Home » Human Rights » Protecting the Planet for Our Children’s Future [column]

“We do not inherit the earth from our ancestors we borrow it from our children”. This Native American saying holds true today more than any other time in our history and calls on our collective responsibility to preserve the earth for future generations rather than plunder its resources with reckless abandon. The issue of climate change, its impact on human, social, economic and environmental sustainability, and the responsibility that each of us has in ensuring that we protect our environment is one that is yet to reach the mainstream conscience of regular Zimbabweans.

The impact of climate change has had a heavier impact in the rural areas where the majority of the population lives.

This impact is felt heavier by children, women and the vulnerable members of the community.

UNICEF Zimbabwe recently conducted a study entitled “Climate Change and Children”, and the findings of this report were that children’s access to basic needs (i.e. water, food and quality of health) have been severely impacted due to climate change, and the environmental degradation which has occurred has caused major challenges for access to each of these basic needs as well as access to education, adequate shelter and sustainable economic development.

In Zimbabwe, our forests are being threatened by rapidly increasing human population which has led to increased human activities and encroachment of forestland.

This has resulted in rapid environmental degradation that has reduced our existing natural resource base to meet current and future societal needs.

Last year, Zimbabwe reported a 30 percent increase in the production of tobacco.

This increase was largely owing to the rise in small scale tobacco farmers – a positive development that has greatly empowered many Zimbabweans who were resettled onto A2 farms over the past few years. However, this same farming has also changed the landscape of parts of the country where the cutting of trees to cure tobacco has resulted in massive deforestation.

According to the Forestry Commission, 20 percent of the 330 000 hectares of natural forest are lost annually to tobacco curing. At this rate, we could lose up to 200 000 trees over the next three years. This figure ought to cause us all to be collectively shocked.

The effects of climate change and land degradation are not only being felt in the rural areas.

The recent floods which were experienced around the country were largely as a result of erratic weather patterns which caused unprecedented torrential rains and extreme thunderstorms.

This coupled with the loss of vegetation due to such practices as deforestation, in turn increased surface run off leading to the flooding of rivers, the destruction of infrastructure and in worse cases, the loss of lives.

In response to this national crisis, various organisations have stepped up their efforts to offset the massive deforestation that is affecting the country.

Last week, these organisations came together to plant 10 000 eucalyptus trees in Bindura — an area greatly affected by deforestation due to tobacco curing.

This initiative is also in support of the global “100 million trees by 2017”, an initiative that aims to reverse the effects of years of deforestation globally, to ensure that we replenish the planet for the next generation.

The Common Vision reached at the Rio+20 for the “World We Want to See” includes promoting integrated and sustainable management of natural resources and ecosystems that supports inter alia economic, social and human development while facilitating ecosystem conservation, regeneration and restoration and resilience in the face of new and emerging challenges.

One of the key asks to come out of the 2014 National Climate Change Response Strategy was to come up with a Climate Change Policy that ensures that Zimbabwe promotes the mainstreaming of climate and climate change issues into all national development plans.

Zimbabwe is a primarily agro-based economy whose population relies heavily on arable farming and livestock breeding. The issue of climate change and environmental degradation is one that eats into our economy in a very direct way.

We need to make climate change part of our daily conversation to ensure that the promotion of an economically, socially and environmentally sustainable future for our country, and indeed our planet is secured for present and future generations.

The author is the Communications Specialist at UNICEF Zimbabwe. For comments and suggestions, email: harare@unicef.org

Source : The Herald