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Image: Njila's Plea

12/07/2019

Njila Banda is a Zambian journalism student based in Lusaka. His recent assignments have led to this reflection on the effects of climate change on his country.  Weekly blog.


Global warming is ever rising in the world, and more especially in the African continent. My country, Zambia, in particular has been hit severely. I strongly feel Zambians should have a louder say in issues pertaining to climate change.

Action should begin among us, the people, to show we can fight this terrible crisis.

Zambians can act against climate change by planting trees, because trees contribute to our environment by providing oxygen, improving air quality, climate amelioration, preserving soul, conserving water and supporting wildlife. Through this act alone, Zambians and the world at large can fight climate change.

Most countries in Africa are in economic downfall, and this is mostly because of climate situations. Countries like Zambia depend so much on mining and agriculture, but looking at the situation today, things have fallen apart in agriculture. There is not enough water to generate electricity through our main hydro system, so farmers can’t irrigate their land.

This is now a wake up call for Zambians to find alternatives, such as planting solar panels to access enough water for irrigation.

The solar panels would help reduce power cuts in the country, which have been imposed because of the lack of water in the Kariba reservoir. They would also improve life so much for a lot of businesses in the central business district of Zambia that require electricity to operate. And we should also think of wind turbines as another better source of electricity. Many people living in rural areas cannot afford electricity generated from the country’s main reservoir, and we must find alternative means of generating electricity.

Zambians could also act to halt climate change by reducing air pollution, which would mean reducing the burning of fossil fuels such as the coal and petroleum used in energy production.

But the point behind this is that when countries keep reducing air pollution, they must also reduce production in industries that emit gases affecting climate change.

So - we need alternatives to meet the key issue to reduce global warming to well below 2°C.

There have been many international treaties signed among nations on ways through which climate situations can be reduced, such as the Paris international agreement in which each country that signed nominated the emission reduction target. Let’s say - if these agreements are signed, nations should then be bound by them.

Countries like the USA, with their many production industries, hugely affect the climate because the rate of production is too high. The toxic gases they emit affect the climatic patterns across the world, including those of my country, resulting for us in increasing droughts.

It is for this reason that Zambians and the world need to stand up now and talk about practical solutions to climate change. We want countries to save the planet for future generations – my generation - through reducing these climate situations.

It must start from the constituencies we're living in - through interacting with our members of parliament and asking them to speak out to halt climate chaos.

I feel the Zambian government in particular should make laws that at least help us to contribute to controlling climate change before it’s too late.



Image: SEEKING NAHOM

05/07/2019

Alex Holmes has just returned to Scotland after another trip to Calais, where he volunteers at the Catholic Worker House and he updates us in this week's blog on the everyday desperate reality for those he encounters.    


9.25am: La Pass, the medical drop in centre, is still closed. Nebiyou’s ripped hand, heavily bandaged, rests limply in a sling. He spent two weeks in a specialist surgical unit in Lille after badly cutting his hand on razor wire whilst trying to run from the CRS, the French riot police. One finger was sliced in two lengthwise.
 
We wait patiently at the locked door.
 
Awate arrives. He presses his scarf to his lips. There’s blood on his white hoodie and the sleeves of his denim coat. There’s livid raw skin close to his left eye.
 
 “The CRS hit me with an electric baton on my face, head and back,” he explains.
Osman, another Eritrean, joins us outside the door, pink fresh skin on his dark face.
“I’m ok now,” he reassures me.
 
I ask if they’ve seen Nahom, and describe the boy with the broken teeth. They haven’t.
 
9.30am: the sullen security guard unlocks the door. Nebiyou checks in at the desk. Awate slumps into a waiting room chair, leaning forward, head in his hands. Osman has disappeared. We wait in the plastic and chrome silence.
 
Beside the stadium, a group of young Eritreans: amongst them, Mebrahtu, his hand no longer bandaged. The scar on the ball of his thumb, a distant bird in flight, is punctuated by twelve neat stitch marks. A CRS officer had stamped on his hand, which was split open by a buried spike.
 
“It’s the same here as in Eritrea,” he says. “I’d as well be back home.” His smile belies a deep suffering.
 
There’s music, the surprising sound of Nashville in Calais: “One day at a time, sweet Jesus, that's all I'm asking from You, just give me the strength to do every day what I have to do.”
 
