African Youth take on climate change

(WANJOHI KABUKURU ADDIS ABABA 14TH/0CTOBER/2010) On the sidelines of the on-going African Development Forum in Addis Ababa, the African youth under the aegis of African Youth Initiative on Climate Change (AYICC) are seeking for their voice and aspirations to be heard in the global climate change talks.

Addressing the press in Addis Ababa, AYICC representatives from Kenya, Ethiopia, Rwanda, Cameroon, and Gambia noted that since they represent the future, it was incumbent for them to articulate how climate change is affecting them.

Shawel Mulatu who is the coordinator of the Ethiopian National Youth Coalition on Climate Change said the youth in sub-Saharan Africa face harsh effects of climate change as employment opportunities dwindle due to drought and land degradation.

AYICC brings together youth associations from 26 African nations. Grace Mwaura from Kenya highlighted the success stories of African youth whom despite being victims of climate change, adapted well and are now recognized worldwide. She cited Kenyan young entrepreneur Evans Wadongo, who is one of the Top Ten CNN 2010 Heroes for his invention of a solar powered LED lantern to replace the smoky paraffin lanterns.

The 23-year old Wadongo is seeking to harness solar energy to help improve education in the Kenyan rural outposts. It is estimated that he has already distributed some 10,000 of his solar-powered lanterns to the rural areas.

The second success story that Grace cited was that of the world reknown William Kamkwamba, the Malawian 23 year old young man who built a windmill using blue gum trees, bicycle parts and materials he picked from a local scrap yard in his village in Masitala, Malawi, to power a couple of electrical appliances in his country in Malawi. He went on to build the first solar powered windmill which supplied his village with clean water.

Kamkwamba is today a multiple award winning  world icon as his story became a book “The Boy who harnessed the Wind: Creating Currents of Electricity and Hope” published in 2009 by journalist Bryan Mealer.

It is this resilience and adaptive creativity of the African youth that AYICC is using to showcase how the continent’s young people are adapting and in their humble ways getting involved in mitigating and coping with climate change while gushing with hope at the same time.

Jean Paul Brice Affana AYICC’s Advisor and climate activist reckoned: “Even though we are affected badly by unemployment, poverty, and other climate change hardships, we are still hopeful for a better continent. As young people we have numerous examples of success despite hardships. Our leaders just need to look around and harness our energies for the continent’s progress.”