Today I want to briefly visit the subject I am very passionate about, our environment, which I believe is our future, the future of future generations.
We talk a lot about the broad aspects of OUR environment especially global warming and climate change forgetting the day to day environmental issues that we all have control over. I personally believe that there is increasing global warming and climactic change whose examples are now evident globally even though we still have very influential skeptics recently joined by the American president elect Donald Trump.
Donald Trump I must add has the potential to reverse the gains and momentum gained towards dealing with this global phenomenon. Sad as this may sound, Donald Trump and the other skeptics cannot be wished away, but what we are doing at individual and country level to protect our fragile environment will be more convincing than trying to compete with the likes of Donald Trump. The skeptics will tell you that you should not waste their time talking to them about global warming or climate change when you cannot do basic things like cleaning your backyard and country side. How clean is our environment?
Botswana is one of the countries that has been shouting loudest about climate change and perhaps rightly so, but our voice must be tempered as we are not particularly good at looking after our own environment. As a semi arid, hot country any increase in temperature will significantly affect us in terms of prospects for food security and fighting poverty and its consequences. Hence our concern for climate change is understandable, but we should not go overboard. We must clean our back yard first before we can even attempt to tell others to reduce global pollution.
The new minister of transport, Mr. Mokaila has recently said he would like to ban the import of second hand cars from overseas as a way of helping combat pollution and climate change. My view is that this is a non starter and will only serve to frustrate our people. For us to meaningfully assess the level of pollution and our contribution to climate change we must start by identifying, measuring and monitoring harmful emissions from all potential emitters of such harmful gases in our country, then see if we have a real problem or we only have an imagined problem.
We must know for sure how we compare with other developing countries and even developed countries before we can meaningfully engage others, if indeed; it is in our best interest to do so. We must remember we are a very small country; our impact and voice will be swamped or ridiculed by much bigger nations who might not even be keen on such a debate or who might think our involvement will frustrate other influential nations.
Briefly on the question of imported cars, how do we know that these imports pollute more than the other cars we have in our country? Do we ever measure emissions from new imported cars from Barloworld or Naledi motors? Note that all our cars are imports; we do not make a single car in this country, so how do we differentiate between new and second hand imported cars if we do not measure emissions? Is the minister going to tell us to get rid of our locally bought old cars that may even be polluting more than the imported second hand ones? When and how will we dispose of all our old cars? Whose interest are we trying to protect here minister? We must consider the harm we will do to our people before we come up with such potentially punitive legislative blunders.
Let us think carefully before we talk about these issues Minister. By the way this was an aside as food for thought for the Minister of Transport.
How can we protect our environment at a local level?
The question I really want to pose and talk about is how we can begin to protect our environment as individuals and as a nation. What do we have in place to ensure that all our people understand that our environment is fragile and needs to be protected to safeguard our future? What do we have in place to enforce our basic environmental protection? It is painful to see how we are continually polluting our environment with reckless abandon especially in and around our towns and major villages, even our tourist destinations like Kasane and Maun.
It is deplorable to say the least. We need to have practical, legally binding, user friendly systems for disposal of all waste and turning our waste into useful products. There will be no point of having systems that are not enforced, but it is easier if waste is seen as a useful commercial product. We know that waste can be recycled and reused commercially. I remember as a child we used to pick up bones to sell for a small fee to the Tati bone meal company in Francistown; you could not find any bone polluting our countryside.
This does not happen any more and walk around the country side and see the mess now. We used to clean our yards and trim our plants; the clearings and trimmings where buried in barrow pits in or around our fields for decomposition into compost for our fields. No waste was dumped haphazardly like we do nowadays in our towns and major villages.
Can waste be used to generate income for our local communities?
A lot has been said about waste segregation and commercialization of waste but this has not taken root in any meaningful way. It has been talk for many years without any real meaningful action on the ground. This will take root only if talk is accompanied by action. Here is my suggestion to the local authorities for piloting. I also appeal to parliament to pass enabling, enforcement laws and structures to facilitate this process.
Let me tell you why some of our laws and practices are failing our environment. Nobody in their right mind will take a wheelbarrow full of building rubble from his house to the designated far flung dumping sites in the country, in Gaborone Gamodubu dumping site near Molepolole 30 km away. No sane man will take a wheelbarrow full of garden waste to the far flung designated dumping site scattered all over the country in the name of our environment.
Such systems are designed to fail our environment. We see plastics scattered all over in our country side including used condoms, sanitary pads and diapers (commonly referred to as dipampas) why? These really mess up our environment; our animals and birds end up eating these and dying or being infected with some dreadful diseases; our rivers and dams are polluted by these perilous and reckless condoned practices that results in compromised health of our people, our animals, our birds and our fish.