“My friend in Holland told me about this song,” Yoel explains. “One day I will get to UK.”
 
Ever-smiling Yoel. It’s two years since I first met him in Calais. With a haircut he looks much younger.

They’ve not seen Nahom. I move on.
 
A solitary hooded figure slowly paces the back road in the shadow of the industrial zone. At last, Nahom. He’s lost in the Orthodox chants, mezmurs, on his phone. Seeing me, he pulls out his earphones and grins broadly, baring his broken teeth. Discharged from hospital after falling from a lorry and losing his front teeth, he had stayed in the Catholic Worker house for a few days before suddenly vanishing.
 
His family home was destroyed in the war with Ethiopia. He spent three years in harsh military conscription before running away to see his family, before escaping to Ethiopia. He showed me burn marks on his feet from when he was held to ransom and tortured in Libya. Finally he reached the UK but his asylum application was refused. Under the Dublin Regulation, he was deported to Italy because he’d been fingerprinted there. Tired and hungry on the streets of Naples, he accepted the offer of bread and water only to pass out, waking to find his jacket and boots stolen.

After a big embrace and checking he is ok, we talk football, and mutual friends now in the UK. I tell him he is welcome in the house anytime.
 
“I will come, yes.”
 
Silent for a moment, perhaps registering my concern, he reassures me, “I am ok because I have God.” We part with another embrace.
 
Earphoned once more, he continues his lone path.


Image: Climate Change is taking hold in Zambia now

28/06/2019

Marian Pallister, vice chair of Justice and Peace Scotland has just returned from Zambia where she heard from school children deeply concerned at the affects climate change is having on their lives now.  Weekly blog.


It’s June and it’s cold – about the only ‘normal’ weather that Zambia has experienced for months. During the day, there’s a little warmth in the sun, but when night falls sharply with a stunning blood red sunset at 6pm, the temperature plummets to four or five degrees.
 
I was in Zambia as founder of the small Argyll charity ZamScotEd (we support the education of Zambian children facing great challenges and initiated a secondary school on the outskirts of Lusaka where there had been no previous provision). However, after chatting with old friends and some of the bright kids at the school, I put my Justice and Peace Scotland hat back on and asked the head teacher, Sr Veronica Nyoni, if I could borrow some of her pupils to record my monthly piece for Radio Alba (www.radioalba.org). The topic had to be climate change.
 
Because while a chilly June, with strong winds swirling the red dust into eyes and hair, is to be expected, the increasing droughts are not – and they are piling on the problems experienced in the poorest communities.
 
Last October’s rains didn’t come. That’s when the maize should be planted, and without rain, it can’t grow. Sadly, the story was the same when I was in Zambia last year – and that means that stocks of maize are running out. The cobs are ground into mealie meal, the corn flour that makes nsima, the fill-up food of Zambia. As shortages become more severe, the price of mealie meal is rocketing. People are going hungry.
 
The youngsters I interviewed for Radio Alba told me that the price had doubled since last year – it was 60 kwacha; now it’s K120. With the legal minimum wage at K800 a month (the current exchange rate is around 16 kwacha to the GB pound), that’s serious.
 
No rains also means that water levels in the Kariba dam, Zambia’s main source of hydro electricity, are so low that the state electricity company is operating a system of ‘outages’ that deny power for up to ten hours every day. While great swathes of Zambians don’t have electricity in their homes, lack of it means no water. You must have power to operate pumps in water tanks and wells.
 
Kids can’t study. Businesses are suffering. Some have solar installations; most can’t afford it. One of the recommendations my super-bright interviewees made was that the Zambian government should work on providing a nation-wide solar power system, and providing it now – a touch of the Greta Thunbergs.
 
Zambia is a peaceful country, but this is enough to cause unrest; enough to make people vulnerable to approaches from traffickers; enough to create a migration crisis. Climate change – imposed on the south by the industrial north – is affecting lives today. Westminster boasts of measures that will take effect by 2050.
 
Too late.
 
As my young Zambian interviewees stressed, we must demand that all governments act now to radically reduce carbon emissions – the drastic consequences of climate change are with them now.
 
NB the picture shows local boys keeping warm round charcoal cinders, jackets on, and a rush to finish homework before the sun sets. Life without electricity & water is a struggle for these Zambian youngsters.



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