poverty among people for the benefit of future generations,â€ Archbishop Mpundu said.
The conference participants challenged the mining sector to begin to practise responsible mining that takes into account the needs of the environment and the affected communities.
They also challenged mining companies to put in place measures to ensure that the land that has been used for extracting minerals is re-used for other purposes.
Participants resolved to continue promoting honest and open dialogue with mining companies, investors in agriculture and policy-makers to raise awareness on the need to take care of the planet.
They further committed to empowering citizens to meaningfully engage in environmental impact assessment community hearings.
In view of the challenges brought about, especially drought, the delegates urged government to improve the countryâ€™s early warning system for farmers before the onset of the rainy season to guarantee food and nutrition security.
They also agreed to promote water harvesting, tree regeneration and establish innovative, cheaper and alternative sources of energy.
On mining concessions and agreements, the conference participants demanded that there be transparency and accountability, starting from the affected communities to policy makers such as government, traditional leaders and mining companies.
And the participants pledged commitment to the promotion of conservation and organic farming, which allows the earth to regenerate.
They further noted that although large- scale agriculture is necessary for increased production of food, it must be responsive to the needs of the environment.
VIOLET MENGO, Lusaka