Catching Them Young on Wetlands Preservation

In a bid to enhance efforts towards the preservation of wetlands, the Harare Wetlands Trust (HWT) has launched an ambitious project aimed at educating school children on the importance of the water sources.

By Edgar Gweshe

Wetlands are the major sources of water for Greater Harare after runoff.

Of late, Harare wetlands have been under threat mainly due to urban farming as well as construction projects often carried out without paying regard to the need to preserve the water sources.

This is despite the fact that Zimbabwe is signatory to the Ramsar Convention on the protection of wetlands with the country having incorporated provisions of the convention into domestic law.

What are Ramsar wetlands?

Under the Ramsar Convention, a wide variety of natural and human-made habitat types ranging from rivers to coral reefs can be classified as wetlands. Wetlands include swamps, marshes, billabongs, lakes, salt marshes, mudflats, mangroves, coral reefs, fens, peat bogs, or bodies of water – whether natural or artificial, permanent or temporary. Water within these areas can be static or flowing; fresh, brackish or saline; and can include inland rivers and coastal or marine water to a depth of six meters at low tide. There are even underground wetlands.

As part of the educational project, the HWT is distributing booklets with relevant information to schools including those from high density suburbs. The trust is also inviting schools for wetland tours.

The educational campaign emphasizes on the importance of wetlands as sources of water as well as the adverse effects of wetlands destruction.

So far, the campaign has reached out to schools in areas such as Budiriro, Tafara, Mabvuku, Mufakose, Glen View and Glen Norah. The campaign is also targeting Group A schools in Harare.

HWT Coordinator, Julia Pierini said the major thrust of the campaign was to promote awareness on the need to preserve wetlands as well as to encourage ownership of “these critically important ecosystems”.

“Harare Wetlands Trust has produced a wetland booklet for children and young adults aimed at promoting awareness and understanding of wetlands in Harare and ultimately encouraging stewardship of these critically important ecosystems.

“If we take ownership of the wetlands in our areas, learn all about them and their critical functions, we will make sure that they are preserved as we will understand how crucial they are to our own survival. If we preserve wetlands, they will support us by supplying clean, life-sustaining water all year round,” said Pierini.

“Natural ecosystems run the world the way we like it, with no effort on our part without costing us a dollar. Biodiversity manufactures the atmosphere, clears the water, creates the soil and this is very important.”

As part of efforts to ensure preservation of wetlands, the HWT is also mobilizing residents from various areas in Harare to be part of the Local Environmental Action Plans (LEAP) committees.

The LEAP committees consist of residents who are actively involved in the preservation of wetlands within their areas and are working in conjunction with authorities from the Harare City Council as well as the Environmental Management Agency (EMA).

Harare faces a devastating crisis due to the continued destruction of wetlands and environmentalists have made calls for the government to declare Harare a protected site as a way of averting the continued depletion of underground water.


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