Africa is on the front line of climate change. Nowhere is this more evident than the Lake Chad Basin, which covers almost 8% of the continent and supports tens of millions of people. The United Nations says it has shrunk by 90% since the 1960s because of drought.
The resulting competition for resources has caused poverty and conflict. Over 10 million people are dependent on humanitarian assistance.
Oladosu Adenike, 27, has witnessed Lake Chad’s tragic transformation firsthand. She is a prominent campaigner on climate change in Africa and started the Nigerian “Fridays for Future” campaign, joining the global movement after meeting Swedish activist Greta Thunberg.
Adenike is one of several young African delegates who traveled thousands of miles to Glasgow, Scotland, to be part of the COP26 climate summit and to convey their sense of urgency to world leaders.
“The peace and stability in this region – in the Lake Chad region, the Sahel – it depends on when we are able to restore the lake and able to say that people can get sustainable livelihoods, for them not to be able to be vulnerable to join armed groups of people. And this will likewise improve democracy in the region,” she told VOA.
Adenike is an official Nigerian youth delegate at the COP26 summit and has addressed senior delegates on the need to act fast. But she says she is frustrated by slow progress.
“We are still in the talking phase. We have not yet transited into the action phase, which is needed right now this moment, and not postponing it into the future. Because that is the most dangerous thing you can do right now. Delay now is a denial of the climate change crisis,” Adenike said.
Kaluki Paul Mutuku is a youth delegate for Kenya. Like Adenike, he’s a prominent young voice in the fight against climate change in Africa.
“We are constantly in the fear of losing our family members, losing our communities because the climate is dry – it is worsening by the day – there are droughts, there is extreme rainfall, and communities cannot bear it,” he told VOA.
“Just in 2019, we had a huge locust invasion that took over our crop plantations. We had huge floods in Nairobi, which killed so many people, and just this year, we are having so many people lives being lost due to starvation and famines,” he said.
Mutuku said that delivering on climate finance – the money rich countries have agreed to pay poorer nations to adapt to climate change and decarbonize their economies – is the most vital outcome of COP26. The 2009 pledge to pay $100 billion a year still has not been met.
“How do we finance to avoid emissions in Africa? How do we equip communities with resources and money to really be able to adapt to climate change, and how do we ensure that we give climate proofing for them?” he said.
“We cannot afford to lose hope. And as long as young people, grassroots, and our front-line communities are leading the decade of change, then we are in the right trajectory. For me, any delayed financing is a shame on (world) leaders,” Mutuku told VOA.
For young activists from around the world, it has been a long journey to COP26 in every sense. They say they will continue to fight for climate justice long after they return home.