Friday March 14 2014

Young people can save environment

By Editorial

Over the years, Uganda has experienced devastating effects of climate change such as extreme weather patterns, leading to prolonged drought and heavy flooding. This is a clear indication that climate change is one of this country’s most pressing challenges that calls for collective ideas on how to educate the public about it.

There are several challenges: Bad farming practices, deforestation, lack of awareness, among others. Also, climate change is largely discussed at workshops and communities who are most vulnerable to the effects of climate change are often left out. Debates about the scientific explanation behind global warming are useful but not enough. The crucial thing is to help communities adopt environmentally friendly lifestyles.

The government’s latest environment awareness campaign launched in Nakasongola District is an impressive strategy to address threats posed by climate change. We have had several campaigns in the past but this particular campaign – Energy Explorerz – is different and potentially exciting because it target school-going children.

By taking the campaign to primary and secondary schools, the Energy ministry has started a sustainable effort in two ways. One, young people can be very powerful agents of change in communities when armed with the right information. Two, the youth comprise the biggest percentage of Uganda’s population, which makes it possible for them to trigger change.
For this campaign to succeed, a parallel plan should go beyond schools.

It is fair enough to target young people but that should be a long-term plan. In landslide-prone areas such as Bududa in eastern Uganda where there is massive encroachment on Mt Elgon National Park, urgent measures are required to reverse the extreme damage already done to the environment.

In the short-term, community leaders should work with environment bodies, especially the Uganda Wildlife Authority, to draw a gradual plan – with full participation of community members – to end encroachment and degradation and stop communities from clearing the natural vegetation on the mountain.

The long-term solution lies in the campaign targeting young people. The Energy ministry should expand the awareness to all schools countrywide. Emphasis should also be put on teaching farmers better farming practices and empowering them to adopt simple environment conservation strategies.