Visions of Change celebrates African environmental activists on this Africa Day.
25 May 2021
(image from South African Government - https://www.gov.za/speeches/africa-day-2017-14-nov-2016-1224)
Africa Day is where we celebrate the founding of the African Union (formerly the Organisation of African Unity). On this day, we acknowledge and celebrate our diversity, creativity, and our challenges and successes. Africa, as we should all know, is rich in natural resources. The world would not be able to sustain itself without the resources of Africa. Yet we find ourselves, collectively, as Africans, among the poorest of the poor. Of course, we will not eradicate the poverty, food insecurity, lack of human rights, and wars fought daily any time soon. But, we must not forget that even in hardships, we have something to celebrate too.
To read more about Africa Day, go to: https://www.gov.za/speeches/africa-day-2017-14-nov-2016-1224
Today, Visions of Change, as an organisation championing environmental and social justices, and education and awareness especially around the environment, we are celebrating people in Africa who have championed actions in the fight against climate change.
Africans are very aware of the effects of climate change. Countries have experienced climate change in various ways such as the increase in desertification, floods and rainfall, extended droughts, famine. All these contributed by our, anthropogenic, actions for the humans greed to money and power and authority. But this will have an everlasting impact.
Sustainable Development is not a new or unknown term. I remember in my study days how a lecturer harboured on Sustainable Development. True to my lecturer’s words he noted that Sustainable Development will be a term thrown around haphazardly without any real action and change. The definition of Sustainable Development is engrained in my mind.
Sustainable Development is where present generations live to meet our needs without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own needs.
And as we look at the African’s who have been championing environmental and climate change, we remember and celebrate their contributions to sustainable Development.
1. Wangari Maathai, Kenya
Wangari Maathai is a social, environmental and political activist from Kenya. She is also the first woman to receive the Nobel Peace Prize in 2004 “for her contribution to sustainable development, democracy and peace”.
Wangari Maathai founded the Green Belt Movement in 1977. The organisation was founded in response to the needs of Kenyan women where their water streams were drying up and food supply reducing. These women had to walk further to get firewood. The Green Belt Movement encouraged women to collectively grow seedlings and plant trees to bind soils, store rainwater, provide food and firewood and receive some monetary compensation for their work. It is through this work, the disempowerment and disenfranchisement and loss of traditional values that lead the movement to greater works. The movement initiated various seminars and environmental education.
The movement has fought against land grabbing and the encroachment of agricultural activities into forests. The movement fought for better democratic space and accountability of their leaders. Advocating for climate change, and the importance of the rainforests in Congo the mottainai campaign was initiated with the objective of inculcating the concept of “reduce, reuse, recycle” in Kenya and extending to the rest of the world.
Wangari Maathai established an initiative at grassroot levels. Yet this has been observed all over the world. Her work extends far beyond the boundaries of the rural village where she started, beyond Kenya, beyond Africa, and into the world.
Wangari Maathai died on 25 September 2011 of complications arising from ovarian cancer while receiving treatment at a Nairobi hospital.
We are forever grateful for Wanagri Maathai’s work and her passion in all aspects she spearheaded.
2. Wanjiru Wathuti, Kenya
In 2016, Wanjiru Wathuti founded the Green Generation Initiative in Kenya. The initiative is aimed at getting more young people interested in climate action and environmental health. Part of the organisations mission is to green schools in Kenya by planting trees. More than 30 000 trees have been planted thus far.
Small actions create changes. Wanjiru Wathuti started an environmental club at her high school. We encourage any young person to do the same at their school. Older persons can also initiate such projects in their community or at schools too.
Wanjiru Wathuti through her organisation nurtures and raises young people to be more conscious of the environment to help address global climate change.
3. Oladosu Adenike, Nigeria
Oladosu Adenike is an ambassador for Fridays for Future, Earth Uprising, and African Youth Climate Hub. These are all initiatives to educate communities about climate change. She runs community education forums by visiting schools and public places to educate them on climate change and encourage tree planting. Moreover, Oladosu Adenike wants us to think about the relationship between climate action and poverty and women’s rights.
4. Yola Mgogwana, South Africa
Yola Mgogwana is a young student from Khayelitsha, South Africa. In following Yola’s story, she explains that the tap she and her family uses is a communal tap with 55 other families. When the tap runs dry they have to choose between buying water or bread. She also explained that when it rains, the homes in the community are either affected by flooding or susceptible thereto.
Yola Mgogwana started speaking to people in her neighbourhood and realised that many did not link their daily experiences with climate change. She has since committed to spreading environmental awareness around climate change and continues to educate herself on the environment so that she can share what she has learnt.
Yola Mgogwana once mentioned that her age does not mean that her views on the world are not valid. What great truth! She marches, shouts and sings for her right and future generations rights for a comfortable and habitable future.
Yola Mgogwana is passionate and young and is exactly what we need.
5. Leah Namugerwa, Uganda
Leah Namugerwa who is still in high school was inspired by Greta Thunberg to act against climate change. She uses her voice to note that in her country, there are no reports on climate change, and so she uses her voice to do what is lacking, and required.
For her 15th birthday she planted 200 trees and launched Birthday Trees which provides saplings for people wanting to celebrate their birthdays by planting trees. In total, she has planted more than 3000 trees.
She is also part of the movement that fought for the ban of plastic bags in Uganda. She also actively fights plastic pollution by collecting plastic waste where she finds it.
We know that planting trees is a great way to respond to, and to assist in the fight against climate change. But we are also aware that this is not the only thing we should be doing. Like Leah Namugerwa has actioned, the need to fight plastic bags and usage is necessary. The list above is of course not exhaustive. There are so many African activist championing various actions and conversations within communities and worldwide.
Africa and its people are fighting hard against the worlds actions that have filtered into the African way of life affecting our lives. Sadly, so many do not realise the things we do, great or small, have an impact on the climate. Cumulatively, all these impacts have devastatingly increased the residual risks of climate change which includes the increase in flooding events, desertification, deforestation, droughts and more. These changes impact food security, our vulnerability to natural disasters and how we respond, poverty, water pollution, and the list goes on.
Please feel free to read the links in our reference list for more information. There are so many resources online to read up on how to fight climate change and how to get involved.
Visions of Change, excitingly and through hard work, continues our efforts t raise awareness on climate change through our school programmes and partnerships. Feel free to join us!
It may not be too late to start with small changes now, but one day will be too late.
Some more reading: