Environmental influencers: Africans making history

Sustainable Leaders | Africa

By Isabel Rowbotham, Co-Editor in Chief

Published February 25th, 2022

Young people are demonstrating their talents in communication, research and leadership through social media. This Black History Month, celebrate and support young activists from various African countries 一history in the making.

This article explores the activism of young people across the globe, as part of a series called ‘Environmental influencers’. From Uganda, Nyombi and Vanessa are educating young people and organising school strikes with Fridays for Future, a youth-led and -organised global climate strike movement. Evelyn and Rahmina are planting trees across their communities in Uganda and Kenya. More and more young people are getting involved in campaigns to save the precious ecosystem of the African continent 一their homeland.

Elizabeth speaking at COP26, Glasgow, in 2021. | Elizabeth Wathuti | Instagram

Elizabeth Wathuti @lizwathuti

Elizabeth, a Kenyan environment and climate activist made headlines during COP26 with her passionate speech calling for the world to ‘open their hearts and listen’. To listen to the communities who are experiencing the hard consequences of climate change is indeed the message.

The 26-year old founded the Green Generation Initiative (GGI) in 2016, which looks to address the climate crisis, deforestation and biodiversity loss. By engaging in climate-conscious activities, such as tree planting, the young generations can become more socially and environmentally responsible; together they will create a more sustainable future.

‘When biodiversity wins, we all win.’

Through Greening Schools, young people can address the lack of environmental education and address food insecurity, by planting fruit trees and establishing a tree growing culture, ideally helping to increase Kenya’s forest cover.

GGI is changing the lives of young people around the country. The initiative has reached seven counties in Kenya; Nyeri, Nairobi, Machakos, Kiambu, Makueni, Murang’a and Laikipia. It has included 35 schools and over 20,000 students. GGI needs your help! Donate to the initiative here.

Elizabeth also supports the Wangari Maathai Foundation (@wangari_maathai), which stands in recognition of the first African woman to win the Nobel Peace Prize, Professor Wangari Maathai, from the highlands of Kenya. She led the Green Belt Movement, campaigning against the deterioration of the environment around rural regions, as well as the illegal privatisation of public land.

The inspiration from Professor Wangari lives on with the Foundation, which aims to help children with their social-emotional development through the Wanakesho projects. It also encourages the empowerment of young adults to value and protect green spaces, through the En-Courage campaigns

Nyombi (centre), at a school campaign to ‘Make Climate Literacy Essential.’ | Nyombi Morris

Nyombi Morris @mnyomb1

Nyombi has been called the ‘environmentalist of tomorrow’, who is solving the problems of today. The Ugandan native has worked with many schools in order to plant trees and teach children about the environment, as well as starting school strikes. Trees hold the key to protecting the environment against climate change, deforestation, flooding and desertification.

Nyombi became an activist when his family’s farm was destroyed by severe weather in 2012, causing him and his family to move to Kampala. Eventually, he started planting trees in his community, inspired by his first-hand experience with how trees can protect against flooding. Since then, he has become involved with Rise up Movement and Fridays for Future (@fridaysforfuture), not to mention his role in inspiring many young activists on social media.

‘[The] key to saving the planet – plant trees’.

Despite displacement, a twitter ban and persecution from the police, Nyombi’s will has prevailed. With Fridays For Future Uganda, the 23-year-old has also joined school strikes. He believes that through climate education in school and changing the curriculums to incorporate this, the children of tomorrow will be better prepared to fight the climate change crisis.

More recently, Nyombi collaborated with UNICEF and wants to share a book to inspire children to care about the environment, titled ‘Our Changing Climate’. On Instagram, Nyombi shared ‘Today I made the first copy of Our Changing Climate book, which I got from @unicef...Thanks to whoever is trying his/her best to make this project come to pass.’

He continued, ‘We are taking climate change to schools, we can't achieve all the 17 Global goals without educating the next generation.’ He welcomes more support from followers to publish the book and to donate to many other initiatives here.

It is also worth acknowledging Nyombi’s teammates, Namwanje Zulaika, Samuel Tenywa, Lydia Kisakye, Darren Namatovu and Solomon Anomet O'jay, for their work on educating young people and their environmental activism.

