BBC Sounds: 39 ways to save the planet - Transcript

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Listen to the BBC climate podcast with CAMFED


Tom Heap We humans are resourceful, adaptable and the smartest thing this planet has ever seen. We got ourselves into this climate mess with tree felling, gas guzzling, and steel forging. But we can get out of it. There are so many solutions to climate change, some proven and growing, others possible yet craving uptake. And in 39 ways to save the planet, we’ll chart the route to a cooler world without breaking the bank or sending us back to the Stone Age.


Lottie’s Dad Lottie?


Lottie What?


Lottie’s Dad Are you ready?


Tom Heap Lottie, a friend’s daughter is off to school.


Lottie’s Dad Where is your P.E kit?


Lottie It is in here.


Tom Heap Once she found her P.E kid. In today’s episode, I am looking at one of many organizations working to ensure girls around the world achieve the minimum of secondary schooling.

Learning gives skills, knowledge, and perhaps most importantly, the power of choice, which for women can mean choosing a life not solely defined by motherhood. That has all sorts of upsides for fulfillment, equality and wealth, but also results in fewer children. Our growing population is a key driver of climate change, so a classroom full of girls can help save the world.


Tom Heap This applies all round the world. CAMFED, the Campaign for Female Education, works in Africa to keep girls in school. Their efforts have helped hundreds of thousands. Fiona Mavhinga is their Executive Advisor.


Fiona Mavhinga, CAMFED Association Executive Advisor CAMFED started in 1993 in Zimbabwe by supporting 32 girls to go to secondary school. Ann Cotton, who is founder and president of CAMFED, visited Zimbabwe to do research. And what she found was contrary to common belief, that girls are not in school because their parents don’t want them to go to school, but because their parents could not afford to keep girls in school. And it has grown to now supporting over a million children across five countries in Africa.


Tom Heap So this initial fact, it wasn’t that people didn’t think it was worth educating girls. They just simply couldn’t afford it.


Fiona Mavhinga, CAMFED Association Executive Advisor Indeed, where parents didn’t have enough resources to keep all their children in school, they would put boys in school first, but it’s in a context where, for example, the closest school is about 20 kilometers away. Parents do not feel it’s safe for their girls to walk their distance. Also their belief was that girls would just go on and get married anyway and would benefit another family.


Tom Heap And today, what is the main reason why girls are often not given the same educational opportunity?


Fiona Mavhinga, CAMFED Association Executive Advisor Poverty is the main driver. And you also find that where families are poor, the girls would marry early because marrying them off means some bride price is coming into their family. But it’s a short-term solution. Education provides long, sustainable solution to poverty.


Tom Heap How does being an educated woman change her life?


Fiona Mavhinga, CAMFED Association Executive Advisor Without education, girls tend to marry early. With an education, girls are able to earn 25% more. And that means more resources within families, their children are less likely to die under the age of five. And you also find that, you know, educated women tend to have fewer children because they have a choice of when they get married, how many children they are going to have.


Tom Heap How big is this link, do you think, between female education and population growth?


Fiona Mavhinga, CAMFED Association Executive Advisor Girls’ education has that direct link between population growth and also climate action. If you look at the average age of marriage in most countries in sub-Saharan Africa, it is about 19. But for educated girls, the average age of marriage is about 21. You’ll find that the average children that educated girls tend to go on is about 3.1, which is less than six for an educated woman.


Tom Heap An average of six children for an uneducated mother and closer to 3, 3.1 for an educated woman. That’s a huge difference, isn’t it?


Fiona Mavhinga, CAMFED Association Executive Advisor That’s correct. And you also have much more resources to be able to support these children. And you create a virtuous cycle, and you are able to put these children through education themselves.


Tom Heap When we talk about population and maybe how we don’t want it to increase so much, you get these images of population control. This isn’t really about control, is it?


Fiona Mavhinga, CAMFED Association Executive Advisor When you educate a woman, you give her agency. So for me, it’s not about control. It’s about giving women the empowerment to have that choice.


Tom Heap Some of the educated women might choose to have a big family, which is, as you say, their choice.


Fiona Mavhinga, CAMFED Association Executive Advisor Indeed, it is their choice if they want to have much more children, because they would also know how they are going to support those children as well.


Tom Heap In Marondera in Zimbabwe, an hour’s drive outside Harare, Esnath is rearing a most climate friendly protein source, insects.


Esnath, Sustainable Agriculture Expert, Zimbabwe All right. Welcome to the cricket production units. This is where the magic is happening. So here we are producing them in the plastic washing tubs and we are also using the egg curtains and they are covered in the mosquito mesh so that the crickets cannot escape.

I am holding on to one of these crickets, but they are jumpers. They grow to almost three centimeters, and they are almost a centimeter wide. They are basically a big lump of protein. In each of these 90-liter containers, on food production, I expect to harvest at least one kilogram of fresh crickets.

We are expanding the farm, so we are collecting as much eggs as we can. And afterwards we harvest them, then we sand dry, and then they get into the markets.


Tom Heap But Esnath’s fate was nearly so different. Her early life once following familiar steps towards poverty and early motherhood.


Esnath, Sustainable Agriculture Expert, Zimbabwe I was born in a family of six and my parents were commercial farm workers. They are great believers in education. They just didn’t have enough resources to support us. I was actually on the verge of dropping out. So when CAMFED stepped in, I got a full bursary with uniforms, school fees and sanitary wear.


Tom Heap Why is it normal in Zimbabwe, probably when you were born, and now, to have big families?


