I’m Evans Tembo, a participant in the young water leader programme (YWLS – 2014) from Zambia and an Environmental Engineer working as Chief Technical Officer for Youth Environment Network (YEN) – Zambia.
From my childhood until up to the age of 21, I was born and raised in the rural part of northern side of my country where I did my primary, basic and secondary school education. During that time, my family and the rest of the neighboring community members had been using unprotected wells as the only source of drinking water. According to us, water from the wells was deemed as safe water despite the community having had been suffering from a number of diarrhoeal diseases and this was worsened by lack of knowledge about the connection between water supply, sanitation and health. As far I can remember, such an experience lead to a good number of my friends to drop out of school citing the reasons that going to school had no future benefits, even that our poor families could not afford to educate us up to college or university level.
However, with persistence I managed to finish my senior secondary education at Luwingu Secondary school in the Northern part of Zambia where I came out as the best candidate in 2001. After that, I was sponsored by the Zambian Government to do my tertiary education at the Copperbelt University in the Kitwe (Copperbelt Province).
My childhood life experience greatly influenced the choice of my career (Environmental Engineering biased to water and sanitation) in order that I could contribute to the betterment of the Zambia’s vulnerable communities which I once belonged to.
To date, I work as Chief Technical Officer for Youth Environment Network whose mandate include raising more awareness amongst the young people, lobbying and advocating with government and cooperating partners as well implementing community based projects in water supply, sanitation, solid waste management and climate change. While on the other hand, also I work as water and sanitation lecturer at Chainama College of Health Sciences where environmental health technologists (EHTs) are trained and deployed in the rural health centres to make sure that communities have access to safe drinking water and basic sanitation.
While acknowledging a number of success stories in my day to day work, I wish to mention that the issue of water supply and sanitation (WASH) still remains a very big challenge in Zambia and this has made my country to be off-track in meeting the MDG target on water and sanitation by 2015. For this reason, UNDP MDG Progress report for Zambia (2013) warns that meeting the access to safe water target requires more acceleration while meeting the access to sustainable sanitation target by 2015 calls for significant reforms and investment especially in rural areas.
And as youths and being more than 60 per cent of the total population (ie 13.6 million) (CSO, 2010), we endeavor to explore the possible solutions to our current WASH challenges by exchanging experiences and knowledge sharing with the like-minded from other parts of the world (i.e. developing and developed countries’ perspective). This is what motivated me to apply for the Young Water Leader Summit (YWLS) – 2014.
My participation in the YWLS during the SIWW – 2014 has not only widened and deepened my knowledge base in water and sanitation, but it has also provided me with a platform for networking with my fellow young people as well the senior water leaders globally. On the other hand, it has enabled me to be the only participant from Zambia during the SIWW – 2014. What an extraordinary opportunity Singapore Water Agency has given me, I will forever be grateful.
The showcasing of the various state of the art technologies in water and sanitation makes me believe that we can definitely manage to deal with our local WASH challenge, so long as such technologies could be of low cost in order for the developing countries like Zambia to afford them.
Having a dialogue session with the senior water leaders is also a wonderful opportunity for me to learn how they managed to get to where they are as well as communicate our present WASH situation in my country.
In conclusion, I wish to express my sincere gratitude to the PUB, Singapore Water Agency for making me a true ambassador of the SIWW – 2014 by enabling me to participate in YWLS. The knowledge and networks acquired will definitely help me to look at our WASH challenges differently!
By Evans Tembo