Evelyn Acham on an Instagram post claiming how ‘There is no Plan B’ for our planet. | Evelyn Acham | Instagram

Evelyn Acham @evechantelle @eve_chantel

Evelyn is a climate activist from Uganda, also determined to plant fruit trees and encourage others to do the same. Uganda has experienced deforestation at the hands of the timber and charcoal industries, inspiring Evelyn’s goal to plant 9,000,000 trees through the +Tree Project.

‘Evelyn’s goal is to plant 9,000,000 trees.’

Evelyn continues to do amazing work despite the COVID-19 pandemic; through the +Tree Project, she has managed to plant 120 trees with the support of fellow activist Noomi from Austria and Ugandan activists, such as Vanessa. Many local children have become involved with the project and learned the importance of trees as carbon sinks一 a valuable lesson in climate activism.

On social media, Evelyn’s message is clear: ‘Money will be useless on a dead Planet’. She continues her mission of promoting climate change in the Ugandan education system, spreading the idea that without knowledge and understanding of the value of conservation, we cannot move forwards. As she explained in an interview with the Malala Fund Assembly, ‘People are planting trees now, but laws and policies aren’t changing. We've not yet seen that. The schools can only follow what the leaders have put in place.’

Evelyn also supports Arctic Angels, a youth-led action network composed of a group of women from around the world, fighting to protect the Arctic and its polar ice. ‘We believe that we cannot plant ice and once the ice is gone, it is gone. Ice is important because it helps regulate temperatures on the planet and because of the rise in global temperature. This is the home of about four million people and unique animal species. The ice is melting more and more, but once their home is destroyed they will be displaced’, the network writes.

‘ The ice is melting more and more, but once their home is destroyed they will be displaced.’

Evelyn added, ‘The Arctic getting destroyed will not just affect the areas around the arctic but communities like mine which are already vulnerable. This is why it is very important for me to speak up against the depletion of the ice in the Arctic.’ Join and support Arctic Angels here!

The Rise up Movement protesting (from left to right) Davis Reuben, Joshua Omonuk, Evelyn Acham, Vanessa Nakate, Isaac Ssentumbwe and Edwin Namakanga. | Rise up Movement | Instagram

Rise up movement

Founded by Vanessa Nakate (@vanessanakate), the Rise up movement is a platform for African climate activists to have their voices heard. For a long time, the focus of the young activist from Ugandan has been to save Congo’s rainforest, in an effort to defund deforestation and protect 1,780,000 kilometres squared of land. The campaign @SaveCongoForest has spread across Africa and Europe, as the message is spread, many continue to raise their voices, claiming that ‘These Are The Lungs Of Africa.’

The Rise up movement is also involved in many social issues, especially when citizens are affected by the injustices that accompany the impact of climate change. These include supporting #StopEacop, the protest to stop crude oil pipelines in Tanzania and Uganda.

Inclusive Development International (IDI) has warned of the risk to the Lake Victoria basin ecosystem and the tens of thousands of people living here, most of whom are farmers. The message is for South Africa’s Standard Bank, Japan’s SMBC and China’s ICBC banks, as well as other East East Africa Crude Oil Pipeline (EACOP) investors to stop backing the project.

‘It is not possible to reduce income inequalities among countries without climate justice’ - David Reuben

The movement continues to grow, with Isaac Ssentumbwe, David Reuben, Kwagala Faith, Joshua Omonuk and many more have joined to raise their voices and share their stories. These young people are defending their rights and inspiring others along the way.

Rahmina Paullete in Kisumu, Kenya. | Rahmina Paullete | Instagram

Rahmina Paullete @rahmina_paullete

Rahmina is another young activist and environmentalist making a mark in conservation. The Rahmina Paullete Foundation is a ‘kid -teen -youth group that focuses on environmental conservation, wildlife advocacy and climate change awareness,’ all through the Kisumu Environmental Champs group.

The initiative incentivises children to get involved with cleanups, plant trees at the Maembe Kodero School in Kisumu, Kenya and school strikes to protest conditions at Lake Victoria. The campaign ‘Let Lake Victoria Breathe Again’ has brought to attention the need to protect the lake’s ecosystem, as well as a heartfelt message of the youth protecting the environment through activism.

Recently, Rahmina organised a Valentine’s Day tree planting event in partnership with the Polly Foundation. This event involved orphans planting trees, flowers and vegetables, and learning about the importance of environmentalism and collaboration.

Featured Image: Elizabeth Wathuti /Rise up movement /Rahmina Paullete /Nyombi Morris /Evelyn Acham | Instagram / Victor Ochieng | Flickr

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