Decades after Mahatma Ghandi coined the famous citation: “Lets be the change we wish to see in the future”, it is being used today to make a difference in the lives of young Namibians.
As part of the sixth national youth celebration week under the theme: ‘Youth Action For Climate Change and Adaptation’, the National Youth Council (NYC) has taken the initiative to foster change amongst the youth of Namibia by implementing various projects designed to create employment.
This year’s commemoration will focus not only on youth participation and striving towards climate change mitigation and adaptation but will also dwell more on youth participation for sustainable development. Young Namibians are valuable and commited partners in the effort to achieve the Vision 2030, national development plans (NDPs) and the millenium development goals (MDGs).
The principal project cordinator and advisor to the environment commissioner’s office, Kauna Schroder explains: “The youth are expected to bring in fresh innovative lines of thought to longstanding development concerns. They are required to approach the mid-point of the race to achieve the MDGs, NDPs and the implementation of strategies. Their energy and idealism could help make up for lost ground and achieve our development goals in full and on time.”
It is interesting to note that there is an existing network of young Namibians whose objective is to tackle issues to do with climate change and how it affects Namibia and her inhabitants.
For this reason, the Namibian Youth Coalition on Climate Change (NYCCC) was set up by the Government through the Ministry of Environment and Tourism (MET). It is a network of youth groups, educational institutions and governmental departments that all work towards solving or at least coming up with ideas on how to curb climate change issues.
NYCCC was founded through the Africa Adaptation Project Namibia (AAP-NAM) - an MET project - in partnership with the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP), with funding from the Japanese government.
The coalition is set to be a medium in which young Namibians can become the change agents of a climate resilient and carbon responsible nation. Additionally, NYC’s recent interest is expected to inject new innovations.
Schroder thus challenges the Government to honour its international commitment - as endorsed by the World Programme of Action for Youth (WPAY) - to include young people in climate change programmes.
“We must fulfil our obligations to the youth. On an international level, the WPAY asks governments to consider the contributions of young people on all policies affecting climate change. Governments are required to honour this commitment. They (governments) must also increase the financial, educational and technical support availed to young people, as well as help them realise their potential,” she adds.
Although Namibia, as a country, has contributed little to climate change, it is one of the countries that will be worst affected by the global catastrophe. Hence, there is urgent need for the youth to stand united to find ways to adapt to the country’s changing climate.
The environment commissioner, Theo Nghitila, explains the Government’s involvement towards empowering youth by saying, “As a country, we have placed climate change high on the development agenda in order to safeguard the livelihood of our people, particularly the youth. The MET, being the Government institution tasked by the latter to cordinate climate change issues in Namibia, has embarked on various initiatives to ensure that young people’s voices on this matter are heard. It is thus noteworthy that the NYC and other stakeholders deemed it necessary to create this platform to raise awareness through the sixth national youth week, as well as work on collaborations with regards to climate change adaptation and mitigation.”
NYC executive chairperson, Mandela Kapere, concurs with Nghitila by saying that it is the responsibility of the youth to fight the environmental challenges the country faces.
“Climate change issues are the most challenging and pressing questions of our times. We have different and changing weather patterns. As such, the youth need to be empowered so that they understand what the grounds are and act accordingly. There has to be youth action for climate change adaptation and mitigation,” says Kapere.
A recent undercover research by this reporter has revealed that most Namibian youth members are not aware of the impact that climate has on the country at large or on their daily lives.
“I only know that climate change has something to do with trees, wildlife, water and protecting the environment,” said a 3rd year student from the Polytechnic of Namibia (PoN).
Observational records and model projections released by the United Nations Convention on Climate Change, however, clearly show that 75 to 250 million people in Africa are projected to face increased water stress by the year 2020 due to climate change. Also, the average sea level is expected to rise by about 50cm by the year 2100 and about 70 million people in Africa’s coastal areas could face the risk of flooding by the year 2080.
It is estimated that by the year 2100, certain parts of sub-Saharan Africa are likely to become the most vulnerable, showing likely agricultural losses of between two and seven percent of gross domestic product (GDP). By the year 2050, average rice, wheat and maize yields will decline by up to 14%, 22% and five percent, respectively.
These findings pose a serious challenge to general social and economic development, particularly because the economies of most African countries depend on climate-sensitive sectors such as agriculture, water fisheries, energy and tourism.
The global climate change will undoubtedly affect Namibia’s vast poor majority, hence the need to sensitise the youth about its effects and empower them with ways of dealing with the catastrophe for when it strikes. PF