News reports in Kenya have in recent months been dominated by stories documenting the effects of drought and famine. These effects, according to the UN Environment, “are being felt all across the east coast of Africa – from Ethiopia, where failed rains have affected 80% of the country’s crops, to South Sudan, which has already become the first country in five years to declare an official famine”. In a special report published early last month, the Famine Early Warning Systems Network (FEWS), indicate that between October and December 2016, much of Somalia and the Somali region of Ethiopia received rainfall of less than 30 percent, of the 1981 to 2010 average.
UN Environment further highlights that climate change is making the increasing frequency of these droughts, inevitable. “In pre-1970s Kenya, there was a serious drought around once every ten years. By the 1980s, this had doubled to once every five years. Today, there are droughts almost every other year.”
Things are even more complex, in South Sudan, where conflict has worsened the famine situation. As young people form the majority of Africa’s population, the current conditions have implications on their welfare and that of the greater society. The 6th Global Environment Outlook, Regional Assessment for Africa Report, captures how climate change is linked to the high levels of out-migration in West Africa.
Many of those who migrate are young people. Many attempt the perilous journey across the Sahara in an attempt to get to Europe. OXFAM International says that “between 80,000 and 150,000 people crossed the harsh and arid desert zone in northeastern Niger on their way to Europe in 2015. Most of them were young, sometimes very young, men, coming from Cameroon, Senegal, Gambia or Guinea.”
Engaging young people in responding to climate change, is therefore an indispensable element. Let us always keep in mind the words of Peruvian Environment Minister, Manuel Pulgar-Vidal: You are a climate change solutions generation. Young people are characterized by their enthusiasm, leadership and passion. All these elements are fundamental for addressing climate change and moving the intergovernmental negotiation process forward. I encourage you to continue implementing climate solutions, enhancing access to information, promoting public awareness, raising ambition and mobilizing action.I invite you to build bridges between different actors because you are the generation that can make a change. Maintain your idealism and keep walking because we cannot wait to tackle climate change”.
Founding Executive Director, CYNESA.