Climate activists in African countries see and experience first-hand what impact climate change is already having on their continent. We asked five of them what they expect from the World Climate Conference COP27 – and what climate goals they personally want to achieve.
"I've been out in nature a lot since I was a little kid. My mother was the environmental health officer in Wa Municipality in northern Ghana. Together we planted many trees and as soon as they had grown a bit, we gave them away to the families of our community to prevent further drying and erosion of the soil – and to keep the land fertile. At school, I told my classmates about our work. So they also came with their families to pick up trees, and little by little we were able to reforest a small part of the land. Unfortunately, many trees in Ghana are still being cut down to make firewood for cooking and other domestic and industrial purposes. The problem is that many people don't know that deforestation contributes to climate change. Only education can change this. That's why I've started many 'eco-clubs' in schools to talk to children aged 10 to 15 about living in times of climate crisis. For example, I tell them not to use single-use plastic packaging and never to cut down trees. I also explain to them that rising unemployment is also related to the climate crisis. If it doesn't rain, the seeds die and the farmers don't have a harvest. So they don't need workers and they don't need drivers to take their products to market. And so it goes on and on. At Green Ghana Day 2022, which was a national planting exercise, I saw that the young people in my country really want to make a difference. There were so many of us. That gives me hope.
To make use of this energy, the climate sector needs to offer more meaningful support and opportunities for vulnerable and underrepresented communities such as women and youth who live in rural communities. That’s why I am looking forward to traveling with my country's delegation to COP27. I want to be heard as a young voice and help negotiate. Because I know what I'm talking about."
Leonida Odongo, from Kenya, promotes social justice through her initiative Haki Nawiri Afrika, builds connections between climate-communities in Kenya, and is a member of the Climate Action Working Group of the Alliance for Food Sovereignty in Africa (AFSA).
"I am a community trainer and I am committed to climate action. This year alone, I have already worked with 31 different groups. Through our Haki Nawiri initiative, which is supported by AFSA, we want to get the Kenyan population to finally act in concert. Through formats such as workshops, we bring people together in so-called 'frontline communities' that are particularly affected by climate change. People need to understand the concrete impact climate change is having on their lives and strategize what they can do about it. I see the consequences every week when I travel around the country. Take, for example, Lake Victoria. Because the water in the lake has warmed up considerably and is also very polluted, there are fewer fish. The fishermen – traditionally the profession has been carried out by men – travel to follow the shoals. Now women, who are traditionally responsible for selling the fish, are also affected by the dwindling fish stocks. To ensure that they can earn a living, they need the fishermen to sell them the rare catch. In exchange, many women now also offer sexual services. This form of prostitution, from which the women suffer greatly, is a direct consequence of climate change. The phenomenon is locally known as ‘jaboya.’
At COP27, I expect the industrialized nations to finally listen to all the terrible things climate change is causing – and to do something about it. We want to see action at last. We expect the industrialized nations to provide us with technical solutions now to solve the problems they are causing on our continent. For example, we need modern irrigation systems that effectively bring the little water available directly to the roots. Agriculture would then still be possible. That would be a tiny contribution to this huge problem of climate change, which the Global North has almost single-handedly caused."
"What climate change means in concrete terms is something I experienced firsthand on my university campus in 2015. I was studying at the University of Agriculture in Makurdi, Nigeria. Makurdi is the capital of Benue State, which is also known as the 'food basket of the nation.' Due to climate change, there is less and less fertile land for farmers and herders. During a particularly bad drought, more and more people had to flee and they came onto the university’s premises. There were more people every day, and water became scarce. At the time, we students learned in a drastic way that climate change is not just an ecological disaster but leads directly to social upheaval, violence and crime. Most people in Nigeria don't know this connection. If you don't even know why a problem exists, you don't find solutions. That's when I decided I wanted to be active as an educator. In 2018, I graduated from university. Since then, I have been explaining to children and young people how droughts, for example, lead to conflict. What gives me hope is the realization that if you educate one person, you educate many people. The child goes and tells their parents and friends. So awareness is growing among the population that we need to keep our land fertile for peace. To do this, we need appropriate resources and permanent funding, for example for organic fertilizers and native seedlings.
I often think that representatives of the rich countries in the Global North have yet to learn this simple connection as well. In 2009, at the climate summit in Copenhagen, it was agreed that rich countries would have to provide $100 billion each year from 2020 onwards so that the poorest countries would be able to brace themselves against the effects of global warming. In 2019, it was only $80 billion. I don't want to hear more promises. I want to see action."
"COP27 feels very far away for me. To be honest, I don't think this conference will make a big difference for me. I'm betting on the youth in our country and all over the world. Young people like me feel the consequences of climate change every day and know that our future will be affected by it – so we will do something about it. I'm betting on my own solutions, and I want to have a positive impact on people's lives. So after studying agriculture in South Africa, I returned to my home country, the Democratic Republic of Congo, and started my own company. It is called 'Mabeleagric.' Mabele means 'earth' in Lingala. It was a difficult start: We had limited investment, no distribution channels, and when I started sowing indigenous vegetables in the fall of 2018, I lost all the seeds. The October rains just didn't come. The water pump was broken, the reserves empty. I realized then that I wanted to develop my farm as a climate smart enterprise. To do that, we need first and foremost intelligent irrigation systems that distribute the little water we have without losses. We also need to make ourselves independent of imported seeds and fertilizers. I still need investors and more experience for this, but I am determined and confident. In my view, Africa is the very best place to tackle climate change, because our continent is not yet industrialized. We are still very close to the earth. When I realized that, I was so energized! We have to lead the way as role models. Young people need to see from us farmers how this can work. That motivates me every day."
"In my job as a banker in Zimbabwe, I was responsible for risk assessment. I liked the job because I had to learn complex economic issues quickly and deeply and could analyze data. In March 2017, we had heavy rains. That's nothing unusual at this time of year. But because the soils were severely parched and damaged by erosion, the water could not percolate and caused a once-in-a-century flood in Zimbabwe. More than 250 people died. For me, as a risk analyst, that was terrifying because we did not see the danger coming. And at the bank, I saw firsthand how people suffered from the consequences of the flood: many livelihoods were destroyed. Young people in particular, who finance their studies with a loan, were often unable to pay it back and ended up in debt.
As a result, many young people had to migrate abroad. I found this incredibly frustrating because we need the next generation to finally fight climate change effectively. In my work as a youth representative for the African Union, I see how young people want to get involved. There are so many examples, such as students helping with large-scale reforestation efforts, planting crops that also provide food, like oranges or the horseradish tree Moringa. However, these measures will take years to improve the situation. We need help now – for example, through efficient and smart flood warning systems. I'm going to COP27 to give African youth a voice and tell them about our daily struggle against the consequences of climate change. My biggest fear is that it will again remain just speeches and vague pledges. My hope: that we will finally be taken seriously."
While indigenous groups, local communities, women and young people are most affected by the consequences of climate change, they have so far had too few opportunities to have their say. The Robert Bosch Stiftung supports the Climate Youth Negotiators Programme (CYNP), which enables young people to participate in COP27 on behalf of their respective countries and to represent their generation’s views and interests on the global stage.
We are supporting the Global Landscapes Forum (GLF) in promoting local initiatives that are actively working to restore degraded drylands and other landscapes (land restoration) in sub-Saharan Africa, learning from each other and acting together. The GLFx network enables individual initiatives to share knowledge, collaborate with experts worldwide, and gain international visibility for their projects. The GLF focuses on empowering marginalized groups, especially women, young people, and rural and indigenous communities.