World Report Card: Zambia’s Dr. Amos Chanda

Why Zambia? It is a country in which 200 women working in the public sector took time out to listen to a Hillary Clinton speech in 2010, a country where 40 percent of young women join the workforce, a country where 2 million children go to school, and a country where 85 percent of young people have access to sanitation.

Zambia does not have the wealth of America or the powerful markets of India. But its troubles with poverty, inequality, and extreme climate change are close to the heart of much of the international community. It is one of the least carbon-intensive countries in the world, one where there are more people working to address climate change than in any other country in the world.

Dr. Amos Chanda, who came to the U.S. recently on an official visit, is at the heart of this work. After winning a Lufthansa International Prize for Drilling Fundamentals, he was awarded the 2015 International Geographer Award for his contribution to international geography. At the central Bank of Zambia, Dr. Chanda leads an institution that was granted permission to print and transmit the Zambian kwacha, a status unimaginable just a few years ago.

Despite the popular image of the poor as being absent or neglected in large-scale policy discussions, Zambia is hardly a country in need of help. But Dr. Chanda believes that our global community is overlooking some promising innovations. One of the innovations Dr. Chanda points to is technology that looks to tackle the issue of water scarcity, a problem he says has become more dire as countries warm to the notion of climate change.

Zambia’s water deficit, one of the largest of any country in the world, requires technology that drastically changes the way we water our farms and cities. Based on the success of pumping systems in Tanzania, Dr. Chanda says that Africa can learn from that country’s reliance on pre-drilled foundations to get the water up. While such systems are likely to be the exception to the drought, a greater emphasis on pre-drilling is needed in order to address sustainability and conserve water in the long term.

Another challenge to consider is the issue of sanitation. New estimates suggest that sanitation remains the greatest unsolved problem in the world. Dr. Chanda says that access to toilets in the United States is critical, but say that is not the case in much of the world. Addressing the problem will require investment and access to solutions.

But in a country like Zambia, where access to electricity, education, and a healthy environment are some of the most important, the commitment to international efforts such as the water bottling industry seems futile. Yet, the bottling industry has a responsibility toward Zambia and the larger world in which it operates. It can provide jobs, providing Zambian families with a reliable source of money, including for families who need medication. At the same time, it must also adhere to local environmental standards and reduce its water consumption. Bottling companies must also embrace the efforts of communities across the world to introduce technical innovations that make our food production more sustainable.

Such initiatives must continue. Just as Zambia is making huge strides toward addressing water scarcity, a more drought-resistant agriculture program is key to the safety of the world’s food supply. The agricultural sector needs to learn from its successes and face challenges alike. But more than anything, Dr. Chanda says, policy decisions will have to change.

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