This waste goes all the way to the sea causing more problems down stream. We really need to do something to keep our environment clean. How do we dispose of our harmful old lights with mercury and glass remains? Garden refuse is harmless and very good for the environment. Building rubble is very harmful to the environment, it is not only very unsightly, but where it is dumped it stunts or prevents vegetation growth.
We therefore need to create an environment were we generate no waste at all. Some may say this is lofty but it is possible if we put our minds to it. It starts at home and it does not cost a lot of money. It requires our collective will and deep and genuine commitment to our environment.
Building ruble is a combination of sand, aggregate and cement. These are all very expensive commodities. We know in this country sand is mostly borrowed from our rivers, a practice with potential to kill all our remaining rivers. Sand and aggregate from aggregate plants is expensive and we need only to use what we need to use to help preserve our natural resources.
If we were to create a local building ruble dumping site in each locality, the local authority hiring or purchasing a small mobile crusher and screen and associated equipment to crush the ruble and turn this rubble into sand and aggregate for the construction industry. This may even reduce the cost of building in our towns and villages. People can sell their ruble for a small fee to encourage to the local authority.
With this we will eliminate the entire unsightly building ruble in town including the ruble that has been illegally dumped into our rivers and fields and road sides. This will be a win-win for all. Let us do it councilors and village development committees. I need champions to work with on this one.
Like I said this is not harmful waste, it is actual good for the environment, but we cannot dump it haphazardly as it will spoil the beauty of our environment. We can also create a site for each locality managed by the local authority where compost can be prepared and sold to the farms and even back to the residents for their gardens. To encourage this practice the local authority can pay a small fee for bringing garden rubble into this controlled site.
This waste is a combination of a lot of different discreet waste which can be segregated at home by providing different correctly sized and designed containers for different waste all labeled appropriately. We know the tins, bottles, papers and plastic have a ready market. The local authorities can partner will the collectors for managing a collection system. This can be controlled by a simple legislation that enforces separation of this waste at home.
There will also be need to have a dignified system for dumping diapers, sanitary pads and used condoms. There must also be a safe designated collection bin for old bulbs, some with harmful mercury.
Our towns and cities
Our towns and cities are very dirty. We probable need to start in our cities ESPECIALLY Gaborone which is our diamond city. Besides cows, goats and dogs that hang around in our streets, our environment leaves a lot to be desired. A lot of what I am suggesting does not need a lot of money it requires collective willing hearts enabled by a willing and dedicated authority to clean our towns and villages. Also an empowering legislative framework is necessary. Stop divisive politics and begin to work together for the good of our environment and our country.
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Villagers in the eastern Okavango region are now using an alert system which warns them when collared lions approach livestock areas. The new technology is now regarded as a panacea to the human/wildlife conflict in the area as it has reduced mass poisoning and killing of lions by farmers.
The technology is being implemented by an NGO, Community Living Among Wildlife Sustainably (CLAWS) within the five villages of Seronga, Gunutsoga, Eretsha, Beetsha and Gudigwa in the eastern part of the Okavango delta.
A Carnivore Ecologist from CLAWS, Dr Andrew Stein explained that around 2013, villagers in the eastern Okavango were having significant problems with losses of their cattle to predators specifically lions, so the villagers resorted to using poison and shooting the lions in order to reduce their numbers.
He highlighted that as a form of progressive intervention, they designed a programme to reduce the conflicts and promote coexistence. Another component of the programme is communal herding, introduced in 2018 to reduce the conflict by increasing efficiency whereby certified herders monitor livestock health and protect them from predators, allowing community members to engage in other livelihood activities knowing that their livestock are safe.
They are now two herds with 600 and 230 cattle respectively with plan to expand the programme to other neighbouring villages. Currently the programme is being piloted in Eretsha, one of the areas with most conflict incidences per year.
Dr Stein explained that they have developed the first of its kind alert system whereby when the lions get within three or five kilometers of a cattllepost or a homestead upon the five villages, then it will release an alert system going directly to the cellphones of individuals living within the affected area or community.
‘So, if a colored lion gets to about five kilometers of Eretsha village or any villagers in the Eretsha that has signed up for, the system will receive an SMS of the name of the lion and its distance to or from the village”, he stated. He added that this enables villagers to take preventative action to reduce conflicts before its starts.
Dr Stein noted that some respond by gathering their cattle and put them in a kraal or put them in an enclosure making sure that the enclosure is secure while some people will gather firewood and light small fires around edges of the kraal to prevent lions from coming closer and some when they receive the SMS they send their livestock to the neighbours alerting them about the presence of lions.
He noted that 125 people have signed to receive the alert system within Seronga, Eretsha, Beetsha, Gunutsoga and Gudigwa. He added that each homestead is about five people and this means more than 600 people immediately receive the messages about lions when they approach their villages. He also noted that last year they dispersed over 12 000 alerts, adding that this year is a bit higher as about 20 000 alerts have been sent so far across these villages.
