Monday, March 23, 2015


By Namakando Nalikando-Sinyama “Now the earth proved to be formless and waste and there was darkness upon the surface of the watery deep.” Growing up in rural Barotseland, located between Eastern Angola and Western Zambia, it became clear to me just how good and pleasant it was playing in the clear streams and rivers as we fished. This is why it greatly breaks my heart to learn that most water sources have since dried up or that the once perennial streams have now become seasonal. Young boys, girls and older women now have to walk to distant places to fetch water as the water tables have gone deeper. The fish catches have dwindled each year due to reduced water levels. Our cattle have had to be taken to distant water holes and the remaining patches of green grass for grazing them leaving us with little time for school. This gloomy picture is unfortunately quite common in the whole of sub-Saharan Africa. The socio-economic conditions of most communities have been affected negatively because of the mismanagement of this precious commodity that water is. The reasons for this sad state of affairs are quite varied, from the total lack of collaborative political will from all stake holders to initiate sustainable practices of environmental resource management, to human activities that disturb the delicate balance of nature with devastating results. Deforestation, which causes siltation and the unsustainable exploitation of catchment areas are the major causes of the disruption of the hydrological balance. The baring of catchment areas through deforestation and different levels of industrial pollution has caused the water quality and quantity available either as ground water or as above surface runoff to deteriorate. In the urban areas water is used as a medium to convey domestic and industrial waste thus causing pollution. It has been a historical fact that wherever there was water; civilizations sprung up and have been sustained. Crops have been irrigated and livestock has been fed on the grass that has sprouted around and near water. Rural Africa has taken it for granted that there will always be water for use. The facts on the ground however, are that we have had to dig deeper wells now. The importance of water as a life-giving commodity cannot be over emphasized. It is generally accepted in scientific circles that life as we know it originated in water, most of all living organisms are surrounded by water, and cells of living organisms are bathed in water. Man is even said to be 65% water, whereas most herbaceous plants are 90% water. The African continent in general and southern Africa in particular is currently grappling with poverty induced by unpredictable climate change. It has become apparent that the solution to this problem may well lay in the careful management of the living environment and the resources it supports especially water. The future sustainable mainstay of most economies in Africa will be agriculture hence the need to have a steady supply of water for irrigation and to generate hydroelectric power to keep the manufacturing industries going. The sources of most of the river systems may be in one country but they eventually traverse landscapes in many other countries on their way to discharge points. Therefore the proper management of water in central and southern Africa then calls for an integrated multi-sectoral approach. What is done to a river or lake on one section ultimately affects the other users on the other side. The careful maintenance of good quality and quantity of water supply is a collective responsibility involving all stakeholders. This approach would in turn avert any possible conflicts that may arise over the ownership and use of this water. It is evident that when this is done it would eventually foster sustainable rural development. From my early years in junior secondary school as a young scientist I realized what my future role would be. I quickly got involved in environmental activism in the debating club in which I realized I never really needed to struggle in coming up with points for argument as I spoke of things that were close to my heart and mind. I have always maintained that if education gained is not directly applied to make an improvement in the lives of the community then it is not worth having at all. It is for this reason that currently I no longer look forward to going back to my home village unless I can contribute in helping change everything to the way it was otherwise I would have miserably failed as a scholar. The beautiful sites we used to see are no longer there now. I am equally scared of advocating for the so-called development in my home village because I know this will bring with it the smell of diesel, grease and the unsightly chimney stacks piercing the skies as they belch filth in the air. I do not really know how to strike that middle ground between development and nature conservancy. I thought some how it should still be possible to develop and have a fresh, healthy enjoyable environment. In the urban area where I live now I used to watch snails and other marine creatures in a stream that was relatively clean until one day may heart sank when I saw some murky discharge and the small fish had died and many others were gasping for air as they floated belly up. The undergraduate B.Sc Forestry degree I have gained here in Zambia also seems to fall short of fully satisfying my yearning. This is because all the Forestry department in my country does is plant exotic tree species and harvest them later for timber. I strongly feel there is more to environmental management than just the wanton ’murder’ of trees. As a matter of principle I would find it very difficult to work for such a body with their current concept of natural resources management that merely focuses on exploitation of the tree resources neglecting the environment especially water that gives them life. The forests should ideally be managed by considering the role that water plays in their sustenance, the aesthetic beauty of the environment of which water is essential, and its accompanying benefit of Eco-tourism. The choice for my undergraduate study at university was natural resources (forestry) during which I opted to embark on a special project to investigate “The use of Tithonia diversifolia in the Phyto-remediation of land and ground water systems.” My ultimate goal is to make further contribution to the enhancement of global capacity building in integrated water and general environmental resource management by studying for an M. Sc in Sustainable Rural Development for my post-graduate degree at your prestigious university. I therefore wish that some day my dream will come true and the void in my heart will be filled. Regards, Namakando Nalikando Sinyama, B.Sc Forestry Read more: Ecology, Evolution and Conservation Biology- Scholarship Positions 2015 2016

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