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Eco-schools wetlands event a success

I had the privilege of attending the Mukuvisi Woodlands Eco Schools World Wetlands Day Commemoration last Friday.

OutDoor with Rosie Mitchell

While many Zimbabwean adults appear not yet to understand just how vital a role is played by our wetlands nationwide, the up-coming generation most assuredly does understand, and fully!

A privilege, because being witness to the genuine passion, conviction and disarming self-assurance with which scores, drawn from the hundreds of school children from all over our city who attended, delivered poems, essays, thoughts, ideas, and in one case, an extraordinary self-composed unaccompanied song, was humbling, uplifting and hope-inspiring.

These kids very clearly know, understand and fully appreciate all the excellent, free of charge, hydrological services we humans and all other species enjoy, from the continued, unencumbered existence of our wetlands.

Their imaginative works, presented with professionalism and confidence regardless of age, starting at around 7, spelt it all out with such clarity and depth that when it came time for EMA’s representative and expert Dr Willie Nduku, Chairman of Wildlife and Environment Zimbabwe, to speak, both declared that the children’s presentations and their self-evidently complete and detailed understanding of all the issues, left them with really nothing to add!

The children came from mostly high-density suburb primary and secondary schools and demonstrated an excellent level of education on wetlands themselves and environmental concerns generally.

Ensuring the education of the next generation on all these issues is absolutely key to successfully conserving wetlands and other vulnerable and threatened environments and species.

One hopes that these children share their in-depth knowledge and understanding with their families, communities and peers.

Attendance at an event such as this provides hope for the future survival of our precious, dwindling natural resources of all kinds, and their on-going use by humans in a conservative and sustainable fashion.

The youthful knowledge and understanding demonstrated at this event was a great credit to their teachers, to the Eco-Schools Programme run by Mukuvisi Woodlands, and to all the NGOs, journalists and concerned citizens who are spreading the word about such burning environmental issues as wetland conservation, now constantly, and thankfully, in the media.

After taking a long guided walk through these Woodlands which are in the Mukuvisi River catchment area, and hence incorporate a large wetland area, children and teachers assembled near the game viewing platform to enjoy the many presentations, the vast majority by the children themselves, and a humorous play with a serious wetlands conservation message presented by trainee teachers from Belvedere Teachers’ College.

Music was provided by the excellent Churchill School Pipe Band and the occasion ably led by Gibson Nhokwara, Mukuvisi Woodlands’ Education Officer and Allain Chimanikire, Vice Chairman of Mukuvisi Woodlands Association. It was a busy day at the Woodlands, with hundreds of other school children also seen on the event’s periphery, enjoying school outings with guided walks.

Wetlands, or as we know them, vleis, are areas of absorbent, spongy soil where water collects and is stored following rain. This rainwater percolates slowly into rivers and thence dams, on its way, filtered by wetland soil, cleaning it of pollution and sewage.

Wetlands prevent floods, erosion and river siltation and are vitally important to water supply for all species.

Harare’s wetlands, at the head of the water system due to our altitude, are critical to continued water supply for 7 million people downstream.

Most are already badly degraded by cultivation and dumping. Some are being or have been built upon or there are plans to do so, which dries them up completely, spelling doom for our continued water supply, already insufficient.

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