Lusaka, Sunday (September 25, 2022)

The US Embassy in Zambia has congratulated Centre for Environment Justice (CEJ) for being among three organisations in Zambia to scoop global innovation awards run by the US Government.

US Embassy in Zambia Cultural Affairs Specialist Austin Ngoma disclosed that CEJ’s Stop The Chop Project to be implemented in Mafinga District, Michinga Province, stood out in the competition.

He recalled that earlier this year, the Department of State of the US Government hosted it’s 12th Annual Alumni Engagement Innovation Fund (AIF) which supported US Government exchange programme alumni activities to promote shared values and innovative solutions to global challenges.

Mr. Ngoma revealed that out of over 500 applications submitted for the AIF global competition, the Stop The Chop project by CEJ stood out among the 73 that were awarded worldwide.

The US Embassy Cultural Affairs Specialist was speaking during the launch of the Stop The Chop project by CEJ in Lusaka.

“Stop The Chop project is one of the three projects that were awarded in Zambia. As the US Embassy in Zambia, we can safely conclude that CEJ Executive Director Maggie Mwape and her team is the real deal. They are not here to joke around. We would like to congratulate CEJ and in particular the Executive Director Maggie Mwape who is also a 2019 Mandela Washington Fellow for her phenomenal vision behind putting together a compelling proposal and representing Zambia on a global scale,” he said.

Mr. Ngoma reaffirmed that the US Government is proud to work with the Zambian people to promote environmental protection as well as economic development.

“We would like to highlight Zambia’s natural beauty, unique wildlife and abundant natural resources. We urge the Zambian people and the Government to protect, preserve and harness Zambia’s natural resources so that we can bring prosperity to Zambia. Today, I want you to know that your project Stop The Chop is very important and that your engagement and leadership are essential,” he said.

Mr. Ngoma pointed out that Zambia was threatened by deforestation.

“As you know, the role of the Stop The Chop Project is simple but also complicated because of our dependence on the very thing that we want to curb. The goal of the project is to address deforestation and degradation as well as illegal and unsustainable harvest of timber in the Mafinga District of Zambia. The project will also raise awareness about sustainable environmental management by engaging traditional leaders, community members as well as other stakeholders. We can see that the project is very holistic in it’s approach. Preserving our trees is a powerful act because of what a tree does,” he said.

Mr. Ngoma was quick to mention that trees provided habitat for birds and other wildlife, lowered surface temperatures and provided shade.

“In the United States and around the world, people are busy working everyday to invent ways to clean our planet. But nature has given us these trees. We have the gift of trees and other natural resources that help to keep our planet conserved. Protecting our environment and planting trees is a powerful act because of what a tree stands for. It’s an investment in the future. We don’t plant a coffee tree and expect to harvest it’s beans in a year. We plant a tree because we are looking ahead. Because we are investing in the future and also for our children and great grand children. Planting a tree is an optimistic thing to do. I would like to emphasise that the Stop The Chop Initiative is truly doing the Lord’s work,” he said.

Speaking earlier, CEJ Executive Director Maggie Mwape thanked the US Government over it’s commitment towards environmental protection issues.

Ms Mwape highlighted that the Stop The Chop project would bring together strategic key stakeholders such as Government, civil society organizations, youth, the women and people living with disabilities.

“The first part is the launch which we are doing today. We are so excited that we have strategic partners present here, among them the US Embassy, The Zambia-US Exchange Alumni Association and the civil society organizations, our Youth Environmental Defenders that are trying their level best to reach out to the remotest places to engage their fellows. We are here today to share the background of the initiative which has already been done,” she said.

She added that the Stop The Chop Project would identify river banks where people were cutting trees to examine how best CEJ could plant indigenous trees in the affected area.

“Our next activity is the local stakeholder mapping and also to hold the multi stakeholder engagements. This will be done in Mafinga District, Michinga Province, which is the catchment area of the project. We shall mobilise the civil society organizations, Government, the youth, the women groups, the farmers, mining firms and the Charcoal Associations because we feel that they are very key in the process. We are doing so because we want to make them have an understanding on why it is important to conserve, why should we preserve, what type of sustainable alternative livelihoods they can engage in, how can we identify land in that particular area which is more deforestated,” she said.

