For the first time in history, more than half of the world’s population-which is fairly youthful-resides in the urban areas, and is expected to soar to about 9 billion people by 2050. This needless to say, has profound implications for global trends in poverty, food security and nutrition and for global and local food systems. Harnessing youthful energies is key to easing the global burden of feeding an exponentially-growing urban population which puts a strain on global urban food systems. Poverty is rapidly shifting its location from rural to urban areas and food insecurity and malnutrition in all its varied forms are becoming highly prevalent among urban dwellers.
Perhaps nothing casts a harsher light on our global social inequities than the increasing number of people who go hungry every day-about 1/9th of the world’s population. According to the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO), more people go hungry in the world today than at any time since 1970. About 795 million people of the 7.3 billion people in the world, or one in nine people, were suffering from chronic undernourishment in the period between 2014 and 2016. Almost all the 795 million that go hungry everyday live in developing countries, representing 12.9% of the developing counties’ population. There are 11 million people undernourished in developed countries (FAO 2015). Between 2007 and 2050 the world population is projected to increase from 6.7 to 9.2 billion, and most of this growth is projected to occur in urban areas of less developed countries such as Kenya.
Climate change attends our global resolve towards future food security. It has a greater bearing on women in developing countries, who essentially rely on agriculture for their livelihoods. They incongruously face higher risks and greater burdens from climate change impacts in situations of poverty, and the majority of the world’s poor are women, yet they can have a far-reaching impact on food production in urban spaces. Gender differentials invariably alienate women from climate change-mitigation programming, yet they constitute 45% of the region’s agricultural workforce. As Peace Ambassadors Integration Organization- Kenya our GreenPrint project as we shall see, reflects the basic tenets of climate action by urban women and youth in Kenya, in adopting afforestation towards restoring global environmental sanity.
Urbanization in itself is often a positive development, as cities tend to be more productive than rural areas, and therefore a driver of economic growth and development. Yet, exponential urbanization – as it is currently occurring in many developing countries – can outstretch the capacities of cities to absorb and cater for an ever growing number of youthful inhabitants. If unabated, it may pose a considerable threat to all dimensions of climate change, because there is a growing geographical mobility of youth from rural to urban areas in search of employment. This leaves the rural areas with not so much of considerable labor for environmental conservation and food security.
In Africa, the youthful population is exponentially growing. In 2015, it is estimated that close to 226 million youth aged 15-24 lived in Africa, accounting for 19% of the global youth population. By 2030, it is projected that the number of youth in Africa will have increased by 42%, and is expected to maintain that growth trajectory throughout the remainder of the 21st century; to more than twice the current levels, by 2055. In Kenya, our population is majorly youthful and unemployed. According to a national census carried out in 2009, 75% of the Kenyan population is youthful and majorly unemployed. The question then begs, how can we create employment for our youth while at the same time addressing climate change and national, trans-national and global food security?
Youth & Cities: Rethinking Climate Change-Mitigation
Where the world stands today in the context of climate change, there needs to be a serious rethought on what role can youth in cities play in climate change-mitigation and hence sustainable food production, as our forest cover gets depleted due to wanton human action. The only way out to mitigating climate change is by leveraging the nexus between a swelling global urban youthful population and a dwindling rural youthful labor. Peace Ambassadors Integration Organization-Kenya runs the Trees For Peace GreenPrint project which is an innovative approach to peaceful coexistence among communities around the Mau Forest.. It is just one of the many community development initiatives in Kenya, working to improve the community’s quality of life by integrating environmental conservation with peace campaigning.
Peace Ambassadors Integration Organization is a youth-centered outfit which draws membership from the collegiate community in Kenya. Our solution to mitigating climate change is anchored on the desire to enhance, firstly, the restoration of our water catchment areas such as the Mau Forest. Leveraging a huge national and regional youth network membership which is majorly constituted by women, we have a synergistic community approach in environmental conservation. With a membership of more than 10,000 youth nationally, we ensure that each one of us plants a tree annually. That translates to about 10,000 trees planted annually. On the World Environment Day alone in 2016, we planted 7000 indigenous trees at the Mau Forest water catchment area. So far, we have had the following impact:
- We have conducted numerous workshops and trainings to the community on environmental conservation.
- We have conducted community sensitization campaigns on environmental conservation.
- We have incorporated environmental conservation agenda in PAMBIO-K institutional clubs and chapters
- We have increased the knowledge of communities on water and forest conservation and management
- We have incubated an integrated community environment management project in Nessuit, Mau Forest
- We have undertaken tree planting in Mau Forest (More than 10,000 trees so far planted).
- We have initiated waste management-based income generating projects for the community
Realizing the importance of synergy, we have partners drawn from the Kenya Administration Police, Kenya Forest Service (K.F.S), Community Forest Association (C.F.A), Green Africa Foundation, Ecotourism Kenya and Nature Kenya. More of this initiative can be found here: http://pambio.org/green-print-project/