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Interview with Chiteu Kasongo, Easy Zambia

Conducted by Michaela Chen

1. Could you introduce yourself briefly (name, age, where you are from, major
achievements)?

 

Hello, my name is Chiteu Kasongo, and I am 23 years old. I come from Livingstone, the tourist capital of Zambia, located in the southern province. I am the founder and Executive Director of EasyZambia, an initiative that empowers youths for sustainable development, with a primary focus on promoting environmental sustainability and a secondary focus on social justice and quality education.

I am honored to serve on the Young Adults Advisory Board for the Center for Applied Technology (CAST), where I am responsible for updating the Universal Design for Learning (UDL) guidelines. I am also the 30th Eco Generational Regional Ambassador to Zambia for UNEP's Tunza Eco Generation, an environmental networking platform for children and youths. I am actively engaged in advocating for youth interests as the acting champion to Zambia for the independent continental Youth Advisory council on the African Continental Free Trade Area (AfCFTA). I am also a Future African Scholar and an African Sustainability Fellow. I have been fortunate to be selected for various prestigious fellowships, including GOAL Next GEN, Weaver in Residence Program, and ShARE Leadership Fellowship. I am also a silver member of the International Water Resources Association (IWRA) and a member of its ECYP task team, thanks to the support of the French Water Partnerships.


My research article on utilizing machine learning for enhanced water resources management in river basins was preselected for publication in the Water International special issue. To add on, my text titled 'Threads of Unity' has been shortlisted for publication in the esteemed collection, 'Narratives of Closeness and Distance from Central-Eastern Europe and South-Eastern Africa.'

I am part of a select group of eight artists, scholars, and practitioners from Slovakia, Hungary, Poland, Czechia, Uganda, Tanzania, and Zambia, collaborating on exploring the intersections of intercontinental history, memories, art, science, and fine literature. This intercontinental anthology is being launched as part of the project DECONFINING by the ART TRANSPARENT Foundation, PRO PROGRESSIONE, and the Women's History Museum Zambia.


I am also a certified Regional and Country Level Security Risk Management Professional with the International NGO Safety and Security Association (INSSA). It is my passion and commitment to make a positive impact in various fields, and I am excited about the opportunities for growth and collaboration that lie ahead.


2. You are the founder of Easy Zambia, a youth nonprofit organization that encourages young people to get involved in sustainability. Could you give us a rundown of your journey to starting Easy Zambia? 

 

My journey to starting Easy Zambia was deeply influenced by my personal experiences growing up in a marginalized community. I witnessed firsthand the numerous injustices that deprived underprivileged communities of basic human rights. It became evident to me that environmental sustainability was crucial in addressing the challenges we faced. One of the key factors that sparked my interest in sustainability was the noticeable changes in our local climate. Livingstone, my hometown, experienced more frequent droughts, altered rainfall patterns, and soaring temperatures, which directly impacted our lives and livelihoods. Furthermore, the alarming increase in charcoal burning and deforestation raised concerns about the depletion of natural resources and the adverse effects on the environment. Recognizing the urgency to address these issues, I embarked on a journey to promote environmental sustainability and empower youths to take action. The journey began with educating myself about sustainability practices, climate change, and the importance of conservation. I also sought knowledge on the ways youth could be catalysts for positive change in their communities. Taking the first step towards founding Easy Zambia, I engaged with local youths and community members to raise awareness about environmental issues. We organized environmental awareness programs, informative sessions, and advocacy campaigns to promote sustainable practices and the importance of preserving our natural resources. Witnessing the positive impact our efforts had on the community further fueled our determination to continue our mission. We expanded our initiatives to address social justice and quality education as well, recognizing their interconnectedness with environmental sustainability. Throughout this journey, we have faced challenges, but the commitment and dedication of our team and the support of our community have kept us going. As we continue to empower youths for sustainable development, our goal remains to create a better and more resilient future for our planet and its people.

3. What are some of Easy Zambia’s core values/main goals?


EasyZambia's primary goal is to empower youths for sustainable development. The organization believes in equipping young individuals with knowledge, skills, and opportunities to become proactive change-makers who can contribute to building a more sustainable future. Environmental Sustainability: EasyZambia is deeply committed to promoting environmental sustainability. The organization aims to raise awareness about climate change, biodiversity conservation, waste management, and sustainable agriculture among youths, inspiring them to take actions that protect and preserve the environment.

One of the core values of EasyZambia is to make a positive impact on the lives of young people. By focusing on three thematic areas, the organization seeks to provide meaningful opportunities for youth to engage in initiatives that foster personal and community growth while contributing to larger global goals, such as the United Nations' Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).

EasyZambia aspires to impact over 100,000 youths by the year 2025. The organization is determined to expand its reach and scale up its programs to reach more communities, schools, and young individuals, amplifying the positive influence of its initiatives.

EasyZambia values collaboration and recognizes the power of partnerships. By working with like-minded organizations, government agencies, and stakeholders, the organization aims to create synergistic efforts and maximize the collective impact in achieving its goals.