The CEJ Executive Director stated that stakeholders in six wards of Mafinga District would be duly consulted to build project consensus.

“The third activity is that CEJ will focus on roundtable meetings where we will have community caucus discussions and we are targeting six wards in that area namely Tendere Ward, Mafinga Ward, Kalanga Ward, Kakoma Ward, Mukutu Ward and Ntonga Ward. So in those wards, we are going to create the community caucus discussions where we will look at forest conservation, charcoal production and sustainable alternative livelihoods,” she said.

Ms Mwape stressed that the project would accommodate a traditional leaders Caucus on ending deforestation.

“The fourth activity that we will look at is the traditional leaders dialogue on ending deforestation and degradation. We believe that the traditional leaders are very key in this process. As you are aware, over 60% of land in Zambia is under customary tenure. Therefore, we want them to be part of the process and make them understand why we cannot continue cutting trees. We also believe that they can be a great influence and champion to their subjects in ensuring that we could work towards stopping deforestation and degradation,” she said.

Ms Mwape emphasized that the Stop The Chop Project would further target women and girls as they were the most vulnerable to climate change issues.

“The number five activity is women and girls training climate action and alternative livelihoods. We targeted women and girls because we believe that in the impacts of climate change they are the most vulnerable because they are the ones that undertake more activities on the ground in ensuring that they put families together. We want to build their capacity so that they can come up with alternative sources of income and increase knowledge on how best they could be part of the solution in addressing deforestation and forest conservation,” she said.

The CEJ Executive Director was of the view that young people were key in ending deforestation which forced the Stop The Chop Project to accommodate for a youth indaba.

“The number six activity is the Youth Forest Indaba. We will be having this event on Monday 26th September at the Mulungushi Interest Conference Centre in Lusaka. We are limited with resources. If we could add more youths interested in the Indaba we could even have 250 of them participating. For now, we can only accommodate 100. It has been so overwhelming and everything is set for the Indaba. The US Embassy, the Ministry of Green Economy and Environment, WWF Zambia and others have confirmed to attend the official opening of the Indaba. This one we are ensuring that we are having an interesting theme: “Youth Building a Resilient Future with Forest”. That in itself demonstrates how young people are so passionate about environmental protection and climate action in Zambia,” she said.

Ms Mwape guided that CEJ planned for Ministerial Dialogue as it was important for Government to update stakeholders on the November 12, 2021 Glasgow Forest Declaration.

“The seventh activity is to hold a high level ministerial dialogue on achieving the Glasgow Forest Declaration. As you are aware, last year at the Glasgow meeting on November 12, 2021, global leaders signed the Glasgow Forest Declaration to end deforestation by the year 2030. We know that pronouncements were made but we want our leaders to be more practical. In achieving that we want to be so sure how much have we raised so far since last year as a country. For Zambia, I must mention that 80% of energy use is from wood fuel and if we are to end deforestation there is much that we need to do in providing sustainable alternative energy and ensure adequate financing in achieving that. We would also want to hear from the ministerial meeting how much have we raised as a country in achieving that,” she said.

Ms Mwape said the Stop The Chop Project will be of benefit to Zambia and civil society organizations in understanding the importance of stopping deforestation while protecting the interests of communities that depend on forests.

“The last initiative is the Stop The Chop documentary. We would want to document Mafinga and Luangwa on how the river banks have been affected by the cutting of trees. We shall showcase the challenges and opportunities as well as possible interventions of what we can do,” she said.

Meanwhile, Ms Mwape stated that other countries were admiring the Environmental Protection Dialogue (EPD) event held annually by CEJ.

“Furthermore, we hold the Environmental Protection Dialogue (EPD) annually which we launched in 2020 and this event has become a calendar event of the year in Zambia. So far we have been receiving requests from other countries to replicate this initiative. Last year, we looked at forest ecosystem restoration and some of the recommendations were to develop a campaign such as the Stop The Chop Campaign. At the ministerial meeting we are expecting key ministries to attend such as the Ministry of Green Economy and Environment, Ministry of Agriculture, Ministry of Mines, ZEMA, civil society organizations, youth and women groups in ensuring that we understand Government steps in achieving the Glasgow Forest Declaration,” she said.


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