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Taking Climate Education to Africa’s Rural Communities to Raise Awareness and Inspire Action

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By Hameed Muritala

As the world continues to grapple with the unprecedented consequences of Climate Change, Africa appears to the be worst hit from these impacts, and the most vulnerable are rural communities on the continent. These rural communities often bear the brunt of climate-related disasters; from disruption to food production, to floodings, wildfires, land degradation, loss of habitat, among others.

A 2021 data released by the World Bank revealed that 687, 081, 738 representing 58.17 per cent of persons in Sub-Saharan Africa live in rural communities. This has got to show that a larger percentage of Africa’s population are rural dwellers, many of whom are small-scale farmers, and farming activities are highly susceptible to climate change impacts like land degradation, irregular rainfalls and awful floods. These impacts of climate change have pushed a lot of rural dwellers in Africa into hunger and poverty.

Despite the fact that they make up more than fifty per cent of the continent’s population and significantly bear the brunt of climate crisis, rural communities across Africa are often neglected when it comes to climate education, policy conversations and climate actions. This has made them more vulnerable to the impacts of climate change.

The importance of climate education to addressing climate change cannot be overstressed. The international community has, on different occasions, underscored the importance of climate education in view of the fact that climate change remains a global threat that requires universal understanding and collective actions to combat.
In fact, international organisations like the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP), the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC), the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UUNESCO), Global Campaign for Education (GCE) and Action for Climate Empowerment (ACE) have all launched series of conversations and online materials (courses) on climate education, with the aim of assisting people around the world understand what climate change is, and to also inspire them to take actions to address this global phenomenon. These organizations have also encouraged governments around the world to engage and empower stakeholders and major groups on policies and actions relating to climate change.

But despite these global efforts, several local communities in Africa still lack access to climate education. A lot of rural dwellers across the continent are uncertain about climate change and find the concept recondite. While many of them might have heard of climate change or global warming, they not do really understand what it is all about, its impacts, how humans contribute to it and how to address it.

There is, therefore, an urgent need to take climate education to all rural communities in Africa so as to empower their dwellers with climate knowledge. However, taking climate education to rural areas should not only be about raising awareness about climate change but also building the capacity of rural dwellers to adapt, mitigate and foster resilience against its impacts. When people have adequate knowledge about climate change and are empowered to take actions, they will be more prepared to make informed decisions about their attitudes to the environment, and also create local, environmental-friendly and sustainable solutions.

It is delighting to note that one Nigeria-based non-profit organisation, Brain Builders Youth Development Initiative, BBYDI, has taken up the initiative of taking climate education to rural communities in the country. Last week, the organization visited Sentu, a remote community in Ilorin, Kwara State Nigeria, to promote climate education and preach localisation of climate solutions.

Themed “Fostering Climate Adaptation and Addressing Global Environmental Challenges Locally”, the one-day immersive climate education programme featured series of lectures and hands-on training sessions, involving community elders, farmers, women, youth and students. The community residents were sensitized on the impacts of climate change, importance of climate adaptation and mitigation.

Hands-on session during the climate education programme at Sentu community, Ilorin.

Additionally, farmers in the community were enlightened on the various sustainable agricultural practices they can embrace to improve their farming activities and enhance food production. There was also an Upcycling Workshop for school children in the community; they were trained on how they can turn their used bottles, plastic spoons, old clothing materials, and more into plastic seats and a flower vase. It was an amazing session for the kids who are determined to make new items from discarded materials. The organization also donated seedlings and economic trees to the rural dwellers and encouraged them to plant them at different locations in their community.

Presentation of tree seedling to a community elder after the training.

Speaking on the climate education programme, the Global Director of BBYDI, Abideen Olasupo, said “Our organization is committed to spreading to climate education in rural communities across Nigeria. From engaging curriculum to dialogues and hands-on activities, we left no stone unturned to provide Sentu community dwellers with the knowledge and skills to address climate challenges in their own backyard.

“With our dedicated team of facilitators, passionate teachers, and the enthusiasm of the students and rural dwellers, we witnessed incredible growth and transformation. We saw young minds ignite with curiosity, critical thinking, and a newfound passion for sustainability.”

In conclusion, it is imperative for governments, concerned not-for-profit organisations and educational institutions in Africa to prioritise taking climate education to nooks and crannies of the continent, without leaving out rural communities. Rural dwellers who make up more than half of Africa’s population must be empowered with the knowledge, skills, and attitudes to act as agents of social change and advocates of climate justice and sustainable development.

Through workshops, trainings, and community engagement, rural dwellers can gain a deeper understanding of climate issues, and make informed decisions about their lifestyles, livelihoods, and environment. They will also be able to actively engage decision-makers and relevant authorities on development of climate policies, and also initiate local solutions to climate crisis affecting their communities. Indeed, localizing climate education and actions which must include support for local governments and building resilient communities is key to global climate change adaptation and mitigation.

 

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