"Our Environment, Our Life": Biodiversity education workshop in Tanzania

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Students' drawings about environmental issues and their solutions
© UNESCO/Dar es Salaam Office
31 May 2016

Ensuring preservation of bio-diversity: UNESCO's Sciences, Education and Communication Sectors join forces with the Maasai Secondary Schools and Community Radio to enhance environmental awareness

Maasai teachers, students and community radio journalists now have an increased appreciation for sustaining their natural environment as a result of the first Biodiversity Education Workshop held in Ngorongoro District Council from 21 to 24 March 2016.

The villages around Serengeti National Park, which is part of the programme supported by UNESCO on Biosphere Reserve and World Heritage Site, are increasingly struggling with environmental degradation resulting from recurrent droughts, reduced grazing space caused by increased population and larger herds of cows as well as the increasing number of goats and sheep being introduced. These lead subsequently to land management conflicts among villagers, between pastoralist and farming communities, with private tourism sector and government organizations. Such challenges are exacerbated by cultural practises among the Maasai and their attitude on pastoralism and valuing of large herds. To quote one of the participants:
“Everyone is saying overgrazing is a problem! To us this livestock is our bank! To us, the elephants in the Serengeti do more destruction than the Maasai cows. How many wildebeest are there? Why are we so much worried by what cows do than what elephants do to the trees and environment?”

UNESCO aims to contribute to change mind sets and practices whereby sustainable development principles are aligned with cultural notions and practices. In that regard, a two-pronged approach has been taken using the UNESCO ESD (Education for Sustainable Development) tools to reach two different groups: the children in school as well as the community at large through the Community Radio. In that regard 16 teachers from 4 secondary schools and 12 local journalists were trained to familiarise them with a new angle of approaching and adopting environmental conservation while respecting the Maasai culture.

Owing to the fact that environmental problems in these villages are part of people’s daily life, there was immediate understanding among participants of the environment’s impact on social and economic life. Secondary teachers from a diverse range of subjects such as civic, history, language, science, and Geology benefitted from a new way of thinking by incorporating ESD principles in their methods and practices. Maasai students also advanced in their practical understanding of why and how to conserve their local environment. Furthermore, the training mobilised commitment from community radio journalists to broadcast environmental education programmes for increased public awareness and discussion.

As a way to raise awareness and improve the communication on the best environmental practices among community members, improve environmental behaviour of community members within and around Ololosokwan village and increase community’s knowledge and appreciation of wildlife and other environmentally friendly income generating activities in their areas a manual for a potential problem solution matrix for environment education in the Ololosokwan was developed. The manual will be used as a guide for solving the identified problems by community media practitioners at Loliondo Community Radio.

The community radio is one of the most effective tools to raise awareness and initiate discussion among communities on environmental issues and situations. The participatory approach of the training enabled to enrich the manual greatly, in particular during the stage of problem identification and solutions discussions.

“We are very happy and ready to put the environmental education programmes on air to raise awareness and initiate discussions; we now have both message and programme matrices in place which willguide us in programme making, thanks to UNESCO”, said Mako Salangati, Manager of Loliondo FM.
Through the local radio in the Ololosokwan village and the surrounding community, it is expected that this intervention will reach a large number of communities in the areas. It is anticipated that various local groups including secondary school youths will be involved in presentations and discussions of the Radio program contents.
Another unplanned result was the new exposure of the co-facilitator from the University of Dar es Salaam who for the first time understood how to identify issues, develop messages and programme matrix for behavioural change radio programming.
On a first stage, the UNESCO biodiversity education in the school setting will take place in the following Maasai Secondary Schools: Emanyata, Loliondo, Arash and Soitsambu, through the development of locally customized environmental education manuals for both teachers and community radio journalists. The environmental education radio programme aired will be called: “Mazingira Maisha Yetu’’; ‘Our Environment, Our Life’.

Read the full 01/2016 newsletter of UNESCO Office Dar es-Salaam