 

EasyZambia believes in adopting innovative approaches to address pressing challenges related to sustainable development and environmental conservation. The organization continually seeks new and creative ways to engage and inspire youths, harnessing technology and media to drive positive change.


4. Are there any projects/initiatives that Easy Zambia has taken on to achieve those goals?


EasyZambia conducted an outreach program in Simonga village to raise awareness about the detrimental effects of deforestation. Through this initiative, the organization aimed to educate the local community about the importance of preserving forests and biodiversity.

 

In 2022, EasyZambia launched the EZGCEEP in Livingstone. This program focused on empowering and enlightening young girls, providing them with essential knowledge, skills, and opportunities to thrive and make a positive impact in their communities.

[EasyZambia] established the Youth Forum in partnership with PP Media Impact under the Innovation Hub. This platform encourages young people to engage in discussions and actions related to climate change, science, technology, and engineering, fostering a culture of innovation and problem-solving.

As part of the Climate Initiative, EasyZambia hosted an online environmental essay competition in 2022, attracting over 200 participants. This initiative aimed to encourage youths to express their ideas and insights on environmental issues, promoting active engagement and knowledge-sharing.


The Environmental Literacy Program is one of EasyZambia's flagship initiatives. Through this program, the organization visited schools like Nakatindi Combined School, conducting informative sessions, massive tree-planting campaigns, and donating eco-friendly stationery products. This program aims to equip youths with essential knowledge about environmental sustainability and climate change, nurturing environmentally conscious leaders.


5. Can you tell us more about your EZGCEEP program? Why is it so important that sustainability and social justice go hand in hand?

The EasyZambia Girl Child Enlightenment and Empowerment Program (EZGCEEP) is a crucial
initiative aimed at empowering and enlightening young girls in Livingstone, Zambia. The
program recognizes the significance of addressing gender equality and social justice as integral
components of sustainable development.


The EZGCEEP focuses on several key aspects:

 

Gender Equality: the program strives to break down gender barriers and stereotypes, providing girls with equal opportunities to access education, healthcare, and leadership roles. By empowering girls, the program seeks to bridge the gender gap and promote gender equality, fostering a more inclusive and just society.

 

Education and Empowerment: EZGCEEP equips girls with knowledge, skills, and confidence, enabling them to become agents of change in their communities. Education is a powerful tool to uplift individuals and societies, and the program recognizes that empowering girls through education can lead to positive social and economic transformations.

 

Social Justice: The program addresses social justice by advocating for the rights and well-being of marginalized and vulnerable girls. It seeks to create an environment where all girls can thrive and have equal opportunities to reach their full potential, regardless of their social or economic backgrounds.


Sustainable Development: By empowering girls, the EZGCEEP aligns with the principles of sustainability. Girls and women play crucial roles in sustainable development, as they often bear the responsibility of managing natural resources and nurturing families. Empowering girls to become leaders and decision-makers contributes to more sustainable and equitable development. Sustainable development cannot be achieved without addressing social inequalities and injustices. Social justice ensures that no one is left behind in the pursuit of sustainable development, promoting inclusivity, diversity, and equal opportunities for all.


6. Easy Zambia is centered in Zambia, which is also where you live and work. What are some of the main environmental justice issues in Zambia that you are impacted by and hope to overcome?
 

Zambia's forests are under threat from deforestation, driven by factors like logging, charcoal production, and agricultural expansion. This loss of forests leads to the degradation of natural habitats and a decline in biodiversity, impacting local ecosystems and wildlife.

Zambia is vulnerable to the effects of climate change, including extreme weather events, erratic rainfall patterns, and rising temperatures. Climate change impacts agriculture, water resources, and livelihoods, particularly affecting vulnerable communities who rely on natural resources for their survival.

Many communities in Zambia, especially in rural areas, lack access to clean and safe drinking water. Contaminated water sources contribute to waterborne diseases and health issues, disproportionately affecting marginalized populations.

Improper waste management and limited recycling facilities lead to pollution of land and water bodies, negatively impacting the environment and public health.
Sustainable Agriculture: Ensuring sustainable agricultural practices is essential to promote food security, protect natural resources, and enhance the resilience of farming communities.

Limited environmental education and awareness pose challenges in promoting sustainable practices and behavior change among the general population.


7. Environmental literacy is one of Easy Zambia’s main goals. It's a lesser-known aspect of environmental justice, could you introduce the concept and explain what Easy Zambia is doing to help increase environmental literacy?


Environmental literacy is the capacity to understand, interpret, and critically analyze environmental issues and their interconnections with social, economic, and ecological systems. It goes beyond basic knowledge of environmental facts and involves understanding the complexities of environmental challenges and the importance of sustainable practices.

 

Easy Zambia recognizes that increasing environmental literacy is essential for fostering a sense of environmental responsibility and empowering individuals to make informed decisions that promote sustainable development and environmental justice.

