Youth hold key in reversing effects of climate change

Wednesday, June 5th, 2024 01:00 | By
Climate change
Image illustrating Climate change. PHOTO/WHO

Today is World Environment Day, a United Nations global celebration that has become increasingly important since it was created 52 years ago to raise awareness on the need to protect the planet.

Amid devastating climate change effects, June 5 has become a key occasion at the United Nations Environment Programme  to inspire governments, populations and organisations to participate in slowing down environmental degradation that is the main culprit in global warming.

The theme this year - ‘Land Restoration, Desertification and Drought Resilience’, under the slogan Our Land, Our Future, We Are - rings with the urgency to heal and restore Earth’s damaged ecosystems.

Every campaign to combat the drivers of environmental degradation faces numerous challenges, some seeming insurmountable,.

According to the 2019 inter-governmental panel for climate change (IPCC), the major human drivers of desertification interacting with climate change are the expansion of croplands, unsustainable land management practices and increased pressure on land from population and income growth.

Clean, healthy and productive land that is critical to food security and economic growth can only be realised if the ambitious targets set in the Paris Agreement, a legally binding international treaty on climate change that came into force on November 4, 2014, are accelerated and implemented with global unison.

With more than 40 percent global land degradation, this year’s theme calls for concerted efforts from governments and the private sector to save Earth. Droughts continue to ravage developing nations and it is believed more than three quarters of the global population will be affected by 2050 if no action is taken.

Desertification in countries like Kenya and others in sub-Saharan Africa has partly been associated with loss of biodiversity and human and wildlife conflicts. In recent years, human migration has been common, especially during extreme weather conditions, resulting in global calls for urgent action to stem growing numbers of climate refugees.

One of the findings cited in various climate change and environmental symposiums globally is based in research by an international biotechnology firm based in Kenya, Africa Harvest, which works with communities in Kenya’s arid and semi-arid regions and in other African countries to build resilience to the effects of climate change.

The organisation is a link between researched and tested best practices and technologies to transform the landscape and economic well-being of populations, especially those living in marginalised areas. This is accelerated through working with research groups, governments and development partners.

To successfully achieve national and global promises on reversing deforestation and land degradation, as well as halting desertification and ravaging drought, Africa Harvest has tested the involvement of young people as stakeholders in decision-making and implementation of strategic plans.

One finding indicates that to entice upcoming generations in programmes of climate change, decision-makers at the top government levels and institutions need to target people aged below 35, who form more than 60 percent of the populations of most African countries.

Various research projects in Africa show deforestation could greatly be reversed if there are considerable incentives to woo youthful nations that have the productive potential to afforest and reforest.

Africa Harvest’s scientific research targets this age bracket to disseminate proven practices and technologies that could transform their economic status. Commercialising high-value trees in a country like Kenya that has more that 80 percent arid and semi-arid lands could significantly turn dry regions into commercial hubs.

     — The writer is an

environmental expert working with Africa Harvest

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