Misheck Marowa of ECAG Zimbabwe – struggling against poverty

By Denise Nanni and Milena Rampoldi, ProMosaik. In the following our interview with Misheck Marowa of theEnvironmental Comprehensive Action Group (ECAG), a homegrown organization of environmental conservation lobbyists in Zimbabwe with the aim to change the status quo of the environment; a pollution free environment is our goal. The project also aims to address food security, poverty reduction and enhancing livelihood withincommunities. Our main aim will be premised on over spearing issues to do with Biodiversity conservation, enhancing sustainable livelihoods, addressing issues to do with climate change and its effect through environmental education both in the community and the business community, conservation agriculture and promoting good environmental governance.                               
ECAG is an organization formed by a group of Great Zimbabwe University students. The situation in Zimbabwe needs people who are creative and innovative, it’s not only difficult to find jobs for graduates its now even difficult for students to find attachment places which should not be the case under normal circumstances and saw it necessary to create employment for themselves and put theory into practice for the betterment of the nation at large. However, the organization plans to create employment opportunities to the youth in Zimbabwe. The organization needs to be given a chance to rescue the environment in Zimbabwe which is increasingly deteriorating.
What are the main environmental issues in Zimbabwe?
I have identified deforestation, drought and desertification, soil erosion and fires, water pollution, loss of biodiversity, water hyacinth invasion on lakes and dams, air pollution, poor waste management as well as land degradation as some of the environmental challenges facing Zimbabwe,
It is estimated that between 100 000 and 320 000 hectares of forest cover were lost per year between 2000 and 2008. Small scale tobacco farming is believed to have significantly to such rampant deforestation. With no figures available on the state of the country’s forests since then, it is anyone’s guess as to how much tree cover is left out there.
With the status of the country’s wildlife also unknown, increasing poaching activities are threatening with extinction many of Zimbabwe’s unique species such as the black rhino, pangolin, ant eater and leopard.
Right now as we speak there us a looming disaster in many lakes and dams, dams like Lake Chivero and Lake Kyle and many others have a problem of water hyacinth invasion. This is threatening the ability of these dams to provide drinking water for the urban areas.
Pollution in all angles is also a threat. The local authorities’ poor waste management is worsening the situation. In Harare alone we have witnessed a lot of flooding in the CBD as litter has closed the drainage system. Burst sewer system in residential areas is also a nuisance.
Veld fires are a common thing in many rural and agricultural areas. Despite awareness campaigns people always prefer to burning when they prepare for the planting season.
Poaching is also an environmental nuisance.  Corruption is believed to have fueled poaching. Some poachers have reached to cruel instances of poisoning elephants in Hwange National Park.
What are the events that brought to the foundation of ECAG and what are its activities?
The situation in Zimbabwe needs people who are creative and innovative, it’s not only difficult to find jobs for the academics but it’s now even difficult for students to find attachment placing which should not be the case under normal circumstances and saw it necessary to create employment for themselves and put theory into practice for the betterment of the nation at large. However, the organization plans to create employment opportunities to the youth in Zimbabwe. The organization needs to be given a chance to rescue the environment in Zimbabwe which is increasingly deteriorating.
In 2013 the then students at Great Zimbabwe University could were having challenges finding attachment placing so a group of students came together and formed ECAG. Therefore, it could be safe to say ECAG was formed against a background of the country’s economic quagmire and looming environmental problems which came with it.
ECAG activities are outlined below.
Biodiversity Conservation
ECAG will concentrate in wildlife, forestry, Community Based Natural Resource Management (CBNRM), Pollution, Watershed and World Heritage sites.
ECAG will partner with other organization, communities and corporate organization in implementing such activities
ECAG will establish community led projects in the conservation of biodiversity
EACAG will also engage in recycling and waste management.
Environmental Governance
ECAG will establish Environmental Education programs
Policy Advocacy
Sustainable livelihood
ECAG will concentrate on Food Security
Water Management
Income generating activities
Conservation Agriculture
Climate Change
ECAG has embarked in a number of clean up campaigns where the organization raised awareness through the participation of some members of the public. A significant clean-up campaign was held in Masvingo City. The program was facilitated by ECAG with support from the Environmental Management Agency, Great Zimbabwe University,  Nyaradzo Funeral Services and Masvingo City Council. The program was a milestone as a large number of students, vendors and members of the public participated.
ECAG also embarked on reforestation and afforestation efforts. We engaged the tobacco farmers and urged them to plant more trees as they are the ones responsible for much of deforestation. To earmark this we planted more than 1000 gum trees with the community in Hwedza on the National Tree Planting day.
In what ways do you raise environmental awareness and how civil society has been responsive so far?
 We traditionally raise awareness through participatory clean up campaigns and tree planting initiatives. We always want people to participate because we believe that this will always be remembered because people would feel part and parcel of the program. Moreso, action speaks louder than words, the message would be easily understood.
