In Swaziland, we have a saying that goes “ignorance is akin to blindness”.
The same can be said of people who unwittingly cause damage to the environment by engaging in activity which may appear harmless, when in actual fact will have adverse long term consequences. One such activity is occurring in numerous rural communities in Swaziland.
In a bid to generate some income, many young men in Swaziland have been effecting road repairs on damaged gravel roads in their communities.
What typically happens is that these young men will remove soil from the side of the road to fill up potholes in the road, and this is done by unskilled and untrained persons. These young men then solicit a donation from motorists passing by, as compensation for the work done. The problem here is that these repairs never last a day, which means the sides of the road is constantly being exploited for soil.
The effect of the repairs on the environment is starting to be visible from the soil erosion which also damages the very road they repair.
In one community known as Mpolonjeni, the summer rains have exacerbated the problem of erosion, such that the roads are increasingly becoming impossible to navigate. However, one still finds these young men busy at work effecting repairs. When asked if they are aware that they may be the cause of the environmental damage, they simply plead ignorance. What makes matters even more complex is the socio-economic element because the little that they make, they use to contribute to their household income.
This may however be viewed by government as an opportunity to work with the youth and educate them on environmental issues. These means engaging with young people and make them understand the importance of respecting and understanding how nature functions in a delicate balance. Since these young people are willing to work, the government may also use that opportunity to involve them in reforestation and rehabilitation campaigns.
Environmental damage from ignorance is damage that can be prevented.
There is a pool of underutilized young people who are willing to work, and the government should use this opportunity to address ignorance.
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