By Kingsley Alumona
About half a century ago, our climate was not a major threat to us and to our environment. However, in this contemporary time, it has drastically changed to the point that it is giving us serious concern as individuals and nations to the extent that governments and world leaders are spending millions of dollars to organise conferences and summits to address its negative impacts on our collective existence.
The last climate summit — the Climate of the Parties (COP) 26 — which was held last November in Glasgow, Scotland, was the 26th annual climate summit. In that summit, world leaders were concerned that climate change has gone from being a fringe issue to a global priority. Former President Barack Obama of the United States was one of the active participants of the COP26 Summit. While commenting on his verified Facebook page, he posited that young people have more at stake in the fight against climate change than anyone else. One of the African youths that is championing climate change advocacy in the continent is Hindou Oumarou Ibrahim, a lady from the Mbororo pastoralist community in Chad. She has spent the past 10 years working to bridge the gap between the international decisions on climate change and the realities on ground.
Travelling across her country to meet with indigenous groups, she kept hearing how much the environment was changing. She observed, like most people, that indigenous communities are among the most vulnerable to the impacts of climate change, but they offer some of the best solutions. “Each year, I am seeing resources shrinking, and my people are struggling for survival,” Ibrahim said in her Facebook page. “The traditional knowledge of indigenous people, that is centuries old, can help the world adapt.” Apart from Hindou Oumarou Ibrahim and a few other African youths that are passionate about climate change advocacy, there are many other in the continent who are not yet privy to the consequences and dangers of the current deplorable state of our climate and environment. As part of the effects to bring the negative impacts of climate change and its associated harmful environmental consequences to the grassroots and to other not-easy-to-reach areas of Africa, and to educate the youths on innovative ways to tackle these pressing issues, Inspire Africa for Global Impacts Initiative, a not-for-profit organisation based in Lagos, Nigeria, last June, facilitated a two-day virtual hackathon and incubator project called the Innovation for Climate Change (ICC) challenge.
The ICC challenge, which was supported by the British Council, through the Future News Worldwide (FNW) programme, was meant for young Africans between the ages of 19 – 28 years. Twenty-five participants from across African countries, including Zimbabwe, Nigeria, Uganda, Sudan, South Africa and Rwanda took part in the event. During the programme, the participants were taught how to apply human-centred, design-thinking and digital skills to create innovations that could solve climate change and environmental problems in the continent. One of the people that participated in the challenge was Tryphine Kemigisha, from Uganda. She is one of the leaders of the Gewuza Foundation, a social enterprise that improves the quality of lives for women in marginalised communities while training them on how to convert plastic wastes into valuable products.
Tryphine designed a school bag, from recycled polyethylene, that has a small solar-power unit attached to it. This unit carries enough electricity to charge a lamp that children can use to read at night. This, in itself, is another effective solution to the mammoth problems of plastic wastes and climate challenges. “We buy the plastics from women in the community who source them from local dump sites,” she said. “We do this as a way to empower them through payment for their efforts. After we clean the plastics, we bring them to our workspace and manufacture the bags with solar panels attached to them.”
Tryphine noted that her inspiration for this latest venture came from her participation in the ICC virtual challenge where she was inspired to contribute her quote to the innovative solutions of climate change and its harmful environmental effects. So far, she has delivered 30 of these bags in eastern Uganda. She noted that the innovation is a costly undertaking that still needs refining on how to balance the expenses and benefits. However, it is something many young children in rural areas need, and also a cause she believes is worth her investment.
Like Tryphine’s testimony, there are many inspiring solutions and stories from the other participants of the ICC challenge, and many of these solutions were catalogued.
Some of the quotes from the COP26 website, as regard climate change and ways of addressing it, are worthy of invocation in this rendition. Some of them go thus: “Mother Earth has given us everything, but we are destroying her.” “You can be whoever you want to be and still be a part of the climate fight.” “While it is absolutely critical that we mitigate climate change, it is not enough. We need to adapt.” As Africans, especially young Africans, these motivational quotes should drive us to be ambassadors of a healthy climate and environment.
In conclusion, it is imperative we adopt the slogan ‘Together for our planet’ if we must collectively fight against climate change and protect our environment. World leaders and global organisations, as well as local ones like Inspire Africa, are doing their best to checkmate the negative effects of climate change on our climate and environment. It is high time young Africans joined the campaign and the advocacy against climate change.
Alumona writes from Ibadan