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November 10, 2020

My RECIRCULATE story: Putting the theory in to practice in Zambia – Part One

SME Workshop - with WINA ladies

SME Workshop – with WINA ladies (please note that this photo was taken before the COVID-19 pandemic)

In her two-part blog, RECIRCULATE resident Glenda Kasonde shares her experience of how her involvement in the project has transformed her take on collaboration between industry, research organisations and professional networks.

The FLOW is about all our “RECIRCULATE stories”, so I’d like to share mine. Or perhaps it’s more than one story, or a story with different chapters?  Brand, Change Agent, Interconnector and Trailblazer. It’s quite a story!

I joined RECIRCULATE in April 2019, through the Building Capacity for Entrepreneurship and Innovation Workshop in Zambia. I came to that workshop already having an entrepreneurial mind-set. Maybe I need to tell you a little about myself.  I think of myself as someone who breaks new ground. I am one of the first few female engineers and sustainability professionals to graduate in Zambia. My innovative mind-set even extends to my hobbies.  I am the only Zambian to have attended the Wilton Cake Decorating School in USA and I have become the only Certified Wilton Method Instructor in the country and in the Central Africa Region. More recently, I have started a smallholding, which is already producing a range of fresh vegetables for the market.

Part of what I have achieved lies in knowing exactly who I am, where I am going in my career pathway and being the pilot of my career by investing in continuous self-development.  I am in a very privileged position where I have discovered who I am (a Change Agent). I have been empowered with an education (Chemical Engineer, Masters in Education for Sustainability). I have a job I love in the mining industry, which puts me in a unique position of influence. I am committed to acting as a catalyst and interconnector with industry, government and academia. I can do that through specialist research work, co-delivery, mentorship, internship, career guidance, workshops, conferences and self-benevolence. This is my way of giving back to society through advocacy, activism and vocational skills empowerment using my natural God given gifts.

So that’s my ‘back-story’ before I joined RECIRCULATE. What about the story since I joined the project?  Well, after the Workshop I was successful in applying for a four-week residence at Lancaster University. Like all RECIRCULATE residents, I produced an output report with clear milestones and practical recommendations to translate my RECIRCULATE experiences in to practice back home in Zambia.  I dub that report as a real success because I have achieved even more than I proposed.  I developed a programme model that aimed to foster entrepreneurship and innovation by strengthening the collaborative institutional linkages of the Zambian mining industry and other institutions particularly research institutions such as the Copperbelt University and University of Zambia. This includes a clear focus on gender mainstreaming and women empowerment.  I presented the model not just to the Executive Committee of my employers, Konkola Copper Mine (KCM), but also to the Zambia Chamber of Mines (ZCM), made up of the Chief Executive Officers of the country’s mining houses.

I hit the ground running in other ways too. Immediately upon my return from my Lancaster residency, I organized a local workshop for small and medium enterprises (SMEs) in Zambia hosted by KCM. As an ambassador for RECIRCULATE, I have also been actively engaging powerful young women as part of the Women’s Innovators Network for Africa – WINA- which was launched during the Entrepreneurship and Innovation workshop in Zambia. On 12th October 2019, I partnered with RECIRCULATE colleagues Dr Akanimo Odon and Dr Nellie Kangwa Chief Executive Officer/Principal Consultant Project Life Design, Zambia (and another member of WINA) to deliver an internationalization workshop for school managers on the Copperbelt, Zambia.

It has also been great to help RECIRCULATE partners expand their international networks. In October 2019, I facilitated the visit of researchers from Lancaster University Ghana (LU Ghana) who toured various environmental projects and Corporate Social Responsibility initiatives across KCM. The team toured the KCM-aided Copperbelt leather cluster, the community solar-powered boreholes, Nchanga Concentrator, Underground Model room and the Smelter. Speaking during the tour of the Copperbelt leather cluster Dr Priscilla Otuo, one of RECIRCULATE’s researchers based at LU Ghana, said such initiatives were impressive examples of empowering youths to be self-reliant as well as promoting the transfer of knowledge and skills. She noted parallels with similar arrangements in Ghana intended to lift living standards.  The visit also allowed Priscilla to make a presentation on the RECIRCULATE programme at ZCM’s 5th Occupational Health Safety & Environment Conference.

Coming back to my own career development, my involvement in the project encouraged me to complete my Careers Enhancement Programme Online (CEPO) Career Plan.  This gave me a clear understanding on where I am on my career path.  Since then, I have updated my curriculum vitae so that it now reflects a clear and detailed content of who I am professionally “a Chemical Engineer and Sustainability Specialist”. I am also looking to upgrade from Associate Chemical Engineer to Chartered Chemical Engineer through the Institute of Chemical Engineers.

I have been armed with a sense of purpose knowing that the long-term outcomes of RECIRCULATE, within and beyond the current programme, hinges on the strengths I bring to the table and how I can carefully catalyse the process to create new synergies and broker collaboration opportunities. So that is where my success lies, and I’ve made sure that I seize every opportunity, discussion fora, presentation, visits and so on to come up with a practical translation in to the sustainability of the Zambian mining industry.

I can relate to RECIRCULATE as a mind-set changer and the benefits are working for me in my professional and private activities. Some of the key achievements are the interdisciplinary connections where I have continued to support national development in environmental protection and higher education. I have since assumed responsibility on two National Steering Committees through Ministerial appointment. But I see I am running out of space to tell you that part of my RECIRCULATE story, so this is what I think TV series call a “cliff-hanger” ending.  If you want to know more about that side of my story, you’ll have to read the second part of my blog!

 

Engineer Glenda Kasonde is the Head of Environment and Sustainability Assurance at Konkola Copper Mines (KCM) in Zambia. KCM is a major producer of copper cathodes, cobalt alloy, pyrite and sulphuric acid. The operations are located in four different geographical locations as follows: Nampundwe Mine in Shibuyunji District, Nkana Refinery in the City of Kitwe, Nchanga Mine, Smelter in Chingola District and Konkola Mine in Chililabombwe District. Glenda has a Bachelor’s Degree in Chemical Engineering and a Master’s Degree in Education for Sustainability both obtained from South Bank University, United Kingdom. She was linked to RECIRCULATE in April 2019, through the WP1 Building Capacity for Entrepreneurship and Innovation Workshop in Zambia, through nomination by the Zambian Chamber of Mines were she actively participates in the Health, safety and Environment programmes.

 

All articles in The FLOW are published under a Creative Commons — Attribution/No derivatives license, for details please read the RECIRCULATE re-publishing guidelines.

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