 

To help increase environmental literacy, Easy Zambia has implemented its Environmental Literacy Program. This program is specifically designed to target Zambian youths aged 12 to 18, regardless of gender. Through interactive workshops, informative presentations, and hands-on activities, the program equips young minds with the knowledge and tools to become environmentally conscious leaders. The Environmental Literacy Program covers a range of topics, including climate change, biodiversity conservation, and waste management. By engaging directly with students in Livingstone schools, the program aims to instill a deep sense of environmental responsibility and awareness in the younger generation. Easy Zambia also uses various communication channels, including social media and traditional
media, to disseminate educational content and raise awareness about environmental issues.


8. This (environmental literacy) is an initiative that Easy Zambia has put a lot into, why is it so
important for youth to be aware of environmental issues and get involved?


Environmental literacy and youth involvement in environmental issues are crucial for several reasons:
Future Leaders of the Environment: Youth represent the future, and they will inherit the environmental challenges we face today. By increasing their awareness and involvement, we are fostering a generation of responsible stewards who can make informed decisions to protect and conserve the environment for future
generations.


Amplifying Voices for Change: Young people have a unique perspective and passion for creating positive change. Their involvement can amplify voices advocating for environmental justice, sustainability, and climate action. Youth engagement brings fresh ideas, creativity, and energy to address pressing environmental issues.


Long-Term Impact: The choices and behaviors adopted by youth today will have long-term consequences for the environment. By empowering them with environmental literacy, we equip them to adopt sustainable practices and become advocates for positive environmental change throughout their lives.

 

Addressing Environmental Injustice: Environmental issues often disproportionately affect marginalized communities. When youth are aware of these injustices, they can play a pivotal role in advocating for environmental justice and equitable solutions.


Climate Change Mitigation and Adaptation: Climate change poses significant challenges for future generations. Youth involvement is critical for driving climate change mitigation efforts and developing adaptive strategies to cope with its impacts.


Inspiring Innovation: Environmental challenges call for innovative solutions. Youth, with their fresh perspectives and innovative thinking, can contribute new ideas and technologies that support sustainable
development and environmental protection.

 

Advocacy and Policy Influence: Youth involvement in environmental issues can influence policymakers and decision-makers to prioritize environmental protection and take action on critical issues.

 

9. As someone who works with youth and encourages them in their journey to sustainability, do you have any advice for young people around the world who don’t know where to start?

Start by learning about environmental issues and sustainability. Seek reliable sources of information, attend workshops, read books, and follow credible organizations and experts in the field. Understanding the challenges is the first step toward finding solutions.

Find an aspect of sustainability that resonates with you the most. Whether it's climate change, biodiversity, waste management, or social justice, focusing on something you are passionate about will keep you motivated and dedicated to making a difference.


Don't feel overwhelmed; sustainability is a journey. Begin with small, manageable actions in your daily life. Reduce single-use plastics, save energy, recycle, or support local and sustainable products. Every small step counts.
 

Join local environmental organizations, youth-led initiatives, or climate action groups. Engage with like-minded individuals who share your passion for sustainability. Working together creates a stronger impact.

Use your voice to raise awareness about environmental issues. Share information with your friends, family, and social media networks. Advocate for sustainability in your community and beyond.

 

Seek opportunities to volunteer for environmental projects or participate in community clean-ups, tree-planting activities, and sustainability events. Volunteering allows you to contribute hands-on to meaningful causes.

Partner with others who share your vision for a sustainable world. Collaborate on projects and exchange ideas. Networking with like-minded individuals can lead to new opportunities and insights.

You may encounter challenges and setbacks, but don't give up. Persevere and learn from experiences. Every obstacle is a chance to grow and improve.

 

Understand how global issues connect with local realities. Addressing sustainability at the local level can have a broader impact on the global scale. Stay curious and open to new perspectives. The journey to sustainability involves continuous learning and adaptation.


10. Finally, how can people get involved in Easy Zambia and/or support it?

Explore our website at www.easyzambia.org to learn more about our organization, projects, and upcoming events. You can find valuable information about how to participate and contribute.

Connect with us on various social media platforms through our linktree dashboard at www.linktr.ee/easyzambia. Stay updated with our latest activities, campaigns, and opportunities to engage with our community.

 

Reach out to us via email at easyzambia1@gmail.com. Feel free to inquire about volunteer opportunities, collaboration possibilities, or any questions you may have about our projects.

If you prefer direct communication, you can call us at +260771382625 to discuss ways to get involved or offer support.

Join our team as a volunteer and actively participate in our projects and activities. Your time and dedication can make a significant impact.

Consider making a donation to support our initiatives and help us expand our efforts to empower youths for sustainable development and promote environmental conservation.

Share our mission and activities with your friends, family, and colleagues. By spreading awareness about Easy Zambia, you can help us reach more people and expand our network.

If you represent an organization or group with similar goals, consider collaborating with us on projects and campaigns. Together, we can achieve greater impact.

Participate in our workshops, webinars, and events. Your active engagement will contribute to our shared mission of environmental sustainability. Engage with our environmental literacy program, tree-planting campaigns, and other initiatives.

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