November 24, 2010

Youth Leadership Response to Climate Change - African Youth Initiative on Climate Change-Kenya Chapter

By Margaret A. Demba

Executive Summary
In light of emerging challenges such as climate change, the most vulnerable globally are women and children. The youth make up a large portion of this group. This report highlights some of the challenges that the youth are facing with regard to environmental issues. It also focuses on the emerging leadership from the youth as they engage themselves in solving and tackling various challenges that face them. The report shows how a particular youth movement in Africa has proved successful locally and internationally in responding to climate change amidst emerging challenges.

Background Information
The World Bank Development Report 2008 (World Bank 2007) identifies 5 main factors through which climate change will affect agricultural productivity: changes in temperature, changes in precipitation, and changes in carbon dioxide levels, fertilization, increased climate variability and changes in surface water run-off.
As climate change effects increase in intensity and magnitude, the most affected and vulnerable, are especially women and children from rural areas of developing countries. Not only do these communities need to be supported to adapt to climate change, but they also need help to gain the capacity to mitigate their actions that contribute to climate change. Kenya is a good example of this, having experienced increased rainfall failures that have resulted in food insecurity, water scarcity and energy crises. There has been a rise in the normal temperatures, flash floods during the irregular rainy seasons and diseases have been on the rise for humans, livestock and plants.
Local communities have had to live with these unpredictable environmental changes, which scientists attribute to the effects of climate change. Some have been able to adapt by developing practices friendly to the changing environments, especially by borrowing from traditional practices. But for most, major challenges still remain especially regarding food scarcity, water scarcity and energy crises.
This brief report will therefore focus on the response of the youth in light of various challenges. It will look at what the youth are currently doing to address climate change and environmental activities in their communities to promote sustainable development, peace and security. Emphasis will be put on the lessons learnt from the various experiences of the youth in dealing with issues that affect them.

1.0 Introduction
The Africa Youth Initiative on Climate Change (AYICC) was formed in 2006 at COP12 in Nairobi as a consortium of Youth Organizations and Groups in Africa that work to combat Climate Change as well as involvement in other environmental issues.
Its key objectives are to ensure the participation of African Youth in the Climate Change debate at both the National and International level, identify and seek support for youth driven Climate Change best practices and appraise the youth awareness and understanding of Climate Change. This initiative continues to link, share knowledge, ideas, experiences, leadership, skills and strategies on youth action around the continent on climate change mitigation and adaptation.
Key youth groups that have been involved and continue to play a major role in the initiative include among others JVE Togo, IVEN Kenya, ECOWATCH Uganda, EARTHLIVE South Africa, GYCCC Ghana and Rwanda among others. In order to strengthen the regional Initiative, Country Chapters have been established which seek to attain the objectives at a national level and are better equipped to address country specific issues.
The AYICC – Kenya Chapter is a coalition of more than 30 youth groups from rural, peri-urban and urban areas. AYICC- Kenya has fast gained recognition by among others the Office of the Prime Minister- Government of Kenya, Ministry of Environment and Mineral Resources, Oxfam GB in Kenya and UNEP due to its involvement on Climate Change issues including Conferences such as AMCEN and UNFCCC. In recent times AYICC Kenya has been involved at the Africa Carbon forum, CBD SBSTTA/WGRI World Bank Group Africa review Strategy Meeting, Green Drinks, World Science CafĂ© among others making substantial contributions and inputs. This group of youth has had many grass root activities such as NYCCC Conference, tree planting activities in Mau and Yatta, Celebrating global environmental days such as Earth day and World Environmental Day.

