swaziland: focus on yonge nawe
introducing thuli mahama
I am the director of Yonge Nawe . Our name is the Siswati phrase “conserve-you too” meaning that everyone has a role to play in environmental conservation. I have been Director since 1996 and have a staff of seven.
Originally my job focussed on the administration aspects of sustainability, organisation and development. I soon found it difficult directing issues I did not fully understand. I spent a lot of time reading and researching with other groups, inside and outside the country, and found myself becoming more involved with the issues and less with the administration. This led me to study for my post graduate Msc in Environmental Assessment & Evaluation. Graduating gave me the inspiration to concentrate my work on sustainable environmental development. It is very satisfying to find communities that are aware of these issues and desperately want to bring about positive change. It can be frustrating when the pace of change is too slow. This is normally due to a lack of awareness by other parties that are involved.
Our organisation was formed by part time volunteers in 1987 to encourage schoolchildren to take an interest in their environment. We encouraged them to plant trees, clean their school rooms and learn about basic sanitation. In 1997/98 we reassessed our position. Having raised awareness in the country we found a number of Non Governmental Organisations carrying out similar work to ourselves. We decided that our focus would shift to the urgent issues of water supply and river quality. This was driven by the fact that one of our largest rivers was being used as a waste sewer by local industries. In addition we decided bring pressure on both the Government and business to ensure the current environmental laws we enforced.
Swaziland is a small kingdom of around 1,000,000 inhabitants with a single language and no tribal divisions. In the past, due to conflicts in the two neighbouring countries, Mozambique and South Africa, people used Swaziland to influence its neighbours. This gave us a strong economy but now that both countries are growing strongly we are finding it difficult to compete. We are no longer first choice for investment in the area except by companies who wish to exploit our less strict environmental laws. This is more reason why we need to strictly enforce these laws as they do in South Africa .
We are excited to become members of the Friends of the Earth Interntaional network as this will help to give our small country a voice internationally. There are some multi national companies taking advantage of our size and causing destruction to our environment and communities. Being a member will give us a collective voice and enable us to use the experience that exists within the network. We have a lot to offer from a southern perspective to promote campaigns in both the northern and southern hemispheres.