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The communication conundrum: Age discrimination issues in Zimbabwe's environmental sector

Updated: Nov 12, 2022


by Tapiwa Prosper Chimbadzwa

The discussions over biodiversity conservation and development are frequently contentious, particularly in the wake of climate change and major extinctions. As many arrangements of biodiversity and protected area governance are supported by many narratives, techniques, and methodologies. The fights about how to preserve biodiversity from a human perspective may be the most intense. This encompasses a wide range of interactions between people and "nature" on an abstract level (Adams & Hulme, 2001). Thus, maintaining a dialogue between people from various backgrounds without discrimination based on gender, age, race, or ethnicity becomes essential. As we work to ensure social justice, as well as a world in which human development and the natural environment coexist peacefully. One would ask how it is possible considering the polarized character of our society, where individuals are divided based on age, gender, and ethnicity. The generational divide is a major factor in the difficulty of realizing the ideal world, so how is this going to be feasible?

Since our young people represent the link between the present and the future, giving them a chance is the appropriate reaction. Despite the fact that it may sound utopian to none believers, Africa has a strong possibility of becoming the prototype for a new system that the rest of the world might adopt. The African Wildlife Foundation appears to have heeded the need for action regarding the importance of investing in young people. African Wildlife Foundation conducted the Zimbabwe Youth Engagement Strategy Co-creation workshop from November 1-2, 2022, with the goal of facilitating and curating a practical youth engagement strategy that will improve biodiversity conservation in Zimbabwe. In her introductory remarks, the AWF Country Director stated that "we love working with young people because they contribute to building a better future for all by transmitting the information and skills obtained now to future generations." Giving young people a chance to influence change therefore entails empowering the future and ensuring sustainability.

One of the conference's main takeaways was that youth' ability to actively engage in conservation concerns was being blocked by the intergenerational divide. This is derived from widespread societal assumptions that brilliant ideas originate with the elderly, who are also capable of assuming leadership roles. The interaction between the two is frequently marked by extreme tension; in a conflict zone, the young will arrive in attack mode while the elderly will be prepared to defend. The main issue will therefore be how to appropriately address these generational gaps. Young people who attended the conference expressed considerable concern about the language that is frequently used to refer to them as being derogatory and restricting their tremendous potential since they frequently come to believe that they are useless to the advancement of the country. The Zimbabwe National Development Strategy 1 for instance was flagged especially the section where it stressed the need to empower youth to cultivate an honest and hardworking culture.

The raising of these issues sparked a contentious discussion in which young people offered great solutions to their predicament, including the necessity to redefine concepts like honesty and hard work in the 21st century, where technology has taken centre stage. The youth agreed to use the statement as inspiration, a guide for topics they should focus on, and a way to inspire other youth to take constructive action. According to the author, the main issue is with the language and information-dissemination methods being used to convey the crucial message to young people. The idea was that, although traditional media is important for information transmission, there is also a need to employ alternative methods, like social media, as well as to allow room for intergenerational dialogue. This would assist in bridging the gap between the two groups. Truth be told, age gaps in social structures are a huge source of worry for both Zimbabwe and the rest of the globe, and older people tend to share more unpleasant stories and activities that young people engage in, which has a negative impact on how young people are perceived. Building a strong communication infrastructure is therefore necessary in order to convey and share the success stories of young people in conservation and to restore the elders' faith in their young people.

Photocredit : Ndanatsiwa AWF, picture depicts an intergenerational merge for a good cause

In conclusion, there is hope for the conservation of biodiversity in Africa, but this optimism is dependent upon overcoming the underlying social, political, and economic issues that prevent fully harnessing the potential of young people. Whilst we wait for the launch of the Zimbabwe Biodiversity Economy Report by the Ministry of Environment, Climate , Tourism and Hospitality Industry . Let's focus at what is to come, particularly from the UNFCCC COP27 in Egypt in November,COP14, the CITES (COP19) meeting after that, and the UNCBD COP15 in December. These high-level international conferences that entail decision-making will decide not only what happens to biodiversity on a global basis, but also how Africa is viewed. The crucial question is whether these conferences will aid Africa in any way or whether Africa should focus on creating models that are good for both its people and the environment.

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