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The role of environmental education in climate change mitigation and adaptation: the case of Gwanda rural district, Zimbabwe.

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The purpose of this research was centred on the role of Environmental Education (EE) in climate change mitigation and adaptation. The study sought to explore the successes and challenges of EE efforts in climate change mitigation and adaptation among the communities of Gwanda rural district in Zimbabwe. An interpretive qualitative case study research approach was used to explore EE efforts in the rural drought-prone area in Zimbabwe. The participants comprised farmers whose livelihoods are dependent on natural resources and government support officials such as the Agriculture and Extension Services Department (AGTRITEX) and the Environmental Management Agency (EMA) officials). Data generation tools included semi-structured interviews, focus group discussions and document analysis. A sample of 38 research participants from two wards of Gwanda rural district were used, and there were 19 research participants per ward. The Sustainable Rural Livelihoods (SRL) Framework and the Nested model of sustainability guided the study. The findings indicate a myriad of EE efforts by the government and Non-Governmental Organisations (NGOs) that require local innovations in their implementation. The research indicated that there are numerous climate change mitigation and adaptation strategies being implemented in the Gwanda rural district. Some of these strategies are ineffective, whilst some are successful. There were inconsistencies and a lack of coordination in some climate change mitigation and adaptation strategies which are being implemented. The research indicated cultural resistance by some farmers who are not implementing mitigation and adaptation strategies that have proved to be successful in the district due to traditional beliefs and practices. Therefore, there is a need to embark on EE programmes to address issues that hinder the adoption of successful climate change mitigation and adaptation strategies. All cultural beliefs and practices that hinder the implementation of successful climate change mitigation and adaptation strategies should be addressed through the engagement of traditional leaders. The study revealed that for EE programmes to be effective, they have to focus on harnessing local expertise that is collaborative efforts between extension agents and communities to craft EE programmes for local use. The research also indicated that a 'one size fits all’ approach will not lead to successful implementation of climate change mitigation and adaptation strategies because there are situated vulnerabilities. COVID-19 has also worsened situated vulnerabilities in Gwanda rural district mainly due to recurring national lockdowns which inhibit the local communities’ access to treated seeds from local towns. Also, the retrenchment of workers has worsened the vulnerabilities of communities because a loss of income negatively affects capital assets which compromises generative resilience. Thus, the study advocates for the use of indigenous seeds that avoid inconveniences during national lockdowns because communities will be using locally available seeds which are well adapted to the local conditions. Two models were developed in this study towards this end, to illustrate the roles of EE in enhancing generative resilience and reducing situated vulnerability in Gwanda. The models developed are EE for Rural Sustainable Livelihoods (EERSL) and the Box Model for Rural Sustainable Livelihoods (BMRSL). The models were developed focussing on different levels of intervention: the micro, meso, and macro levels whilst extrapolating concepts of SRLF and the Nested model of sustainability. They illustrate that the key determinants of sustainable livelihoods in the context of Gwanda, are EE and financial funding. As a result, the study found that EE and capital assets are critical in reducing the vulnerability of communities in drought-prone areas. They also enhance resilience, environmental stewardship and promote sustainable livelihoods. The study suggests exploring African solutions to African problems and the harnessing of indigenous knowledge systems in developing local solutions to local problems. The data from the study can be utilised in EE programmes to boost the resilience of rural communities, which are vulnerable to climate change in Gwanda rural district, Zimbabwe.


Doctoral Degree. University of KwaZulu-Natal, Durban.