We also use electronic and print media for environmental awareness. We are also moving with technology as we are now using social medias to spread our environmental news.
However, fostering behavioral change is still a challenge. Some are responding well to our awareness campaigns and go home and practice what we had taught them. On the other hand, just after the clean up some will go back to their ways which are detrimental to the environment.
What are the main causes of pollution and threat to the environment in Zimbabwe?
Pollution is any disturbance to the quality of the environment. Common types of pollution in Zimbabwe are water, air and land pollution.
The Zimbabwe Environment Outlook published in 2010 identifies sewage treatment plants, industries, agricultural activities and mining as the main sources of water pollution in the country.
WATER pollution has been documented as a contributor to a wide range of health problems and disorders in humans.
It has been shown to have negative impacts not only on aquatic organisms but on wild animals and the environment as a whole.
Water pollution is the contamination of natural water bodies due to direct or indirect discharge of effluent into water bodies without adequate treatment to remove harmful compounds.
Water pollution occurs when high levels of nutrients from waste water, fertilizers and sewage end up in water bodies encouraging algae and weed growth.
This scenario has encouraged the growth of the water hyacinth in Lake Chivero, Manyame and Shagashe rivers as well as other polluted water bodies.
Large quantities of biodegradable matter deplete oxygen in the process of decomposition.
Aerobic organisms die when the oxygen is depleted and due to this anaerobic organisms proliferate resulting to the production of more harmful toxins like ammonia.
Causes of water pollution
There are many causes of water pollution. Knowing the causes of water pollution helps us to stop the pollution and to protect the environment so that it can be enjoyed by future generations.
Industrial activities
Many rivers are polluted due to effluent flowing into them from industries. Some industries discharge fumes or gases that can pollute the air.
When the rains come, these gaseous particles are deposited together with the rain onto the surface and underground water resources.
Untreated sewage discharges have been a major contributor of water pollution in the country.
This is due to broken sewer pipes, blocked manholes and non-functional sewage treatment plants in major towns and cities.
Marimba, Mukuvisi, Shagashe, Manyame, Sakubva, Dora, Gweru, Mazai and Matsheumhlope are some of the rivers that are polluted by sewage discharges.
The treatment of crops with herbicides, pesticides, insecticides and chemical fertilizers bring significant benefits.
However, these products can find their way into water bodies polluting the water.
Livestock productions also contribute to pollution by the production of large quantities of organic waste which can be washed away by rainwater into rivers and lakes.
Households pour a large amount of organic and inorganic waste down the drain which can pollute both surface and ground water.
Effects of water pollution
The use of polluted water results in the outbreak of diarrheal diseases such as cholera and typhoid as once experienced in the country in 2008.
Polluted water is expensive to treat for it to be potable as it needs more chemicals to treat. This increases the cost of accessing clean and portable water.
Pollution of water leads to proliferation of aquatic weeds and deterioration of habitats for aquatic organism.
These weeds clog pipes, reduce sunlight penetration into the water body and use up oxygen as they decompose.
This can lead to death of animals such as fish and frogs due to lack of oxygen.
Pollutants such as lead and cadmium disrupt the natural food chain since they are consumed by tiny animals which are in turn eaten by larger animals and spread the pollutants to the other animals including humans through the traces in their systems.
These pollutants can eventually kill the food chain
Air pollution in Zimbabwe is caused by industrial emissions, agricultural process and most importantly vehicle emissions. All these processes are emitting greenhouse gases into the atmosphere making air unsafe to breathe therefore putting human life at risk. There has been an influx of vehicle into the country and this is not good news to the environment.
The economic impact include corrosion of building materials such as lime stone blocks and roofing sheets from acid rain generated from sulphur dioxide emissions and can cause dysfunction of sensitive ecosystems.
Land pollution.
Illegal dumping of waste, littering in streets and littering along highways, soil erosion are some of the things that make our land unattractive. Erratic refuse collection by the local authorities is also exacerbating land polluting. The result is an outbreak of cholera and typhoid which are documented for taking human life.
The rise of informal sector and population growth is also increasing waste generation. The local authorities blame vendors for lettering cities and towns.
Do you cooperate with local authorities and institutions? If yes how?
Yes we do cooperate with local authorities. Our partners are the Ministry of Environment, Water and Climate, traditional authorities, the NGO fraternity,  media fraternity, traditional private companies.
In every activity that we do engage these stakeholders. And whenever they have activities, initiatives or programs, they engage us. So the relationship is intertwining and interlinking.
Challenges facing ECAG
We are facing financial challenges. All the activities we have been doing, were done in our own capacity. We are finding it difficult to have access to grants, funding or donors. We have a lot of project proposals but what we lack is funding.