March 9, 2021
  • 3:21 pm Glocal Sustainability- What we do…
  • 1:28 am Impact of Community Programs on Climate Change and Environmental Conservation
  • 2:39 pm Review of Human Element Movie (2019) By Moses Gitonga
  • 4:11 pm Benefits of agroforestry for smallholder farmers in Sub Saharan Africa
  • 10:17 am Tips for Living with Less Plastics
  • 10:48 pm No longer the opium of the poor; Linking Faith and Glocal Development

Climate change and environmental conservation have been the centre of many discussions for several years now, with the latest development being the acceptance of the Paris Treaty by Joseph R. Biden Jr., president of the United States. For several years, many in underdeveloped regions, such as Africa and parts of Asia, ignored climate change and its impacts. Today, the effects are evident and forcing communities in these regions to take up the task of conserving the environment. One of the most pronounced climate change impacts is the rising lakes with the Great Rift Valley where in less than 5 years, the water level of lakes in this region has risen by over 70%.

Communities’ role towards attaining Sustainable development Goals (SDGs)

Communities have been placed at the centre of the conversation about sustainable development goals. According to UNDP, sustainable development goals are achievable if the necessary actions are localized. Communities are direct beneficiaries and victims of many sustainability-related issues. For instance, food supply and nutrition directly affect individuals within specific regions. For this reason, focus has been put to make communities primary implementers and not just beneficiaries of sustainable development goals. 

Environmental conservation is one of the main agendas around the sustainability discussion around the world. The productivity of communities relies on how well the environment is improved and conserved in this age of industrialization and technological advancements. The community plays essential roles in pursuing sustainable development goals. These include;

Contribution to the policymaking process. Policies made by any government or organization affects the livelihoods of the community within the intended areas. Communities contribute to policy-making processes through public participation sessions in both developed and developing countries. Through such events, policies made not only cater to achieving sustainability but also cushion the community through the process. 

In democratic communities, policymakers are elected by the people. This ensures that the policies made aim at making the community better for the electorate. 

Joint community development projects. To demonstrate a sense of responsibility to oneself and the environment, various communities come together to take part in projects targeted at lifting their status. Through such projects, community members take part in cleaning and building activities to better their livelihoods. One of the most popular collaborative community activities is Umuganda, a cleaning program run by the government of Rwanda. Umuganda is discussed later on in this article.

Sustainability policies implementation. Communities through representative groups have a responsibility to ensure sustainability policies are implemented properly. Such policies include land use and food production regulations. If stakeholders in any field go against set policies, community members have a responsibility to point them out and report to relevant authorities. Human rights and environmental conservation groups speak up for the people in cases where justice might be denied. 

Although activist groups are encouraged to speak up, it is less effective in developing countries where corruption is rampant. In some countries, food and accommodation prices are higher than most citizens can afford. Despite calls for the creation of a sustainable community, price regulatory policies are not implemented since beneficiaries of these prices are the ruling class. 

For various reasons, the global community is dedicated to achieving sustainability goals through environmental conservation. The efforts are seen through agreements such as the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change, UNFCCC. This agreement, which was later superseded by the Paris Treaty, brought together 197 member states to curb the negative impacts of climate change. Through such agreements, developing countries get technological and financial assistance for the pursuit of sustainable development goals. 

As nations strive to contain the negative impacts of climate change, several factors still hold most of them back. While most stakeholders focus on equipping underdeveloped countries with technology to contain climate change, segregation remains one of the main hindrances to achieving climate goals. Segregation is classifying people and their roles in society based on their sexual orientation, race, tribe, or any other negative factor. Although the term segregation is globally used, it is manifested differently depending on the region one focuses on.

How segregation affects climate change campaigns

The general effect of segregation is that it slows down development. In relation to climate change, it might take longer to achieve goals that require societies working together. Here are some ways in which segregation is manifested in different regions of the world.

  • Educational bias

In most developing countries, education is prioritized for the male in the society. Traditionally, such communities predestined girls for domestic roles such as cooking and taking care of children. Years later, some communities still hold that education is more beneficial when offered to boys than girls. Lack of education for women limits the number of experts needed to push the climate change and conservation debate. Having uneducated women in the society means policies created will not favour both genders equally.

Environmental conservation requires an equal contribution, both technical and manual, by both genders. This makes it easier to allocate roles for society members without one gender feeling undermined. Additionally, education opens up people’s minds to the benefits of conservation and the negative impacts to be felt when the environment is degraded.

  • Segregation at places of work

While educational bias is more pronounced in developing countries, first-world nations still battle segregation at workplaces. Most societies in developed countries still believe certain people cannot hold certain positions in institutions. This notion makes it hard for people on the fore front against global warming to make impactful contributions. With gender and racial imbalance in high institutions, policies made are likely to benefit one gender more than the other. This leads to slowed progress towards achieving the global goal of a stable climate and a healthy environment.

Community cleaning ‘Umuganda’ and its benefits in Rwanda

Rwanda’s capital, Kigali, was recently ranked among the cleanest and safest cities to visit in Africa. The sparkling clean streets of Kigali have been a topic of discussion for tourists and the media for a long time. This level of cleanliness is achieved through a community cleaning exercise held on the last Saturday of every month. The cleaning exercise, known as Umuganda in Kinyarwanda takes place from 8 to 11 in the morning. This exercise is compulsory for all residents of the capital city and attracts fines when one refuses to participate. Other cities within Africa have been inspired by the success of Umuganda to create programs that involve the community in environmental conservation. For instance, the Mayor of Johannesburg introduced a volunteer cleaning program for the city in 2017.

Benefits of Umuganda

One of the questions you might ask is how the Rwandese community cleaning program has lasted for over ten years and still been successful. The program has had several benefits throughout its existence that makes the people more interested in its continuity. These benefits include;

  • It has created a healthier environment

The main aim of introducing Umuganda in Rwanda was to improve the environment and maintain the environmental standards in Kigali. After its establishment, the streets of Kigali have been kept clean as locals clean drainages and cut overgrown grass. During this cleaning exercise, vehicles are not allowed into the city. This policy has reduced air pollution in Kigali to a great extent. The trees planted during Umuganda help improve the quality of air within the city. The long-term benefit if these activities is that environment related infections have been greatly reduced. Respiratory complications arising from air pollution caused by exhaust fumes are minimal in Kigali thanks to the no-car policy during Umuganda.

  • It has promoted unity among the people

With a history of tribal clashes that resulted in a genocide, Rwanda has made great achievements by staying united. One of the main factors that keep people together is the community cleaning program, Umuganda. As people clean up the city, a sense of belonging and togetherness is cultivated. Once citizens feel like they belong to the city, they take it upon themselves to keep the cleanliness standards as high as possible.

  • Economic benefits for the government

Umuganda saves the government significant amounts of money every year. Since the people themselves clean the city, the government saves the funds that could have been otherwise used to carry out cleaning activities. These funds are channelled into other sectors that require development, such as the education and health sector.

With the success of Umuganda, Rwanda stands out as a great benchmark for nations seeking to recover devastating conflicts. Currently, Rwanda receives thousands of tourists each year due to the hygienic conditions and safety within the capital. To maintain the high environmental standards, the Government of Rwanda banned single-use plastics.

While it is compulsory for citizens to take part in Umuganda, tourists are allowed to participate in it voluntarily. This provides an opportunity to interact with the people of Rwanda and learn about their culture as a foreigner. The government’s consistent enforcement of Umuganda has steered cleanliness into the citizens’ consciousness. This is seen in the hygiene levels in villages outside the capital.

Nadia Umuhoza

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