Innovative Volunteerism and Climate Action in Africa
Every day, the thunderstorms seem more violent. Flooding is more frequent, and droughts more severe. Around the world, forests are razed. Crops are failing, and people are forced to flee their homes, becoming climate refugees. Sea levels are rising, drowning cities and entire countries. The oceans are turning to acid, and salt is penetrating croplands, causing further severe challenges to food security. As this is happening, Africa has contributed just 3 per cent of global emissions but is the continent that will pay. Indeed, which is already paying the highest price.
Young people and future generations will inherit the worst impacts of the climate crisis and bear the future costs of today’s decisions. As countries implement their Nationally Determined Contributions (NDCs), there is a unique opportunity to engage and include young people in the process. This is not only in line with the Paris Agreement principle of intergenerational equity but will also bring diverse, innovative perspectives to the table, recognising and valuing youth as key actors in advancing ambitious climate action.
Therefore, we must structurally guide and inspire youth and the young at heart who are the most significant climate action non-state actors constituency to improve, refine, and adapt their enterprise action to deliver climate action solutions — specifically clean energy solutions for affordable agro-value addition.
It is out of this that Innovative Volunteerism came about to be one of the most significant mindset change tool alliances ever to drive Climate Action by inspiring and ushering youth and young at heart across the continent and globe to retool their skills and apply them selflessly to turn their passion to profits in driving climate action as they turn challenges into opportunities.
Through leveraging on Innovative Volunteerism, thousands of youth have been reached engaging them from a bottom-up approach, where actors forge collaborations to drive climate Action solutions directly at the community level to co-create solutions. Innovative Volunteerism is about tapping into people’s passions and helping them turn those passions into profits. That model is working, and we see the impacts and transformation. It’s not a textbook coded matrix or paper sheets projects based on no reality on the ground that informs it. We must never start to build a house from the roof. Most of the time, we have failed to ready people with what they have to get more prepared and seize opportunities.
The most significant resource is people’s skills. To tap into the resilience of minds and heart as the source of wealth for the continent, we cannot use the traditional approaches that have hiver inside us but one that is disruptive. As seconds turn to minutes, minutes to hours, hours to days, days to months, and months to years, all people of goodwill towards Africa need to ask some tough questions. Each of us needs to assess what Africa has achieved to date and what could be done differently to make a better outcome. For instance, it is documented that an excess of $15 billion has been invested in Africa’s agriculture over the past two decades. Yet, we still grapple with the same challenges we did twenty years ago. Africa still cannot feed itself. Cumulatively, there are a total of fifty-eight major energy initiatives in the continent. Through such initiatives, a total of $30 billion has been invested from multilateral and bilateral sources in just four years (excluding the private sector). Yet over 60 per cent of Africa is not productively energised.
We must face reality as we see it. It may not be hard to imagine why this is so. Do we even have the skills, and are we willing to learn?. My experiences have taught me that empowering people across the continent is the best bet to accelerate socio-economic transformational climate action and ward off vulnerabilities. Empowerment is not just money alone. It’s the ability for each of us to use what we have to start. The answer lies in one critical attribute — choice.
For example, we have guided youth to work with the informal sector and develop clean cooking solutions through waste recovery to fuel briquettes. Indoor pollution kills up to 700,000, mostly women and children across Africa, using unclean cooking of charcoal and smoky biomass.
With structured guidance, youth are converting agricultural waste to fuel briquettes that prove socially, economically, and environmentally more beneficial than traditional charcoal. Household energy savings of up to 50% have been recorded, with briquettes being two times cheaper than traditional charcoal and three times cheaper than kerosene. This is in addition to the benefits of reducing toxic indoor smoking/pollution while preserving forests.
The youth have also been guided to work with traditional informal sector finance structures of cooperatives to deliver more capital-intensive climate solutions of solar dryers. We are seeing many youths developing solar dryers using local materials and delivering them in a pay-as-you-go model, as a drying service helping cut postharvest losses, reducing aflatoxins by over 50% and increasing earnings up to 30times.
Innovative Volunteerism stems from the fact that many always think they cannot do anything without money alone, which is false and has crippled us for many years. With motivation and innovative structured guidance leveraging passion and inspiration for the willing, we are debunking that myth of money first attitude. The structural guidance also ensure traceability of climate action solutions and accountability, which is critical for transformational development both for individual youth and continent
So the logic of Innovative Volunteerism is:
- start with mobilising willing youth and young at heart who have an interest in touching the lives of many by solving challenges in the community;
- identify challenges/gaps in the community, including gaps related to an economic activity that engages most in the community;
- the mobilised youth are clustered according to their areas of interest towards solving these challenges;
- each cluster of mobilised youth trained and equipped with skills in solving the challenges in their chosen area;
- youth work with the community in solving these challenges. By working with the community, I mean that those in the community who need a solution to a given challenge are clustered to work together and co-operate around accessing the solution they need being delivered by the youth.
Innovative Volunteerism is the needed solution for simple, innovative actions that are already making a difference in communities. Let embrace this in 2022 and beyond as we drive transformational climate action to become our way of life.