Beatrice Materu, a Team Leader with Restless ICS in Tanzania, talks about how her passion for protecting the planet first began and her biggest concern for her country’s future.
I used to see no importance in protecting or conserving the environment. I didn’t even understand what climate change is, nevertheless its effect. But as I grew up, meeting different people – especially elders talking about how much rain they used to get, the constant availability of pasture for their cattle – I realised Earth’s climate has been changing. And I had played my part in making that happen. That’s when my passion for environment started and my actions changed.
Luckily, I had an opportunity to join an environment club named Malihai club of Tanzania in my secondary education. I participated actively in planting trees, flowers and growing-bags around the school. I educated my classmates on conversation and how to protect the environment, such as avoiding burning rubbish and instead using the 3’R: Reduce, Reuse, Recycle. In 2009, I had the opportunity to be among the bright green youth who helped design solutions to climate change, which were presented at the UN climate conference in Copenhagen that year.
The impact of climate change in my country
Tanzania has started to experience serious impacts of climate change. The growing occurrence of floods and water shortage are the result of a decrease in rainfall in the dry season and an increase during the rainy season. Even the icecap on Mount Kilimanjaro is said to be disappearing.
Further Weather changes also affect water-borne diseases such as cholera, a disease that some parts of Dar es Salaam are currently experiencing. An increase in the temperature and moisture provides ideal conditions for disease carriers, such as mosquitoes, which will continue to bring the burden of dengue and malaria.
My biggest concern
The loss of our rich variety of species and life – that’s my biggest worry. Tanzania’s biodiversity provides foundation for every aspect of human life. We depend on biodiversity for food, water and general well-being. For Tanzania, biodiversity is also one of our biggest tourist attractions, and therefore. But with climate change, some species will not be able to survive.
This issue needs a joint response. The solution is to work together. Each one of us needs to remember that everything we do locally has a global effect. The country needs more protected areas, more trained park keepers, as well as strong biodiversity programme that will manage and benefit communities. Tanzania, with its rich biodiversity, has a unique opportunity to manage its natural resources and preserve environments for current and future generations. That’s why as a young person from Tanzania, I will restlessly keep my eye on climate talks (COP21) in Paris, as global leaders meet to discuss the way forward about this.