Stein further noted that they have been significant changes in the behavior of the villagers as they are now tolerant to lions. “85 percent were happy with the SMS and people are becoming more tolerant with living with lions because they have more information to reduce the conflicts,” he stressed.
Stein noted that since the start of the programme in 2014 they have seen lion populations rebounds almost completely to a level before and they have not recorded cases of lion poisoning in the last three years which is commendable effort.
Monnaleso Sanga from Eretsha village applauded the programme by CLAWS noting that farmers in the area are benefiting through the alert system and take preventative measures to reduce human/lion conflict which has been persistent in the area. He added that numbers of cattle killed by lions have reduced immensely. He also admitted that they are now tolerant to lions and they no longer kill nor poison them.
A Muslim is supposed to be and should be a living example of the teachings of the Quran and the ‘Sunnah’ (the teachings and living examples of Prophet Muhammed (SAW – Peace be upon Him). We should follow these in all affairs, relations, and situations – starting with our relationship with our Lord, our own self, our family and the people around us. One of the distinguishing features of the (ideal) Muslim is his faith in Allah, and his conviction that whatever happens in the universe and whatever befalls him, only happens through the will and the decree of the Almighty Allah.
A Muslim should know and feel that he is in constant need of the help and support of Allah, no matter how much he may think he can do for himself. He has no choice in his life but to submit to the will of his Creator, worship Him, strive towards the Right Path and do good deeds. This will guide him to be righteous and upright in all his deeds, both in public and in private.
His attitude towards his body, mind and soul
The Muslim pays attention to his body’s physical, intellectual and spiritual needs. He takes good care of his body, promoting its good health and strength. He shouldn’t eat in excess; but he should eat enough to maintain his health and energy. Allah, The Exalted, Says “…Eat and drink; but waste not by excess, for Allah loves not the wasters.” [Quran 7: 31]
The Muslim should keep away from alcohol and drugs. He should also try to exercise regularly to maintain his physical fitness. The Muslim also keeps his body and clothes clean, he bathes frequently. The Prophet placed a great emphasis on cleanliness and bathing. A Muslim is also concerned with his clothing and appearance but in accordance with the Islamic ideal of moderation, avoiding the extremes.
As for his intellectual care, the Muslim should take care of his mind by pursuing beneficial knowledge. It is his responsibility to seek knowledge whether it is religious or secular, so he may understand the nature and the essence of things. Allah Says: “…and say: My Lord! Increase me in knowledge.” [Quran 20: 114
The Muslim should not forget that man is not only composed of a body and a mind, but that he also possesses a soul and a spirit. Therefore, the Muslim pays as much attention to his spiritual development as to his physical and intellectual development, in a balanced manner which ideally does not concentrate on one aspect to the detriment of others.
His attitude towards people
The Muslim must treat his parents with kindness and respect, compassion, politeness and deep gratitude. He recognizes their status and knows his duties towards them. Allah Says “And serve Allah. Ascribe nothing as partner unto Him. (Show) kindness unto parents…” [Quran 4: 36]
With his wife, the Muslim should exemplify good and kind treatment, intelligent handling, deep understanding of the nature and psychology of women, and proper fulfilment of his responsibilities and duties.
With his children, the Muslim is a parent who should understand his responsibility towards their good upbringing, showing them love and compassion, influence their Islamic development and giving them proper education, so that they become active and constructive elements in society, and a source of goodness for their parents, community, and society as a whole.
With his relatives, the Muslim maintains the ties of kinship and knows his duties towards them. He understands the high status given to relatives in Islam, which makes him keep in touch with them, no matter what the circumstances.
With his neighbours, the Muslim illustrates good treatment, kindness and consideration of others’ feelings and sensitivities. He turns a blind eye to his neighbour’s faults while taking care not to commit any such errors himself. The Muslim relationship with his wider circle of friends is based on love for the sake of Allah. He is loyal and does not betray them; he is sincere and does not cheat them; he is gentle, tolerant and forgiving; he is generous and he supplicates for them.
In his social relationships with all people, the Muslim should be well-mannered, modest and not arrogant. He should not envy others, fulfils his promises and is cheerful. He is patient and avoids slandering and uttering obscenities. He should not unjustly accuse others nor should he interfere in that which does not concern him. He refrains from gossiping, spreading slander and stirring up trouble – avoids false speech and suspicion. When he is entrusted with a secret, he keeps it. He respects his elders. He mixes with the best of people. He strives to reconcile between the Muslims. He visits the sick and attends funerals. He returns favours and is grateful for them. He calls others to Islam with wisdom, example and beautiful preaching. He should guide people to do good and always make things easy and not difficult.
