At this very moment, environmental education is taking place all around the world. And that’s very exciting! It is subject to the parameters and historical context unique to each region, and is often very different than environmental education here in the United States. But regardless of the shape and size of the effort, environmental education is extremely critical no matter where it’s taught.
This August I traveled around Tanzania considering what environmental education might look like outside of Arizona, and even beyond the North American continent. While trekking up Kilimanjaro I became acquainted with efforts by the Tanzania National Parks Authority (TANAPA) system to address the issue of waste management and soil erosion on the mountain. Declared a World Heritage Site by UNESCO in 1987, Kilimanjaro National Park attracts 52,000 visitors per year, and the resulting trash and human waste on the mountain is substantial. Realizing that education is the best way to implement new strategies and change the culture on the mountain, TANAPA is exploring new policies and educational tactics.
Kili Treks is one of the premiere local companies that operates tours on the mountain. The company’s owner, Wilfred Moshi, explained that efforts by TANAPA to implement new procedures to minimize trash on the mountain would be most effective if they were adopted in stages — first with the visiting climbers, and then with the local porters. For their part, Kili Treks practices Leave No Trace principles and takes time to educate their clients about the importance of environmental stewardship while visiting Mt. Kilimanjaro. Hikers also get a first-hand account of the rapidly melting glaciers on the mountain due to the effects of climate change.
Mr. Moshi is also involved with a non-profit called Twende Pamoja, whose purpose is to promote the development of a global vision in the context of relationships between communities, schools and places of learning in both Tanzania and the United Kingdom. There are 40 primary and secondary schools and six communities involved in this partnership, which began 30 years ago.
This year they have created an environmental general plan, which is now in its initial stages. Twende Pamoja’s 2017 targets include educating people on environmental issues, initiating practical actions to conserve the environment, encouraging young people to be active and responsible, and finding the links to environmental issues within the primary and secondary school curriculum.
A central focus of their education work for the past five years has been the ‘Hand in Hand’ Global Vision Project, which asks 16,000 young people in primary and secondary schools and communities in Scotland and Tanzania to reflect on two questions:
What do we want to hold onto from our past and our culture?
How do we want our world to be different in the future?
Young people are invited to make a pledge to build a better future — together.
To put environmental education in Tanzania into context I reached out to Dr. Bruce K. Downie of the Kesho Trust in Tanzania. Kesho Trust works to build community-based understanding and action that strengthens the interrelationships between people and the natural environment.
Below Dr. Downie gives an overview of the state of environmental education in Tanzania, and touches on the work that his organization champions.
Environmental Education in Tanzania: Exploring the Work of the Kesho Trust
By Dr. Bruce K. Downie, Founding Director of Kesho Trust
Environmental education in Tanzania is very much a reflection of a range of influencing factors which differentiate it from the North American or European context. The rate of population growth in Tanzania is one of the highest in the world. Pressure on natural resources is therefore intense especially given the rapid economic growth that has also characterized the country in this century. The pressure of changing natural resource availability is especially felt in the rural areas where the local population generally remains poor and priorities are immediate as opposed to long term – food on the table today. The formal education system is under stress from population growth and the expectations of the burgeoning middle class. Priorities are on academic achievement to allow for advancement in a growing and changing society. Especially in urban centres, reading, writing and arithmetic are priorities in the minds of system implementers and environment takes a back seat. In the rural areas where the environment is a daily presence, the formal education system suffers from a lack of staffing and resources and so environmental concepts and interests are relegated to school based clubs which are also few since most school don’t have enough teachers and those working in rural schools are already overworked with regular class responsibilities.
At the post secondary level, interest in environment is greater and the expansion of the university system is allowing for a variety of interests to be served, although the quality of education is affected by the availability of quality instructors competent at a university level. It is from this system, however, that our organization, the Kesho Trust, gets considerable interest from students because of our connections to a number of research institutions. Many graduates who are looking for experience and work opportunities approach us to volunteer and we try to encourage that participation as much as our resources will allow. The students we get inquiries from are mostly wildlife management graduates..
A major environmental education effort we are undertaking in partnership with another NGO, Saving Africa’s Nature (SANA), is the development of an environmental learning centre called Kihembe which is on a 100 acre parcel of land located in the village of Mkange adjacent to Saadani National Park. We have been working with local villages to reduce the conflict over the establishment of a small and potentially vulnerable national park. Kihembe is a significant effort that we hope will lead to better understanding of conservation values and greater livelihood sustainability within the villages. The centre is intended to be a residential educational facility that can provide school programming for local students as well as others from around Tanzania along with a base for sustainable livelihood and conservation research. It will also serve as an orientation and education centre for the park serving visitors to Saadani. Facilities such as this are rare in Tanzania. Some dormitory facilities exist in some national parks and a few interpretation facilities in national parks are available for visitors. However, coordinated and high quality efforts to address these kinds of needs do not exist at present.
Kihembe is in the development stage. We have some basic facilities for staff and volunteers at the site. We are finalizing our design concept and architectural drawings and construction budget for presentation to donors to assemble the necessary funds for construction. We are seeking supports in all aspects of the centre’s development and hope that those with the interest, resources or skills to participate will contact us. We are also very open to partnerships with similar institutions internationally.
For further information on Kesho Trust:
- Kesho Trust – www.thekeshotrust.org
- Kesho Trust: Kihembe initiative – www.thekeshotrust.org/projects/saadani-environmental-education/
- SANA – www.karibusana.com
- Kihembe – www.kihembe.org