THE 2016 Youth Empowerment and Transformation Trust’s (Yett), Youth Leadership and Development Winter School Program, which was held in Matobo, Matabeleland South Constituency from the 9-16th July 2016, aimed at developing visionary leadership among Zimbabwean youths at the same time tackling issues of how young people can provide home grown Climate Change and Disaster Risk Reduction (DRR) mitigation strategies in their communities.

On issues of climate change and DRR, rural community members in Zimbabwe and the entire population do not understand what climate change is. Some are taking it from a global comprehensive way, viewing it as a global phenomenon which is occurring somewhere up there in the world and not really down to earth. What communities are failing to understand is that, climate change is localized; it is actually something that is on the ground and challenges that people are facing daily.

Forty young people drawn from across various parts of Zimbabwe, including, Mutoko, Harare, Bulawayo, Mangwe, Plumtree, Maphisa, participated in this year’s Winter School, which ran under the theme “Youth Participating in Community Development”. The youth were selected from various tertiary institutions, civil society groups, churches, community based organisations. The training sessions during the Winter School were carried out in 4 different languages, Sign Language, Ndebele, Shona and English, to enable language exchange and learning among Winter School participants.

Vertiver grass with long roots to hold soil and water under experiment in Matobo Research Station to be planted by Youths in Maphisa to combat soil erosion and protection of wetlands

Vertiver grass with long roots to hold soil and water under experiment in Matobo Research Station to be planted by Youths in Maphisa to combat soil erosion and protection of wetlands

“We have got school children who are taking time to go to school because they are walking five kilometers, seven kilometers to fetch water or firewood before going to school. The distances that those people used to walk are doubling almost every year. We have got areas that are becoming deserts in Southern parts of Zimbabwe, areas like Matobo and Tsholotsho are worst affected. Deserts are creeping in and people need to realise that climate change has to be localised. We need to start at village level, how people view the hazards that are there within their village and how can they be able to make some changes. People and animals are being affected by gullies, river siltation, range land depletion and soil erosion. Animals have no grazing lands and all these things are happening,” said Kudakwashe Mudokwani, Fambidzanayi Permaculture Climate Change and DRR Officer for Matobo District.

The training strategically took place in Matobo District in Matabeleland South Constituency, one of the provinces, which has been hardest hit by the El Nino induced droughts in the 2015-2016 farming season. This district is in farming region number five which is not suitable for crop husbandry and crop production unless under an irrigation scheme. With 74% poverty incidence, the population within the province can be classified as being very poor. Due to these high levels of poverty, the area has been hit by a high mobility of young people particularly young men into neighbouring countries such as South Africa and Botswana, in search of greener pastures.

It is from this dynamic training program’s shared learning that the 40 youths have committed among each other to the following strategies, recommendations and actions for community development. Guided by the UN Climate Change Framework and SDG 13: 20 YETT Winter School Alumni will participate in the Connect for Climate Change Global Competition to share their message and strategies to combat climate change.

“We did a case study in Dewe Village in ward 17 of Matobo District and we had a cross section of young people ranging from below 25, between 25 and 30.These young people did disaster mapping and hazardous assessments of affected areas in their communities and they wrote down and took pictures of their observations. We have trained these youths in climate change mitigation strategies in their communities and we are moving on to other areas,” said Mudokwani.

Through Christian Legal Society Paralegal Trainings, the youth from Maphisa will also cascade down their knowledge on Climate change and disaster risk reduction to other young people.

The learning visits enabled youth participants from Maphisa to access Vetiver grass under experiment at Matobo Research station, which they will use to plant along slopes and gullies to slow down run off. The same grass type will also be planted in wetlands to help soak in more water. Fambidzanayi Permaculture will also be the guiding resource organisation to enable youth to dialogue with the civil protection Unit at District level in Maphisa.

Speaking at the leadership session Alois Tarehwa from Deaf Media Trust Zimbabwe explained in sign language how the leadership session and climate change issues was so thought provoking, energizing and challenging.

Alois Tarehwa, who is deaf, and Onai Hara, interpreting for him during a session

Alois Tarehwa, who is deaf, and dump and Onai Hara on the left, interpreting for him during a session

“I am encouraged to know that youths can and should lead from different facets in society. For such a long time programmes such as these would not reach out to deaf young people like me because of fear of how difficult it would be for me to cope around youth who don’t comprehend sign language. Today am so happy to have been given a session to teach other youth sign language and about deaf culture. My roommate is not deaf but he is already learning very fast to sign. Besides us communicating on whatsapp or through the different apps from google store, we have absolutely no challenge in communicating,” he said.

Lungelo Ndhlovu

About Lungelo Ndhlovu

LUNGELO NDHLOVU is an award winning freelance multi-media journalist based in Bulawayo, Zimbabwe. http://www.chronicle.co.zw/chronicle-pair-wins-mining-awards/ He specializes in news writing, photography and video production, covering major news, features and local events for various media organizations. He also researches and writes about news stories on digital platforms and visual journalism. He contributes Feature stories for Zimbabwe Papers Organisation (The Chronicle) http://www.chronicle.co.zw Ndhlovu is also Reuters Foundation Trust (TRF) ‘Following the Aid Money’ Investigative Reporting Program Alumni (2016) http://www.trust.org