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Dialogue - Issue #2

Time is Running Out for Africa

Words by Vanessa Nakate
Illustration by Diana Ejaita

Ugandan climate activist Vanessa Nakate was concerned by a lack of awareness of the climate crisis in her country, and began a series of strikes to demand action from the government.

Africa is home to millions of people. That sounds beautiful to say until I say that it is going to become a graveyard for millions of people. That sounds horrible, but it is our truth. As a continent it may be the lowest emitter of carbon, but it is the most affected by the climate crisis. Africa is currently experiencing extreme weather conditions. My own country experienced very high temperatures in the month of January. This heavily affected the agricultural sector and food production. Most African countries depend on rain-fed agriculture, so a lack of rain means hunger and death for the less privileged. Climate change is already disrupting the ecological systems in Africa with serious consequences for agricultural production, water supply, health of the people and the forests. The Congo rainforest, which is the second largest rainforest in the world, is on the verge of complete destruction as a result of mining and logging, but there is very little mention of this in the media, locally or internationally.

The rainforest is home to hundreds of species of birds, reptiles, amphibians and mammals, including three subspecies of gorilla (lowland, eastern lowland and mountain gorilla), African forest elephants, and the okapi, also known as the forest giraffe, which can only be found there. Itis crucial for Africa, and the wider world, to save this forest. In September 2019, I was privileged to see the biggest climate change protest in Uganda to date. I expected an immediate response from the government leaders because of the chaos caused on the streets of Kampala but, unfortunately, they remained silent. Going to the streets and holding a placard has been one of the hardest things that I have done in my life. If looks could kill, I would be dead by now. I go to the streets expecting mean and deadly stares from the public. Climate change is a topic that doesn’t interest many people in my country. In fact, they always ask me why I waste my time demanding action because the government will not do anything about it - they already have negative expectations. Africa cannot afford to choose between addressing climate change and promoting development because the two are interconnected. Every African has a right to a healthy environment.

This is very hard for many people to understand and accept. Here I am,trying to fight for a better future for everyone but getting discouraged by the same people whose rights that I am fighting for. I am not able to educate everyone, and not everyone wants to be educated about the climate crisis because they say they have better things to do. This should be enough to make me give up, but here I am, fighting day and night for the survival of humanity because a liveable and loveable planet should not be for just a few people. It should be for all. Africa faces a climate emergency that needs to be addressed immediately. Unfortunately being an activistfrom Africa can be frustrating because our voices are not loud enough for people to hear and listen to what we have to say. But the fight to save Congo rainforest and other African forests continues. We cannot defile nature because our existence depends on it. Earth is our home and our responsibility

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