MALTAHÖHE — Last week 28 young Namibians from all over the country had the opportunity to participate in a workshop on solar cooking, renewable energy and climate change at the Namib Desert Environmental Education Trust (NaDEET) centre, located in the middle of NamibRand Reserve, the private nature reserve in the Namib Desert.
According to Rodney Seibeb, the project coordinator for Hanns Seidel Foundation (HSF), the 28 young people were chosen from different regions of the country and all have different backgrounds. This was done to have a very diverse group that consists of students, unemployed young people and those who had just left school. In the end the group consisted of students, cooks, workers in the environmental field - and all the attendants had very different reasons as to why they had applied for the programme.
"I'm studying nature resource management, so living in a sustainable way is already part of my life, but I wanted to have the direct knowledge that NaDEET could provide me," explains Sarry, one of the participants. "I'm already in environment education, but I wanted to learn how to use a solar oven, and now I can deliver the knowledge, which I acquired during the week, in the schools where I intervene," said Tauno, another participant.
Suzette is a cook who participated in the programme to learn how to use a solar cooker when doing her cooking. Overall, all participants were there to learn the basics of a sustainable lifestyle.
The National Youth Council (NYC) organised the training programme in conjunction with HSF who provided the required finance to bring the group to the desert and NaDEET centre, which provided the training, said Michael Mulunga, the coordinator for NYC.
The training taught participants how to use solar cooking for every day lunch, and there were also classes on waste management and renewable and sustainable energy.
Overall the programme looked at goal seven of the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals, which is to ensure access to affordable, reliable, sustainable and modern energy for all.
And to achieve that, NaDEET is full of different tips to make energy accessible for everyone. "Namibia is the perfect country for solar energy," explains Viktoria Keding, the co-founder of NaDEET, during one of the classes.
"Because of its high percentage of sunshine and its low average precipitation, solar power could be the solution to make energy accessible for a lot of people in a sustainable manner," said Keding.
But at NaDEET, saving water is also one of the main targets. With bucket showers, tippy taps and dry toilets, the participants learned how to live by using the minimum amount of water possible. And the result happened to be very positive. On the first day of the week, the average water use per person was about 33.2 litres, but on the last day it dropped to 17.9 litres.
"During this trip I learned how important it is to save water, and from now on, I will definitely take shorter showers," says Shatty, another of the participants.
During the week, one of the most important lessons was that a lot of things can be reused, instead of throwing them away. With an old drum, big nails, wire and pliers, one can build a fuel-efficient stove, that can replace cooking on open fires. With a bucket, a tap, a shower rose and some rope, one can build a bucket shower. And with waste paper, one can make fireballs to replace coal and wood.
"All of the tips we learned are so easy to [implement] and not expensive at all, and they don't require a lot of time, so it's accessible for everyone," says Suzette.
"The fireballs, for example, are really practical and could be really useful because wood is really expensive," adds Nicole, another participant.
And all the classes gave ideas for the future. "I want to be my own boss, and this programme could help me to achieve that," explains Emily. "I learned so much here, and maybe it could give us the opportunity to start a business," said Lucia, who is a student in communication.
"What we want is that the persons that come to NaDEET use and share the knowledge they learn here," says Keding. And for that reason, at the end of the trip, a solar oven, generously donated to NaDEET, was won by Landi, also one of the participants, who said she would continue to cook with solar energy. "I'm now going to teach my mum how to use it, and we will cook the recipes we learned during the week," she said.
By uniting young people with different backgrounds and different purposes, HSF, NYC and NaDEET are allowing youth to acquire not only knowledge that will help them and their communities but also for them to adopt a sustainable and affordable lifestyle.
"I now hope that we will continue this partnership and organise the same trip next year," said Seibel.