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Ireen lives in Livingstone/ Zambia and is 24 years old. She is really into the environment and she likes planting trees. When she is not planting trees, she likes to upcycle old paper to something new. Right now, she doesn’t have that much time for this because she studies Business Administration and Economics in Lusaka.
Sophie, member of the German-Zambian youth exchange programme conducts an interview about her environmental commitment.
Sophie: Hi Ireen, nice to talk to you! It has been a long time! How are you and how is the weather in Livingstone?
Ireen: Thank you, Sophie. I am doing fine! It rained for a longer time yesterday and today, i think it because it is the end of the rain season.
Sophie: My grandfather always talks about how the weather has changed in the past decades. Is that the same in Zambia?
Ireen: Yes, I can remember a September some years ago, then thats when the rain season started but in the past years it takes time to see the first rains and and it is affecting farmers.
Sophie: We have heard, that you are not new within EA. Why did you join them?
Ireen: I have always been engaged with the environment e.g. with planting trees. I was designated a Climate Ambassador for UNICEF in 2011 and then I heard of the meeting and I joined without knowing that I would become the Vice President right away. When I joined E.A, I wanted to learn more about the environment and other issues affecting the environment, I did and even learnt about more other things like children’s environmental rights.uch time for this because she studies Business Administration and Economics in Lusaka.
Sophie: In all the time you are promoting environmental rights, what was your impression what has to change?
Ireen: I think the use and burning of plastics has to stop. People also have to get engaged and do something. Planting trees is a good idea. But still, it won’t be enough as we are really affected, we need others to join.
Sophie: Whom do you mean with others?
Ireen: Other countries for example, they should also put more efforts in recycling and climate protection. For example, we are talking about partnerships for the goals (SDGs), but we don’t have a recycling plan in Zambia, so for example other countries could also help to set up a recycling plan. Bilateral relations are very important in these terms.
Sophie: When we are talking about Germany or the EU, what do you think they should do?
Ireen: There is much to do like giving support, but I think they should also share their plans that work in their countries. Maybe they should push other countries to set up recycling plans. In Zambia, you can see that bottles are thrown anywhere, because there is no recycling plan. Giving funds to Governments isn’t always the solution, because sometimes the money may not be used for the intended purpose , but technical advice would work better.
Sophie: Going back to Livingstone, how do people react to your activities concerning avoiding plastics?
Ireen: I was attending a workshop about the governance of the local city councils and how they can engage with people when they come up with plans, and I had a chance to talk about our exchange project. There were a lot of stakeholders from the council, organizations etc.. A lot of hands were up after my talk and they were asking what we were planning to do. Now we are welcome to the Mayor’s office and they are eager to work with us. We want to set up bins and signs like “Don’t throw your waste here”. It will be easier to work with them now, because they now know what we are doing.
Sophie: That’s a great progress for your project! Earlier the interview you mentioned that you like planting trees. How many trees have you already planted?
Ireen: My dad was a botanist, so he taught me to plant and manage trees . In the beginning, I was just giving them out for free. In 2013, I planted over 13,000 different tree species. In 2015 I wanted to break my own record by planting a million trees. However, i was going to school that year and only planted 1000 moringa trees. They are fast growing, and I was even able to sell them.
Sophie: Wow, 1000 trees, that’s amazing! Thank you for your interview and keep on planting trees!