1.1 Challenges facing Youth in Relation to Climate Change
• Unemployment and loss of lively hoods especially in the agricultural and energy sectors that are most affected by Climate Change. Barnett and Adger (2007) suggested that climate change undermines access to natural capital and impedes the government’s ability to provide safety nets.
• Natural Resource conflicts caused by scarcity of resources such as land and water especially during floods and droughts.
• Inadequate capacity building on critical issues affecting youth on policy and climate change.
• Inadequate access to resources to carry out community activities to adapt and mitigate

1.2 Why we do what we do?
We believe that inter-generational leadership is the key to coping with and avoiding some of the worst disasters of our time; including wars and conflicts, climate change and natural disasters poverty and disease.
We believe that education and capacity building among the youth is something every country and community should strive for as education is a fundamental human right.
We believe that women and youth empowerment must be promoted at all levels as these people are the main stakeholders of Africa’s economy.
Finally we strongly believe that as youth we must rise up to the challenges facing us and we must take action to correct the social injustices and the wrongs that are around us. A famous speaker Simon Sinek once said, “There are leaders and there are those who lead. Leaders hold a position of power or authority, but those who lead seek to inspire others.” We must therefore lead by example and challenge the status quo and seek to be different. We cannot wait for others or the government to take action we must act within our capacity and beyond we must be part of the solution if not the very solution itself.

1.3 Youth Response to challenges on climate change
1.3.1 Leadership and mentorship
Every Wednesday since 2009, AYICC Kenya Wednesday planning meetings have always occurred without fail. This year (2010), we have had our membership grow extremely well, and have welcomed guests from diverse countries and backgrounds for both short and long stays who have contributed a lot to our work. These meetings have also proved invaluable to us. We have been mentored by others and have had the opportunity to teach others and inspire in the different ways that we can. It has also been remarkable to see many young girls come up in AYICC membership and leadership both continentally and nationally.

Many times the network has brainstorming sessions called bottom lining meetings for AYICC Kenya, they are the best and worst times of the movement, when we get to plan and assess our progress as well as build our skills, personalities and values that AYICC strives to instill in young people. All forms of tempers, ideas, discussions are expected.

On this specific picture taken in August 2010, the Road Show Working Group, headed by Davida Wainaina, was a main agenda of this meeting. It is in this meeting that we decided to forge ahead with an ambitious plan of having a country wide road show, with literally no funds available at the time. I think the strongest lesson that we all learnt on this particular afternoon was that, belief and having a purpose in something is so strong and invaluable that not even economic challenges would stop us. We thank our Chief Coordinator for hosting these meetings in his house and those that tirelessly contributed to making them a success. Through hard work and sleepless nights and our global youth networks who believed in us, we eventually got funding for this activity.

1.3.2 Awareness 3C-campaign
In preparation for COP16, AYICC-K has initiated a number of activities as well as continued implementation of its key programmes. Our 2010 strategy for the year and beyond has been guided by the 3C campaign. It is our rallying theme for the year and it encompasses all the years’ activities and their objectives as well as our vision for tomorrow;
3C stands for: Create to inform,
Communicate to empower
Celebrate the actions.

While understanding the dynamic environment we work in, all our activities have been geared towards disseminating information to our targets which primarily means that we communicate. In celebrating our actions we acknowledge that we have indeed made a difference and taken time to toast to our successes in spite of the shortcomings and challenges we have had to learn from and contend with. The various projects planned for the year that have been undertaken under the 3C campaign, include: Mau rehabilitation Project, Road show Project and the 3rd National Youth Conference on Climate Change and the African Development Forum. All these activities have been opportunities to share the lessons we have learnt so far and to communicate and celebrate our success and failures.

Some of our members at the International Day of Youth in Nairobi, Rosemary, one of the AYICC Kenya younger mentees.

1.3.3 Community outreach programmes
Reach out Programme (ROP) is a programme we officially launched this year (2010) and the first visit was to the Watoto Wema Children Centre. Throughout the year we have made follow up visits to the center and this has been part of our mentorship programme. For us it has been an opportunity to inspire other youth in the society who will one day become great leaders of our continent.
My biggest lesson that I would also like to share is that we always have to remember to give back to the community and this is not dependant on how much you have, but how much you appreciate the little that you have.

Reach out Programme is coordinated by Richard Omondi, and Betty Waithera.

1.3.4 Environmental conservation activities
Environmental Clean-ups, during global environmental days and tree planting days are just some of the very many activities that we are engaged in. On the grass roots we have projects such as REEN- Rural Energy Enterprise Network a working group within AYICC-Kenya that deals with installing energy efficient cook stoves in local communities.

