Regional African Youth Conference on Climate Change (Friday 4th Nov)

The morning began with an interesting presentation from the Norwegian delegate, about Climate Change and Norway, with a campaigning focus on Fair Trade, fair tax, debt cancellation and Climate Justice for poverty reduction. Sustainability and protection of the climate and environment must come first for human existence:

 

“We cannot make the world a better place if we cannot live in it”

 

There was also some discussion on the importance of the petroleum industry in Norway and the efforts of Statoil to find cleaner methods for fossil fuel extraction. I’m not sure if I buy any of these arguments – in the grand scheme of things, they spend next to nothing on these sustainable initiatives, and in the end, the extraction and combustion of fossil fuels is always going to produce more GHGs (greenhouse gases) than we can afford for the stability of the climate.

 

Norway has a flourishing youth Climate movement with many exchange programmes and global volunteering opportunities, as well as a strong lobbying initiative to government, organisations and youth groups in Norway. I am inspired by the extent of success of the church in raising awareness of climate change in Norway. Unlike in the UK, the church seems to be playing a really pivotal role in climate campaigning, lobbying and activism. I believe that there is much I can learn and bring home from this huge Norwegian delegate!

 

The next session included presentations from school and youth groups in Kenya, which was incredibly inspiring. The first speaker was from Lake Victoria Wetlands Preservation, speaking about efforts on research, agroforestry, education welfare and volunteering. The “Lake Victoria Sunset Birders” (formerly Kwekwe) is a youth organisation working on birdlife conservation there. There was a water hyacinth project, and a papyrus project, to sustainably harvest these plants and use them to make things like mats, which the community can then sell for livelihood. Straight papyrus can be sold for 2000 Kenyan Shillings (KSH), but a mat from this amount of raw material can be sold for KSH 20,000! In 1999 the “Birders” joined Nature Kenya to monitor bats, since Lake Victoria is an Important Bat Area, with many unique and endangered species. There are also community engagement and awareness projects, to educate and involve the people living in the Lake Victoria region, and value the ecological importance of the papyrus swamps, and how protection and conservation of these natural resources can lead to clean and sustainable livelihoods as an alternative to damaging forests or living in poverty. This group also installed an “Eco-San” toilet, which uses only ash to neutralise urine, making it totally safe to release back into the environment after 6 months. Also, research has shown that diluted urine can safely be used to water crops. Tree nurseries are planted and

Seedlings are also collected, to lead to positive reforestation projects in the region. Also, Eco-tourism (supported by Nakumat and Kenyan Airways) is increasing in this area to aid poverty alleviation.

 

In addition, there were several impressive presentations about waste management and creative use of waste (“Cash via Trash”), by a school next to the second largest waste dump in Kenya. There were so many ideas and projects, but some of my favourites include:

 

  • using organic waste to make compost or feed pigs or rabbits (veg peelings etc)
  • making things from plastic bags and bottles
  • making jewellery from varnished & rolled scrap paper beads & jewellery boxes from the inverted silver inside of milk packages and tetrapacks!
  • making toys and baskets from bottle tops (my personal favourite):

 “We need to make the community aware that waste is a resource.”

One of the schools had an incredible portfolio of projects and environmental activities, in an area where there is severe food and water shortages, showing that there is very strong resilience in areas of Africa, and real initiatives from communities to take responsibility for sustaining themselves and their lifestyle. Some of this school’s projects include:

  • The Rabbit Project: School organic vegetable waste (from cabbages etc) goes to feed rabbits (no extra income needed). Rabbits bred and meat very healthy (low cholesterol). Rabbit droppings go to compost, and provide rich, fertile soil for growing trees and own food. Rabbits can also be sold from ~KSH1500 each.
  • Rain water collection: October to December rainy season, but very dry at other times of year, meaning drought and food and water shortage. Aim – to store as much water from the rainy season for use in the rest of the year. Using water ponds and tanks, purification and use for irrigating crops. Also incorporated with a bio-filtration project – water left to settle in open ponds, drained through different grains of sand and gravel to filter and charcoal added to adsorb gases and other bad chemicals.
  • Tree planting – Tree nursery planted from seed, pupils taking individual responsible for each tree, watering twice a day, leading to a successful increase in tree numbers in the community.

“The environment IS our life & it is our responsibility and obligation to protect it”

The key to success of this story is multiplication – these fantastic initiatives need to be shared, replicated and implemented in as many communities as possible, via open days, collaboration, networks and partnerships, a theme that becomes more and more apparent and important in all environmental efforts. The Wildlife Club of Kenya is taking brilliant action on mobile education, to take these ideas to new pastures, particularly to help areas of famine and drought. Also, government lobbying needs to increase to bring our national policies and funding pools on board with addressing these urgent global issues. Every sector of society needs to be involved, from the producers and consumers, to the big markets, industries and law-makers.

There has just been an interesting debate on Biofuels, with one side arguing: “The fuel of the future will be fruit, seed, sawdust, and anything other that is free in nature.”

And the other team saying, “No, this is our food and our natural world – it must be sustained, not diminished, and biofuels aren’t the answer on GHG reduction!” Wind, solar and renewables provide a clear source of energy that doesn’t interfere with our food source, and this is certainly my position.

Nevertheless, both sides call for attracting youth back to agricultural entrepreneurship, advocating the use of IT to encourage youth to engage in this. I think this is very important for youth to find new and sustainable ways to grow our food, and promote these successfully in their communities. In the UK, this issue is even greater, since as soon as transport fuels are unavailable and the supply chains fail, our supermarket shelves will be empty, and the majority of the population will not have the skills to feed ourselves. Energy, water and food security and rising and rising on the global agenda, and I think people are right to be nervous. I am glad to have a nice conference lunch prepared for us here, but I know that food will not be so readily or diversely available in my future and following generations, unless we act swiftly and effectively to address the world’s broken systems.

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One response to “Regional African Youth Conference on Climate Change (Friday 4th Nov)

  1. Look at weeds as a biofuel source. The Typha in Lake Chad, the water hyacinth in Lake Victoria are biofuel in waiting. Some of it is fit for human consumption, some for livestock feed. But water weeds collect toxins, so not just any is edible. The weeds are feloniously renewable. They are the source of the silt that kills the world’s rivers and lakes and drives the climate degradation. They ARE a carbon sink, but one that chokes us. In the USA, cattail sloughs that should be lakes are a major part of our dust bowl problem. Underground water does not get replenished because the lake beds are covered with silt. “Lake effect” rains are suppressed. Picture Lake Chad restored, the Sahara shrinking, the Sahel greening, the Nile flowing freely and copiously: IT CAN BE! What is in the way is millions of hectares of weeds and silt. They can be cleared at a profit in biofuels. The silt can be used to replace eroded soil or the fix desertified soils.

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