Monday, July 23, 2007

Youths Should be Empowered for Environmental Sustainability

Sierra Leone has a population of more than five million. The highest of this population is the children and the young people. Some of them are in learning institutions whether in schools or vocational centers and others are in the provinces engaged in farming and mining activities.
Most importantly, the underlying denominator is, the youth are the learning population in the forming of their value systems which will carry them through adulthood to old age. The youth, can do this through what they see, hear and at time read in schools, families, streets, social gathering and greatly from the media.
In the year 2000, world leaders in Africa and the other continents met at the general assembly in New York and agreed an eight millennium development goals gears towards minimizing poverty and strengthening the environment. Among the goals that were outlined to be met in 2015 is the goal seven which is ensuring environmental sustainability, focusing on three main targets.
The first target is to integrate the principles of sustainable development into country policies and programmes and reserve the loss of environmental resources, the second is that t by 2015, the proportion of people without sustainable access to safe drinking water, and that target three by 2020, to have achieved a significant improvement in the lives of slum dwellers.
To address the problems of the environment in Sierra Leone, two major policy instruments have been formulated and enacted. There is the National Environmental Policy 1990 which has the aim of achieving sustainable development through sound environmental management and one of the strategies of the policy is “to make as priority Environmental Impact Assessment of proposed activities which may significantly affects the environment and the use of resources. There is also the Environmental Protection Act of 2000 which was also established to regulate and protect the pollution of the environment.
Sierra Leone has extremely done well to establish bodies and polices that will protect the environment by way of ensuring environmental sustainability.  But the major problem that t the government fails to do is the creation of awareness and education to the youths who are very much significant in the sustainability of our environment.
For instance according to evidential reports and sample surveys that I carried in Leicester Road and Kambia District, a good number of youths at various functions shows that there is absolutely great gab of the knowledge of the youths for environmental protection and sustainability.
No wonder why for instance in the Western Area specifically at the Fourah Bay College land, people are felling down tress thereby endangering the environment any minute and hour.
The question I asked the youths at these functions was whether they have ever heard about environmental issues or whether they are taught on ways they should protect the environment. To my dismay,  100% of the 40 respondents (youths) in the two places answered in the negative, on the other hand, they did not know about environmental issues in the media ,  school; from friends, in their church and mosque communities and absolutely no way in their  families. Also, neither the Environmental protection commission that is tasked with the responsibilities of informing the people about environmental protection and sustainability is effectively doing so. This shows that the media must be at the center in the process of value formation towards environmental conservation issues.
But to the most surprising thing is the fact that 90% of the youth in Sierra Leone thought that environment is not relevant and should not be a priority among the youths simply because there is absent of environmental education rather, they are spoiling the environment  through throwing sewage unnecessarily  at places in the city thereby causing pollution.
It is necessarily recommended that for any positive action to be made towards environmental conservation, the young people must identify degradation as a problem affection them and that they can do something to impact environmental sustainability. The youth have the potential, possibilities and influence in themselves needed to make a change.
The other key recommendation that I should suggest is that initiatives have to be made by the environmental commission. Doing more awareness campaigns among young through education curriculum, the media, and faith based youth groups, homes and families, participatory studies and projects to help them change their prevalent attitudes and modify their value systems, show commitment and take initiatives towards environmental sustainability in the country.
In fact it is clear that young people involvement in the present trends of development will ensure “sustainable future for themselves and the future generations. They, the youths will expose the environment polluting activities in the formal sectors and the unmonitored waste disposal activities from industries where host of them are working. They will show off the consumers’ trends in their various institutions and families, bridge the traditional systems of farming within the modern one, they will make campaigns against over exploitation of the resources and defend the water resources.  The youths should also if they are empowered study to initiate clean production, recycle reusable material, embark on reforestation, and adopt relevant technology and lots more.
Examples of youths’ organization that is ready for the championing of a sustainable environment are the BRACO, the Mount Aureole Development Association (MADA), friends of the Earth etc.
A number of these organizations have realized the influence that they have in society and have initiated projects run by the youths towards environmental sustenance. These organizations cannot achieve long lasting result, without support from the government through policies, networking with the old members of the society and the youth being in leadership taking the lead in capacity building and the entire community conscientization.

African Path