In Africa, young people are the voice of environmental protection

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It’s a morning in July and Murhula Zigabe, 29, is visiting what he calls “the base”, a fuel briquette production unit he created in 2018. Located in Bukavu, eastern Congo , this enclosure is used to recycle organic and non-organic waste. “During the Paris Peace Forum 2018, our project was recognized as one of 160 projects that can contribute to the promotion of peace in the world,” explains Zigabe.

“Our company has three main activities: transforming biodegradable waste into environmentally friendly fuel pellets, called ‘briquettes’, to replace charcoal which contributes to large-scale deforestation; the production, from plant waste, of proteins that can feed animals; and the creation of hanging gardens for urban households, ”explains Zigabe, general manager of Briquette du Kivu. In just three years, Zigabe’s company has created several thousand gardens in schools and homes in Bukavu, recycled more than 500 tons of waste, produced more than 300 tons of briquettes and supplied several thousand fruit trees to households. from the city.

Zigabe attributes these results to his passion for restoring the link between man and nature. “The reason we are experiencing climate change is that humans have decided to sacrifice nature for a life of overconsumption,” says the man who has become a role model in his community. His latest discovery: a system for the domestication of soldier flies, thanks to which he will be able to produce food for chickens and fish. He hopes to limit the felling of trees with this project. “To get soy, you have to cut down trees, to get palm kernel meal, you have to cut down trees. With this project, we will reduce the rate of tree felling, ”he explains.

From recycling to reforestation, to creating specialized media on environmental issues or raising awareness among local communities, across the continent, young Africans are actively finding ways to interact with their environment in a more sustainable way.

According to the Central African Forests Initiative (CAFI), the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) ranks third among tropical countries in forest loss, after Brazil and Indonesia. Between 2001 and 2019, the DRC lost more than 14.6 million hectares of forest. CAFI attributes this scourge to poverty, local needs for land and forest products, as well as strong population growth. According to the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO), Central Africa has lost more than 3.1 million hectares in five years.

The appropriation by local communities of the fight for the protection of Congolese flora and fauna is also a challenge taken up by Gorilla FM, a radio station created by members of Club RFI Bukavu, an association of Radio France Internationale listeners. “Through our broadcasts, we raise awareness and fight against poaching and any other form of unnatural abuse,” explains Nicole Bahati, coordinator of the RFI Bukavu club. “We needed a tool that could reach everyone. This radio has allowed us to get closer to this population and to make the voice of the indigenous populations heard. We are proud to be the very first to do so in the DRC, ”adds the co-founder of the radio station, whose facilities are located inside Kahuzi Biega National Park.

While Gorilla FMs programs are produced in three local languages ​​and in French, the activities of this community radio go beyond broadcasting. “We organize popular forums that allow the indigenous population, some of whom lived in the park a few years ago, to discuss with the authorities and find alternative solutions to the problems that lead them to poaching or killing of animals. ‘trees. We make them understand that the park is a human asset that must be protected, ”explains Bahati. Thanks to Gorilla FM, local monitoring committees have been created.

“Thanks to these committees made up entirely of Aboriginal people, we find out if trees have been felled or animals have been killed in the park. They regularly monitor the level of poaching. They themselves have become agents of awareness, ”she explains.

A continental commitment

It may be the continent with the lowest rate of greenhouse gas emissions in the world, but Africa is not spared the horrors of global warming. In a 2019 report, the International Labor Organization (ILO) warned of the risk of more than 80 million job losses globally by 2030 due to global warming. This report shows that West Africa is, along with Asia, one of the main victims of this phenomenon, as it risks losing nine million full-time jobs.

In Côte d’Ivoire, entrepreneur Evariste Aohoui is a pioneer in the recycling of electronic and electrical waste. “I felt it was important to get involved, to show the will to do the right thing. It is important that young people get involved in protecting the environment, because we have a responsibility to build a better world, ”Aohoui explains. Thanks to its Waste Recycling Sanitation Program (PARO-CI), which integrates informal sector actors in waste recycling, Aohoui has been able to create more than 15 direct jobs and 100 indirect jobs. Each year since the launch of the initiative in 2012, more than 10,000 tonnes of electronic waste has been recycled.

In a few years, the Ugandan Vanessa Nakate has become a model on the continent. From the Davos Economic Forum to international media platforms, Nakate, 24, appears on all fronts, speaking on behalf of the African continent. Irritated by the silence of decision-makers on the climate issue, she decided to organize a hunger strike in the Ugandan parliament in 2018. Thanks to Rise Up !, the movement she subsequently created, Vanessa is raising awareness among young people about the environmental Protection.

“We must start with schoolchildren, educate them, instruct them, because they are the leaders of tomorrow, the activists of tomorrow, the scientists of tomorrow. They are the ones who will be in charge of the planet in the years to come. We also address the elderly, we organize cleaning operations or waste collection, so that we can educate them and tell them what is happening at the moment, ”Nakate said in an interview with France Inter, few months ago.

Involve the youngest in the fight

Zigabe believes that young people have no choice but to take care of the environment. “Young people don’t have to adapt to the status quo. Some fatalists tell us that we can no longer do anything for the environment. We are a living testimony to what young people can do if they are determined: to turn a challenge into an opportunity. Young people look to the future. If we want to have a better future, we have to take care of the climate, ”he says. Thanks to a partnership with UNICEF, students are regularly sent to the briquette factory in Kivu to see what they are doing there and be inspired by it. “It’s a way for us to perpetuate this activity and to remind the young generation that the nation is counting on it.

Bahati agrees. “To involve young people, you have to set an example. If we don’t understand that we have to be responsible for the environment, we will all die. What are we going to leave for future generations?

She hopes to be able to create a radio station run only by indigenous people, but with a global audience.

For Zigabe, it was not easy at the start. To gain acceptance, he was forced to give away his first batch of briquettes for free. “No one took me seriously because they didn’t understand what I wanted to do. They thought I was crazy because no one could understand that a college graduate would start picking up trash in a trash can, ”said the young entrepreneur. He overcame these obstacles thanks to his accomplishments for the community, including the creation of more than 20 jobs. It also helped families save money, as the Kivu briquette only allows them to spend € 0.16 to cook a meal, which would have cost € 0.50 with charcoal.

The biggest challenge facing Zigabe remains the lack of an industrial-scale production unit, which would allow it to produce in large quantities and thus expand its activities over a much larger area.

Whether in Congo or Côte d’Ivoire, the lack of institutional and financial support remains the greatest challenge facing young Africans. “We must maintain and continue our efforts with patience, despite everything,” concludes Aohoui. He now hopes to create 50 direct jobs, 1,500 indirect jobs and set up three waste treatment platforms within five years.

This article has been translated from French.

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