#Youth Forum

Grassroots and Youth-led climate solutions from  Gambia

May 17, 2022, 1:05 PM

Climate change and environmental degradation are among the greatest threats to human health.

Youth campaigners have very effectively focused global attention on the crisis.

However children from the Global South are often under-represented (sometimes deliberately) in the dialogue.

In The Gambia, West Africa, the impacts of climate change are already being directly experienced by the population, and this will worsen in coming years.

There is strong government and community commitment to adapt to these challenges, as evidenced by The Gambia currently being the only country on target to meet the Paris agreement according to the Nationally Determined Contributions, but again children's voices are often missing—while their views could yield valuable additional insights.

Here, we describe a “Climate Change Solutions Festival” that targeted and engaged school children from 13 to 18 years, and is to our knowledge, the first peer-to-peer (and student-to-professional) learning festival on climate change solutions for students in The Gambia. The event gave a unique insight into perceived climate change problems and scalable, affordable and sometimes very creative solutions that could be implemented in the local area.

Logistical and practical methods for running the festival are shared, as well as details on all solutions demonstrated in enough detail to be duplicated. We also performed a narrative review of the most popular stalls to explore the scientific basis of these solutions and discuss these in a global context. Overall, we find extremely strong, grass-roots and student engagement in the Gambia and clear evidence of learning about climate change and the impacts of environmental degradation more broadly. Nevertheless, we reflect that in order to enact these proposed local solutions further steps to evaluate acceptability of adoption, feasibility within the communities, cost-benefit analyses and ability to scale solutions are needed. This could be the focus of future experiential learning activities with students and partnering stakeholders.

Additionally, accessing school children in many areas of the world, including The Gambia has its own challenges. The global population has become increasingly connected, however, social media, email and internet access to connect and communicate remains uncommon in many areas and/or among certain societal groups, especially in rural Sub-Saharan Africa, adding to logistical difficulties in this endeavor.

In order to encourage youth civic engagement, it has been shown that influences from both home and the school environment are important.

 By exposing students to the ideas, problems and solutions to climate change, focus and awareness can be garnered around the issues, empowering discussions and allowing students to drive the conversation. Interactive and peer-to-peer learning methods have been shown to be effective at delivery of an educational message and to be both engaging and motivating.

Here, we present an interactive, peer-to-peer (and student-to-professional) learning “Climate Change Solutions Festival,” targeting school children aged 13-18 years old nationwide. This work was informed by a previous public engagement activity in January 2020 at Bakau Newtown Primary School, Fajara, The Gambia, which gave insights into the perceptions of climate change and students' ideas of how to mitigate/adapt to climate change. During this preliminary work, there was a keen interest in the subject, and a wish to share knowledge. We therefore built on this experience with a larger, nationwide festival. The aim of the festival was to learn with, and from, school aged children, non-government organisations (NGOs) and other actors across The Gambia about existing climate change impacts and adaptation/mitigation solutions, to encourage young people to engage in climate and health science, and stimulate discussion among young people and other delegates to consider priorities related to climate change.

Source-Youth news