Creating movements from a community level is a formidable challenge in which youth have an especially important role to play. Speaking at the Global Landscapes Forum in Bonn, Germany, last December, Charles Batte, founder of Tree Adoption Uganda (TAU), stressed the significance and potential of the world’s 1.8 billion people between the age of ten and 24 years. “Never before has a generation been so interconnected and proactive,” Batte maintained. “These people are indeed the voice of the many.”
Centring on youth, TAU runs landscape restoration activities such as planting trees and agroforestry, aiming to build resilience for smallholder farmers against climate change. At the same time, unemployed young people in Uganda’s rural communities are economically empowered through education and training on setting up and managing indigenous tree nurseries and tree farms. So far, 1,500 people have been trained in starting up businesses and on environmental conservation aspects ranging from setting up tree nurseries, grafting, pruning and propagation to human and nature interactions. TAU is working together with local and international partners on designing an interactive and proactive environmental education curriculum for different age groups of young people.
“It is important for people to understand the value of a landscape. Farmers have to move on from being passive players and turn into stewards of the landscapes they are in,” Batte, himself a smallholder farmer, said in Bonn. “But it is also imperative to invest in capacity building for young people so that they gain a potential to achieve more.”
Five per cent of the world’s population comprise indigenous people. They care for and protect 22 per cent of the Earth’s surface and 80 per cent of its biodiversity. “People in indigenous communities have gathered countless years of experience with the landscape they are living in,” Hindou Oumarou, Co-ordinator of the Women and Peoples Association of Chad, told the Forum. “They are the ones who have the ideas.” Ibrahim, herself an indigenous woman from the Mbororo pastoralist community of Chad, is an expert in indigenous peoples and climate change adaptation, including traditional knowledge on the adaptation of pastoralists in Africa, and on women and climate change in Africa.
Ibrahim had also spoken as CoChair of the Indigenous Peoples Forum on Climate Change at the COP23 Climate Summit in Bonn last November. On that occasion, she had emphasised the importance of the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) for indigenous peoples while pointing out that they could only be effective if they took the needs of indigenous people into account. “The Climate Summit did address the issue of indigenous peoples,” Ibrahim said at the Forum. “But what is really crucial is for indigenous peoples themselves to get organised. This is the only way to achieve change.”
Uwase Hirwa Honorine from Rwanda has worked with Youth Impact Mission (YIM), a Rwandan NGO committed to equipping youth with leadership skills, and is currently partnering with the International Union for the Conservation of Nature (IUCN) as a Forest and Landscape Restoration Ambassador to run and co-ordinate national campaigns aimed at raising awareness on sustainable forest management in the private sector, public institutions and especially among youth. “Instruments like the Green Climate Fund are certainly important, but who can access them?” Honorine queried at the Forum. “Those who are unable to do so may nevertheless be committed to their countries and also bear a wealth of experience and knowledge. So often, money has been put into big cars, meetings and the like, with local communities never seeing any benefits.” Honorine noted that it was important for young people in particular to get together and see how they could take practical action instead of merely putting the blame on the government for things that were not happening.
Mike Gardner, journalist, Bonn/Germany