Youth engaging in a cleanup and tree planting

1.3.5 Networking and partnerships
As AYICC-Kenya we definitely cannot credit all our successes to ourselves. It is with humility that we are honored to be a part of the great activities that have taken place so far. Among the networks that we have contributed and have been engaged in include: UK Youth Climate Coalition (UKYCC),, Sustain US, UNEP-TUNZA Youth, World Scouts, and KYCN among others.
Our networking has led to great partnerships both locally and internationally and we have worked with organizations such as: Oxfam GB, Norwegian Church Aid-Kenya, WWF, Office of the Prime Minister Government of Kenya, Comic Relief, COMESA, KCCWG and the Ministry of Environment and Mineral Resources Kenya among others.

With the Prime Minister of Kenya at COP15; at the 3rd NYCCC conference in partnership with KYCN.

1.3.6 Increasing Youth involvement

We have had our membership grow extremely well, and have welcomed guests from diverse countries and backgrounds for both short and long stays who have contributed a lot to our work. Since I joined the network in 2008, I remember only a handful of youth attending meeting under the fig tree in University of Nairobi where we used to meet. Now we meet without fail and there are so many members that the network has created other chapters in Coast, Kisumu and in Migori. Truly we are excited and we anticipate that we will continue to be more inclusive and we will welcome all who are ready to forge on in the fight toward climate justice, proper leadership, peace and security for all.

1.3.7 Global, regional and local advocacy and lobbying locally and internationally

As a network we have had opportunities to lobby government for support and policy influence in various forums that we participate in. In these forums we present youth statements that show the views of the youth on various critical issues being discussed like climate justice, biodiversity, policy formulation, and policy implementation and information dissemination. We have carried this out in various forums such as ADF VII in Ethiopia, COP15 in Copenhagen and AMCEN in Kenya among others. The strongest lesson that we have learnt from this is that in order to solve Africa’s problems the solution must come from Africans themselves. I also realized that accountability stems from demand and it is that demand that will ensure we have proper leadership in Kenya and in Africa. As AYICC-K we resolved to be part of the solution and to take part in activities that brought positive change to the youth and allowed them to be creative and not only wait for employment that is ever so scarce but to engage in activities that promoted sustainable livelihoods.

Pictures show the youth action on advocacy in Copenhagen and in Ethiopia

2.0 Challenges
Among the challenges we face include:
• Poor leadership especially in the African continent that promotes adequate opportunities and equitable resource distribution among all still remains a key issue that needs to be addressed.
• We need more support in kind and in cash from all those willing to support us so that we can undertake our projects and activities.
• The capacity building in various fields of the youth still remain a critical factor that is yet to be addressed in building the youth movement and in empowering youth in the African continent.
• Political good will is also critical for the youth to be able to seek support from the government to increase both funding and to reach a wider audience.
• Youth representation in key sectors both locally and internationally is also lacking and prevents the voice of the youth and their views to be adequately represented.

3.0 Opportunities
As a network we feel that there is still room for improvement in many areas. We would like to expand and include more youth from all over the country so that we can have a climate leadership revolution in Kenya. Opportunities are ripe for us to diversify our environmental conservation activities to address issues on sustainable development. These include carrying out activities that create awareness not only on the environment but also on youth affected by emerging issues such as drug abuse, HIV and AIDS, special needs and also insecurity.
Opportunities are also there to improve and build capacity of the young people in the movement through workshops, trainings, fellowships, scholarships and practical learning. These are all avenues and opportunities we can continue sharing amongst ourselves and that we can explore and apply for.
4.0 Conclusion
Truly our labors of love have not been in vain and looking back as a network can say we have no regrets for all the effort we have put to make a difference in the lives of others and those of our own. For me this is what leadership is all about. Doing something that can improve the lives of others as we celebrate quality life for all is what inspires us and what continues to motivate us. We have a cause and it is that because that makes others also believe in us even though all the work we do is voluntary.
AYICC-Kenya has been a success and we continue to share the lessons learnt as we welcome all youth on board our journey.


1 comment :

  1. guys i was inspired by a great writer amongst us to write this report