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It is essential to send a clear message on climate change to youths and leaders in Nigeria, Africa and across the world. Not only will young people of today have to confront the major impacts of climate change in the near and far future, but they also have to understand their critical role as decision-makers and implementers in a climate-aware society. The Young Nigerian Climate Leaders view this role as pivotal, and the successful dissemination of information among the youths will influence and enhance their knowledge, ultimately preparing them for the challenges ahead.
YNCL is a forum that captures young people’s voices between the ages of aged 9-17 from schools around the country through strategic dialogues with policy makers, negotiators, legislators, business leaders and environmental experts. Its aim is to scout for future climate leaders in Nigeria and build their interest and expertise around issues of climate change policy and environmental justice.
This unique interactive forum is also intended to identify needs and begin to develop partnerships on programs and Activism Pack for Schools that will assist policy makers, local leaders and civil societies in addressing climate change policy, adaptation, and/or mitigation in Nigeria. The format of this forum focuses on facilitated dialogue among YNCL other stakeholders present.
On the 3rd December, 2010, Young Nigerian Climate Leaders carried out a community climate change education and awareness forum with over 250 students and youths in Kiyi Community in Kuje Area Council, FCT Abuja Nigeria facilitated by Miss Ella Tamufor.
During the dialogue, Primary 4 to 6 students were engaged in talks about the greenhouse gas effect, global warming and climate change – and inherent links – with special focus on Nigeria. The dialogue emphasized the individual contribution to the phenomenon of climate change and subsequently, individual options to mitigate and adapt to changing climatic conditions. Thus, it called for responsibility and personal commitment to act on climate change – a call well understood by students and the youth as well.
Furthermore, the forum engaged the School teachers as they play a key role in transmitting knowledge to the youth. Teachers were interviewed on the level of their understanding of climate change and regarding climate change education in their Schools and a Teacher’s Workshop was proposed to sensitize and clear up any misconceptions on climate change education. At the same time discussions focused on how climate change could be mainstreamed in schools in order to reach the young people efficiently and comprehensively. The teachers requested the need for a “Climate Change Toolkit”, which should comprise of a student booklet, respective lesson plans for teachers as well as exercises to better broaden their understanding of climate change. At this stage the school session ended.
A second component of the forum was the community youth forum. This strategic interaction will ensure that the youth of today will take the right decisions leading to the changes required for a sustainable future. There were over thirty 100 youths present including fish, poultry and irrigation farmers, students, traders and unemployed youth. Two out of all the youths had heard about climate change even though they had just little knowledge about it. They both spoke about the changing patterns in climate properties and the difficulties they face as a result. Some of the issues among others which they presented were as follows:
· Excessive heat.
· Extreme hunger.
· Malnutrition among children due to low agricultural yields.
· Absence of electricity in the community, as a result they are forced to use fuel generators which exacerbates climate change.
· The community water which is their only source for drinking, cooking and washing is highly polluted resulting in diseases like cholera, diarrhea, scabies, etc.
· The women use wood logs as their only source of energy for cooking and also for economic purposes due to lack of alternatives.
The youth were educated about the general effects of climate change and its consequences. They were given a chance by means of video to communicate to the world leaders and the Nigerian leaders in particular about their challenges and the intervention they need. They pleaded for alternatives to traditional fuels, electric generators and the river they drink from.
The forum ended with an exciting commitment from the youths in Kiyi Community to plant of 1 million trees on the 22nd January, 2011 to launch the building of a Kiyi Community Climate Change Center by the youths themselves on the piece of land that the Seriki (Community Head) donated to the community during a courtesy visit his palace on the same day.
I also received a bag of potatoes from the Madawaki (Gate Keeper of the community) and 5 tubers of yams from the youth leader on behalf of the youth as a mark of appreciation to our team for educating them about climate change and why they should be involved in the global fight to mitigate against this global challenge.