Esnath, Sustainable Agriculture Expert, Zimbabwe I believe the first thing was a lack of access to contraceptives and reproductive health information. And also, once you get further in terms of education, you tend to see things a little bit differently. There are some of my classmates who dropped off at 13/14, and already they are on their fifth, sixth child.

Myself, I went up to university. I’m 32 and I still have one child by choice, up to now. But the others they got married and the only thing that they know of doing is giving birth to children. So I think it’s the option of knowing what you can do with your life, how you can be productive.


Tom Heap If you hadn’t been part of the CAMFED scheme what do you think your life would be like now?


Esnath, Sustainable Agriculture Expert, Zimbabwe It’s something that scares me because I know if I didn’t receive that support, I would have ended up being like one of my classmates. Patience, who dropped out when we were in form two, she got married.

When I last saw her in March, she had given birth to a fifth child. When I asked her, “Why do you have this many children when you know you don’t have enough resources to support them?” She told me, “No, this last one was actually a mistake. I didn’t have the time to go to the clinic to get my monthly injection.” She’s there. She’s supporting them in the ways that she can. But it’s not a state that I would wish anyone to be in.


Tom Heap But CAMFEDs impact on climate change is not limited to a smaller next generation. They’re also helping to reduce carbon emissions today. Fiona Mavhinga.


Fiona Mavhinga, CAMFED Association Executive Advisor We support women to embark on Climate-smart agriculture practices and they go back to work with their communities to improve on food security, to improve on climate action as well.


Tom Heap Can you give me an example of what a Climate-smart agricultural practice might be?


Fiona Mavhinga, CAMFED Association Executive Advisor Because of climate change, we don’t get the usual rain pattern that we used to get maybe ten, 15 years ago, and therefore most farmers, when they plant, then they experience a dry spell, and they lose their crops.

But young women are going on into their communities and teaching about mulching, for example, where you cover the ground with locally available and cheap material like grass so that the loss of moisture is less.


Esnath, Sustainable Agriculture Expert, Zimbabwe You know, as animals, as they’re eating and growing, they also need to excrete a little bit. The poop, we don’t throw it away. It’s very high in phosphorous and potassium. And also it has a percentage of nitrogen in them, which when we use it for the garden, it’s very, very good manure.


Tom Heap Insects produce far less greenhouse gas per ton of protein than beef or chicken, and they live largely on waste leaves and vegetables.


Esnath, Sustainable Agriculture Expert, Zimbabwe We are hoping to expand the production at the farm, and we have a processing lab which would then turn the crickets into cricket flour, protein bars and I plan on training, so in the end I will have around 200 farmers.

It’s basically my way of giving back to the community that shows me a long time ago for me to benefit in terms of education. If they did not support me, I wouldn’t have been able to get all these inspired ideas that I now have these days.


Tom Heap Well, with me to discuss this idea, as with the other ideas in the series, is Dr. Tamsin Edwards from King’s College, London, who’s been looking at some numbers that the Royal Geographical Society have helped put together.

Now, Tamsin, this seems almost more than any other idea is one where the way it helps climate change is almost a collateral benefit on the back of a bunch of other very good things.


Dr. Tamsin Edwards, King’s College, London Exactly. So, the real aim here is the education. If we expand education very rapidly, it’s been predicted that that would reduce the population in 2050 by 843 million people. But that has to be accompanied by the family planning to help women make those choices that they want to make.

There’s around 230 million women in low- and middle-income countries who don’t have access to family planning that they need. And that also causes maternal deaths from things like childbirth that they didn’t plan to have. If we wrap all that together, the total estimated savings of the reduction in population from a more educated female population making those choices is equivalent to about 5% of our current emissions.

So a big chunk of our future emissions will be saved by women being able to make those choices.


Tom Heap Wow. I mean, that is, as you say, a big chunk and illustrates how important population size is. Whilst at the same time, both you and I know, you know, this is a sensitive situation, not least because extra babies in Africa or Asia will actually have less climate impact than extra babies here.


Dr. Tamsin Edwards, King’s College, London Of course, rich countries, we have far, far more emissions per person. The other thing I think that’s really important to get in here is that women need to be at the table for climate decision making and education will help them to do that.

It’s been shown that greater female representation in national parliaments leads to more stringent climate policies and lower carbon emissions. And of course, that’s better justice for women in terms of their local climate impacts and adaptation.

This was a point that was really brought up at a rally I spoke out for International Women’s Day, which highlighted the parallels between gender justice and climate justice, that equality for women means a better planet and a better planet means a better place for women.


Tom Heap Well, here in the UK, we’re lucky to take the worth of female education for granted. It’s kind of not mentioned, is it? But that’s so not the case in many countries, the world, is it?


Dr. Tamsin Edwards, King’s College, London Exactly. This is really a life changing method for all kinds of reasons. And climate change is just one part of that. But really it has so many different benefits.


Tom Heap And the value of female education seems to be being appreciated now by more and more governments across the world.


Dr. Tamsin Edwards, King’s College, London Exactly. It’s not just about the individual benefits for the women, but of course, we know that more educated women mean, you know, a larger workforce, more flexibility, more skills, you know, increase in the economy of the country. So, it has benefits all round.


Tom Heap So many wins. Tamsin Edwards, thank you very much indeed. We hope you’ve enjoyed 39 Ways to Save the Planet. In the next episode, I’ll be meeting the family of robots that keep the blades of offshore wind turbines turning.

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