InnovativeVolunteerism- A Tool for Youth Climate Opportunity in Africa
I grew up in a village setting like millions across Africa do. Our village called Jinkfuin was a typical African setting with a chief for an entire community. Every child is everyone’s child, and this African proverb says, “it takes a village to raise a child”. We grew up in a communal way of interacting with each other and supporting the community.
I went to school in the same village. After primary and secondary school, I later went to High school in Bamenda, where I did my General Certificate Of Education (GCE) Advanced levels.
I studied education and physics at the university. So I was trained to be a teacher. After my university studies, I volunteered for one year. The experience gained from this volunteering helped get me a scholarship to study at the University of Nottingham, where I did my Master’s and, later on, my PhD in Climate change and Development Policy. Today, I am a climate change Action and Development Policy Expert. More importantly, my passion is to inspire young people to find purpose and retool their skills to drive transformational #ClimateAction solutions to benefit society. They see themselves as problem solvers turning their passions into profits. When we were growing up, we were not as vocal as today’s young people, and I think one of the reasons is the social media platforms they have today like Twitter, LinkedIn, Facebook, Instagram, Tiktok etc. With these opportunities, many of our #youth have the advantage of saying anything they what to say. This is an excellent opportunity we never had 40 years ago.
The reality is what I have noticed is that many young people, especially today, seem not to get inspired guidance to inspire them to use their skills to solve problems; instead, they look up to people who have wealth and are popular. It is more about optics, not solutions to the challenges we face as a continent. I have learnt that in dealing with the youth, you need to guide them to make them see value in themselves. Most of them follow inspired guidance when they are told it is valuable to build themselves. One of the essential aspects is encouraging the youth to a self-belief that they have what it takes.
When you show them an example of how life experiences can help shape you from nothing to something, this becomes a compelling message for them to believe they can make it. It is super important that people showcase the good of others, starting from themselves to inspire others so that at least they can also know that if they are good and do something nice, they will become role models for others. I think that kind of value system approach to engaging people, building on values of respect and humility, is urgently needed in our society to drive transformational #ClimateAction solutions. A value-based systems approach is what is urgently needed in our community today.
If you look at any community, the reality is that many multifaceted challenges afflicting them. Many cannot afford food, not to talk of a roof on their head. They cannot even afford to send their kids to school. These are realities spotted across the world. However, at the same time, if you look at one challenge that wires throughout all these challenges, it is climate change. The changing climate is already turbocharging and supercharging extreme weather events — from droughts to floods, hurricanes, sea-level rise, etc. When there is a drought, there is no food. When there is a drought, those who depend on livestock get affected significantly when the livestock dies. Those who rely on food to feed their family will not provide for them when there is no food. So, climate change only helps make a problem that is already big bigger. If you are not addressing climate change, then the injustice aspect becomes even more significant because no single citizen should be poor in a world that is so rich. So if there is an environmental issue like climate change, we must all pull together to do whatever we can to address it.
Young people taking up #climatechange activism worldwide are doing the right thing. However, activism is important but alone is not enough. Activism is a means, not an end. Therefore, there need to be specific actions that young people can take as much as activism. We developed and championed the innovative development model called #Innovativevolunteerism, which centres on engaging the entirety of society in providing structured, inspired guidance to tap into #climate opportunities building on the willing.
Like anything worthwhile, volunteering needs incentives and enablers. In my experience, two things are critical to this end. First is a structure for volunteering where potential volunteers are engaged through a system to guide their efforts and ensure optimal impacts for themselves and the environment. The second is a clear beneficial return that most cases need to take on a socio-economic lens. As we see in Africa, young people are finishing school and urgently & desperately looking for jobs. The last thing they want to hear is that they need to start doing some pro-bono work, yet they must take care of it. To this end, volunteering becomes attractive if it shows a clear trajectory of future socio-economic benefits.
This is the essence of our approach to climate action and volunteerism. Through this incubation approach, we innovated, Innovative Volunteerism, ushering willing young people and the young at heart to retool their skills and align them with tapping income opportunities that arise from the development of climate action solutions to engage the informal sector that constitutes up to 80% of livelihoods in Africa — in the areas of agriculture & clean energy. This has yielded fruits from across the entire continent. We have learned that #skillsretooling of citizens is the best low-risk path to drive transformational #ClimateAction. The inspired structural guidance has showcased that people who are passionate about an issue can do wonders when they get added skills.
The non-cost intensive areas we are engaged in include waste recovery and clean cooking fuel briquettes to substitute charcoal. Another is waste recovery to bio fertiliser to replace chemical fertilisers that destroy ecosystems and provide affordable, accessible alternatives to the many who cannot afford fertiliser soil treatments. Other areas include developing and decentralising climate action solutions solar dryers made from locally available material to preserve harvests and lower post-harvest losses that waste ecological resources and finances. The key to all these innovations is that they should be built on a passion for profits while solving a community challenge. People are motivated to engage in anything because they get out of it. In this case, the innovations showcased must be on a trajectory of profitability (not just social endeavours) while delivering value to the community & nurturing to become a market. Let’s not forget that if it offers value to the community & is affordable, the district will pay for this value. This is the lesson we learn from mobile telephony & its entire supply chain — be it handsets, phone credit, mobile money, phone repairs etc. Even villages with little income set aside something for the phone.
EBAFOSA Innovative Volunteerism has become the most prominent climate action incubation hub interactive where youth transformational climate action solutions initiatives are showcased to provide lessons for the masses on how to run enterprises in Africa, the essence of #ClimatePreneurship. This also ensures climate action solutions and accountability traceability, which are crucial for transformational development for individual youth and the continent. Let’s embrace Innovative Volunteerism as the tool to drive transformational climate action as we usher everyone into thesolutions space.