FutureLife-Now! schools in Zambia are greening their future, and it shows. The 10 schools have embarked on youth-led, climate change projects that include developing the necessary skills learners need to engage in tree-planting and vegetable gardens projects.
One of these schools, Mwembeshi Secondary, has set itself the target of planting 2 500 trees by the year 2025. The FutureLife-Now! Programme is helping to make this a reality by providing materials such as fertilizer, and implements like spades and hoes, irrigation pipes, shade-netting and seedlings. It also provided the school with 250 trees.
In 2022, each of the approximately 300 learners in Grades 8, 9 and 10 was given a tree seedling to take care of. The learners pot the trees until they are ready to be transplanted in the ground, provide water and check them for pests. When necessary, they also re-pot the trees if they show signs of stress.
Padwell Habwato, the FutureLife-Now! focal person at the school, has noted the skills the learners have been developing through tending the food garden and in the tree-planting exercise. “Learners,” he said, “are able to transfer theoretical knowledge into practice. Subjects such as Agriculture Science, Geography and Expressive Art have changed learners’ ways of thinking.” He spoke proudly of the learners who, in their Art class, printed T-shirts with the slogan, Together we can bring back our atmosphere. Through peer education sessions, learners are also teaching others about recycling and the dangers of burning plastics.
Paul Moonga, the village head, said he can see the difference in the young people. “I have witnessed skills being developed by learners at the school. They are able to practise what they learn in class. For example, through Agriculture Science, my child has a garden at home.”
Sibongila Mutonga, a 16-year-old Grade 11 learner at the school, had this to say:
I have learnt about climate change in Geography and the effects of deforestation, and I have seen that our mother earth will slowly die if we do not plant trees. I want to be a part of reviving our environment through tree planting everywhere I go. I have learnt how to take care of plants and I want other learners to have this skill too.
The impact on learners doesn’t end at school. Loveness Miyemba, who completed school in 2020, said, “I decided to study agriculture because of the lessons I learnt while at Mwembeshi school, both in class and in practice.”
Through the skills they have developed, there is positive behaviour change among learners. Paul Habwato, for example, noted that cases of drug abuse dropped from 19 cases in 2021 to only two in 2022. As Joe Sambo, an 18-year-old learner attested:
I was addicted to drugs and alcohol, but I have lost the old me because my tree needs my attention and my garden waits for me. The lessons I learnt from FutureLife-Now! youth facilitators have helped me to be a new me.
Hail to food gardens and tree-planting. Hail to FutureLife-Now!