Feature: Kenyan grassroot youth to raise voice of marginalized at Paris climate talks
03 November 2015, 21:29
Nairobi - Ekai Nabenyo has lost count of
recurrent droughts that swept his ancestral village in Turkana County in
northwest Kenya that causing massive havoc that took ages to repair.
As a herdsboy, Nabenyo witnessed loss of highly prized
livestock and pasture to severe droughts that have become synonymous with a
county variously described as the cradle of mankind.
The 23-year-old law graduate has a strong attachment to the
land of his ancestors and has vowed to utilize knowledge gained in school to
help local communities cope with climate challenges.
Nabenyo regretted that grassroots communities' have not
received adequate attention from policy elite and scientists despite their vulnerability
to extreme weather events.
"Climate change became a reality to me during childhood
when I witnessed prolonged droughts that consumed our livestock. The rains have
been erratic while many water sources have dried up completely," Nabenyo
told Xinhua in an interview on Monday.
As a youth born and raised in a marginalized region, Nabenyo
is fully aware that courage, resilience and commitment to a worthy cause are
key to transform his pastoral community's livelihood.
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The team leader and co-founder of a grassroots conservation
lobby will be attending the climate talks in Paris to highlight the devastating
impact of climate change to pastoralists.
During his first year in law school in 2011, Turkana
experienced a drought that attracted global attention due to the scale of its
destruction and deaths.
"My entire village relied on food rations from
international humanitarian agencies since all the crops had withered while the
livestock could hardly survive the drought," Nabenyo remarked.
While at the university, he developed a strong bond with students
from his native county and together they formed an organization that would
advocate for environmental conservation and sustainable development at the
The formation of Lorengelup community development initiative
gave Nabenyo and his peers a platform to mobilize local communities to support
Likewise, the community based organization managed to source
funds from donors to develop social amenities like schools and hospitals in the
Having worked briefly as a volunteer teacher in Kakuma
refugee camp, Nabenyo came face to face with dark side of poverty, civil strife
and natural calamities.
He blamed recurrent droughts for resource based conflicts
that are a common feature in Kenya's northern frontier districts.
"There is no denying that climate change has not only
disrupted our way of life as pastoralists but has fuelled inter-tribal
skirmishes. Communities are fighting over diminishing water sources and
pasture," said Nabenyo.
His unwavering passion for greening the drought prone
Turkana County has won him accolades in Kenya and beyond.
Thanks to financial support from local and foreign well
wishers, Nabenyo and his peers have mobilized local school children and
communities to plant trees and conserve watersheds.
"We have also partnered with the ministry of energy to
install solar lighting in a school that was constructed through support from
Safaricom Foundation .The school is now an oasis within a jungle," Nabenyo
His organization has been conducting public forums in
villages and small towns within poverty-stricken Turkana County to raise
awareness on climate change.
He has also been vocal in urging grassroots communities to
abandon charcoal burning that is to blame for the loss of traditional forests.
"We advocate alternative livelihoods like fishing and
basket weaving to minimize charcoal burning that has fuelled loss of indigenous
tree species," Nabenyo remarked.
Later this month, he will join a group of youthful green
advocates at the Paris climate talks to highlight the plight of marginalized
communities who have borne the brunt of rising global temperatures.
Together with his colleagues from Ecuador and Philippines,
Nabenyo will challenge world leaders, scientists and policymakers to support
grassroots led climate adaptation and mitigation programs.
"My message to world leaders in Paris is that the youth
are change agents who can play a meaningful role in the advancement of the
green agenda. We need to connect policy elites to grassroots advocates in order
to win the war against climate change," said Nabenyo.
He stressed that a critical mass of youthful advocates is
needed in order to revitalize climate change awareness at the grassroots level.