The Muslim should be fair in his judgments, not a hypocrite, a sycophant or a show-off. He should not boast about his deeds and achievements. He should be straightforward and never devious or twisted, no matter the circumstances. He should be generous and not remind others of his gifts or favours. Wherever possible he relieves the burden of the debtor. He should be proud and not think of begging.
These are the standards by which the (ideal) Muslim is expected to structure his life on. Now how do I measure up and fit into all this? Can I honestly say that I really try to live by these ideals and principles; if not can I really call myself a true Muslim?
For the ease of writing this article I have made use of for want of a better word, the generic term ‘he’, ‘his’, ‘him’ and the ‘male’ gender, but it goes without saying that these standards apply equally to every female and male Muslim.
“Homicide and suicide kill almost 7000 children every year; one in four of all children are born to unmarried mothers, many of whom are children themselves…..children’s potential lost to spirit crushing poverty….children’s hearts lost in divorce and custody battles….children’s lives lost to abuse and violence, our society lost to itself, as we fail our children.” “If you bungle raising your children, I don’t think whatever else you do matters very much.” (Quotation taken from a book written by Hillary Clinton).
These words may well apply to us here in Botswana; We are also experiencing a series of challenges in many spheres of development and endeavour but none as challenging as the long term effects of what is going to happen to our youth of today. One of the greatest challenges facing us as parents today is how to guide our youth to become the responsible adults that we wish them to be, tomorrow.
In Islam Prophet Muhammad (PBUH) has enjoined upon the parents to take care of the moral and religious instruction of their children from the very beginning, otherwise they will be called to account for negligence on the Day of Judgement. Parents must inculcate God-consciousness in their children from an early age, whereby the children will gain an understanding of duty to The Creator.
The Holy Qur’an says: ‘O you who believe! Save yourself and your families from the Fire of Hell’. (Ch. 66: V6). This verse places the responsibility on the shoulders of the parents to ensure that training and guidance begin at home. The goal is to mould the child into a solid Islamic personality, with good morals, strong Islamic principles, knowledge and behavior so as to be equipped to face the demands of life in a responsible and mature manner. This should begin with the proper environment at home that inculcates the best moral and behavioral standards.
But what do we have instead? Believers of all Religious persuasions will agree that we have children growing up without parental guidance, a stable home environment, without role models, being brought up in surroundings that are not conducive to proper upbringing and moulding of well-adjusted children. These children are being brought up devoid of any parental guidance and increasingly the desperate situation of orphaned children having to raise their siblings (children raising children) because their parents have succumbed to the scourge of AIDS.
It is becoming common that more and more girls still in their schooling years are now falling pregnant, most of them unwanted, with the attendant responsibilities and difficulties.
Observe the many young ladies who are with children barely in their teens having illegitimate children. In the recent past there was a campaign focused on the ‘girl-child’; this campaign targeted this group of young females who had fallen pregnant and were now mothers. The situation is that the mother still being just a ‘child’ and not even having tasted adulthood, now has the onerous responsibility of raising her own child most of the time on her own because either the father has simply disappeared, refuses to takes responsibility, or in some cases not even known.
We cannot place the entire blame on these young mothers; as parents and society as a whole stand accused because we have shirked our responsibilities and worse still we ourselves are poor role models. The virtual breakdown of the extended family system and of the family unit in many homes means that there are no longer those safe havens of peace and tranquility that we once knew. How then do we expect to raise well-adjusted children in this poisoned atmosphere?
Alcohol has become socially acceptable and is consumed by many of our youth and alarmingly they are now turning to drugs. Alcohol is becoming so acceptable that it is easily accessible even at home where some parents share drinks with their children or buying it for them. This is not confined only to low income families it is becoming prevalent amongst our youth across the board.
It is frightening to witness how our youth are being influenced by blatantly suggestive pop culture messages over television, music videos and other social media. Children who are not properly grounded in being able to make rational and informed decisions between what is right and what is wrong are easily swayed by this very powerful medium.
So what do we do as parents? We first have to lead by example; it is no longer the parental privilege to tell the child ‘do as I say not as I do’- that no longer works. The ball is in the court of every religious leader (not some of the charlatans who masquerade as religious leaders), true adherents and responsible parents. We cannot ignore the situation we have to take an active lead in guiding and moulding our youth for a better tomorrow.
In Islam Prophet Muhammad (pbuh) said: “No father gives a better gift to his children than good manners and good character.” Children should be treated not as a burden, but a blessing and trust of Allah, and brought up with care and affection and taught proper responsibilities etiquettes and behaviour.
Even the Bible says; ‘Suffer the little children to come unto me and forbid them not, for of such is the kingdom of God. Verily I say unto you, whosoever shall not receive the kingdom of God as a little child, he shall not enter therein’. (Mark 10:14-15)
The message is clear and needs to be taken by all of us: Parents let us rise to the occasion – we owe it to our children and their future.