Youth Leadership for Climate Adaptation

In the first of a series of articles by our Youth Newsroom reporters, Tshegofatso Matlou from South Africa presents a vivid example of the role youth play in climate adaptation.

Youth Leadership for Climate Adaptation

Climate adaptation in South Africa

Lusanda Baai from a village in the Eastern Cape called Ludeke grew up drinking from the same stream as cattle. If the cattle got there before her, there would be none left for her. She is one of the many South Africans with inadequate access to sanitation and safe drinking water. When there are floods or droughts in her area, the crops that many households rely on die. As a result, many households starve because they are subsistence farmers with no other reliable income. It is such experiences that led her to be determined to bring about change in her society and join Youth@SAIIA. Lusanda’s story represents one of the vast realities of the average South African young person. Despite differing backgrounds, what these young people have in common is their desire for climate change to be a fight that includes everyone.

The issue of climate adaptation in South Africa lies in the exclusion of affected young people like Lusanda from the conversation. Youth participation in climate adaptation is incredibly important as it ensures transparency, accountability, creativity and sustainability of the policy-making, decision-making and implementation processes. Edem Agbana states that “Young people must have their voices heard at all times. We cannot not be passive participants in the conversations about our future.”

Youth@SAIIA is an organization that lives by the above quote as it is aimed at facilitating youth participation in important stakeholder meetings, policy making tables and decision making spaces. It ensures that this participation is meaningful by equipping the youth with the necessary skills and resources to meaningfully engage. Several young leaders from this organization have been able to represent South African youth at COP25 in Spain as youth delegates and at the Global Climate Diplomacy Week as panelists. Most recently, their youth participants served as policy drafters for the Johannesburg Climate Action Plan.

I am part of this organization and as a result, I have witnessed the impact and the reach that this organization has had in the past ten years of existence. It is young people such as Lusanda who I am inspired by as she has managed to find her voice and use it for the benefit of her community. Today, after many years of being a climate activist, her hard work is recognized through her winning the National Young Researchers Symposium. This proves the impact that Youth@SAIIA has and the incredible things that their young people have been able to do.

A united climate adaptation approach is necessary now more than ever. It cannot be that young people continue to be left out of the law making, decision making and implementation processes. It cannot be the case when this is the very climate and environment they will be inheriting.

Tshegofatso Matlou (South Africa)