16 June 2013

Zimbabwe: Govt Steps Up On Environmental Awareness

In what proved to be the greatest show of commitment so far to achieving a sustainable environment, Zimbabwe on June 5 joined the rest of the world in commemorating World Environment Day 2013.

Proclaimed in 1972 by the United Nations General Assembly, the World Environment Day celebrated every year on June 5 is a day that has become the vehicle through which awareness of challenges facing the environment is promoted.

This year, it was celebrated under the theme Think. Eat. Save --promoting sustainable practice, a theme aimed at eradicating food waste and promoting sustainable methods of managing especially food resources.

With at least a third of everything that is grown on this planet reportedly being lost between the field and the consumer, food wastage is fast becoming a major challenge worldwide.

According to the Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO), an estimated 1,3 billion tonnes of food is wasted between the food production and consumption stages. And while this is happening, FAO reports that one in every seven people in the world goes to bed hungry and more than 20 000 children under the age of five die daily of hunger.

The United Nations Environment Programme (Unep) has stated that the global food production occupies 25% of habitable land and is responsible for 80% of deforestation, 70% of fresh water consumption and 30% of greenhouse gas emissions.

In his message to mark the day, the UN secretary-general, Ban Ki-Moon said: "By reducing food waste, we can save money and resources, minimise environmental impacts, and most importantly, move towards a world where everyone has enough to eat."

In Zimbabwe, the commemorations served not only as an eye opener on issues pertaining to food wastage; it was a chance for the Environment ministry to raise more awareness on the need to achieve environmental sustainability.

Unlike World Environment Day celebrations of previous years that were characterised by low turnouts, this year's commemorations attracted a larger crowd, with participants drawn from various sectors, seeing almost everyone being represented. For instance, youths who had previously bemoaned their exclusion in the processes were this year represented.

Numerous primary and secondary schools took part, notable among them being a group from Eiffel Flats Primary School that made a well-articulated, well-researched and educative presentation which left many in awe.

In his keynote address, the guest of honour at the event, Minister of Environment and Natural Resources Management, Francis Nhema said the thrust was to advocate for partnerships that seek to address the environmental challenges that make it hard for everyone to enjoy a clean, safe and healthy environment.

"In Zimbabwe, 150 000 tonnes of domestic waste is generated per year and food waste constitutes about 70% of the total amount of waste.

It is indeed sad to note that while a lot of people in Zimbabwe do not have adequate food, the bulk of waste on our dumpsites is organic," said Nhema.

The minister said he hoped this year's theme would urge everyone to join hands in an effort to raise awareness and "to take corrective action to reduce all forms of wastage, be it in your home, on your farm, in the supermarket, in a canteen, in a hotel or anywhere else where food is produced, prepared and consumed".

Reduction of food print lessens emissions

Speaking at the same event, Alain Noudehou, the United Nations Resident Coordinator and UNDP Resident Representative, reiterated on the need for each person to reduce their food print as that also meant reducing emissions throughout the food supply chain.

"If we consider any of our typical favourite meal, we should think about what it takes to get it ready for our tables, how much electricity or diesel was used to pump the required irrigation water, how much diesel was used to till the land, how much energy is consumed in cooking that delicious meal... ," said Noudehou.

A visit to the Africa Unity Square on the day, where more than 30 exhibitors had converged, was proof of the tremendous efforts currently underway in the country in attempts to achieve environmental sustainability.

The exhibitions comprised many eco-friendly projects that different oganisations and individuals are working on, most of which promote the sustainable use of resources and aim to help reduce the carbon foot print. Some showed how they are converting agricultural waste into paper, while some showed how they are making candles, floor polish, wash and bath soap from jatropha oil, among many other initiatives.

Going through each exhibitor's stand was a marvel.

Whether Zimbabwe will manage to achieve millennium development goal 7 by 2015 still remains to be seen. One thing for a fact, although the country remains bedevilled by a myriad of environmental problems, efforts are being made at achieving ecological sustainability.

For feedback, email: cmasara@standard.co.zw

World Environment Day 2013, zimbabwe

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