African youth and COP28: Drought and pollution spur activists to mobilize in Kenya
As the African continent bears the brunt of the consequences of climate change, there is a sense of urgency among young people who want the world and COP28 in Dubai, from November 30 to December 12, to finally take action. From Niger to Kenya, via Ghana, portrait of three young activists who are mobilizing on the ground in favor of the environment. First part, Kenya.
A street in Nairobi (illustrative image). © Diaznash / Pixabay
By: RFI Follow
We are in Kenya, which is currently hit by the El Niño phenomenon, which generates both drought and torrential rains. But the weather has been turned upside down in this East African country for several years now. For 28-year-old Susan Sindani, the turning point came in 2015. By then, the rains had stopped falling on his hometown of Bungoma, in western Kenya, a once-fertile region, a climatic phenomenon that disrupted harvests: "In my community, we rarely had periods of drought, these were problems faced by pastoralist communities living in semi-arid and arid lands. But one day, it happened to us, and we knew we had to do something.»
In the field, it conducts awareness campaigns and offers online educational content to inform the public. In June 2023, this communications expert was appointed by the Kenyan Ministry of Environment and Forests to develop a national climate action plan: "I have been directly affected by climate change. I now know that I have a responsibility to play my part and encourage those around me to do the same." Now based in Nairobi, Susan Sindani leads reforestation actions in this country damaged by deforestation.
Air pollution and traffic congestion
Another scourge is air pollution. The WHO estimates that 20 million Kenyans suffer from respiratory problems: "If you come to Nairobi," explains Suasan Sindani, "you will see cars everywhere. In some parts of the capital, nasal congestion is so common that today when you catch a cold, it takes almost a month to recover." According to her, these respiratory complications are aggravated by the El Niño phenomenon, which amplifies precipitation, causing traffic jams.
Every year, 19,000 people in Kenya die due to poor air quality, according to the WHO. One of the causes is the massive importation of second-hand cars from abroad. They often escape control, explains Bérénice Bon, a researcher at the Institute for Research and Development (IRD), to Christina Okello: "There is a very high demand for private cars. It's very easy. You are in Nairobi and in ten minutes you buy a Japanese car on an auction platform via the internet. In a few minutes, and your vehicle arrives. The government has tried to intervene -- for example -- by issuing legislation that all these Japanese vehicles must not be eight years older. But there are still many ways to circumvent these laws, including vehicles that arrive completely boneless or that do not comply with certain technologies to filter out the particles emitted.»
« No political follow-up »
There is a certain vagueness about the application of standards, says Bérénice Bon. Of course, political actors, and even the inhabitants of Nairobi, are informed of the levels of pollution in the various neighbourhoods, because, for about twenty years, small micro-sensors have been installed to capture this pollution. But the problem is the subsequent production of this data, it is fragmented among many actors and there is no political follow-up to this problem.»
Read also"National Tree Day": in Kenya, a new environmental holiday is born
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