Kofi Annan once said, "Young people should be at the forefront of global change and innovation. Empowered, they can be key agents for development and peace. If, however, they are left on society's margins, all of us will be impoverished. Let us ensure that all young people have every opportunity to participate fully in the lives of their societies."
Youth in Khartoum, Sudan’s largest city, are rising to the challenge to find solutions to mitigate climate change impacts.
Founded in 1823 at the confluence of the Blue and White Nile rivers, Khartoum is not only the political capital of Africa’s third largest country but also its leading commercial centre, and home to about 6.3 million people. Just like other parts of Sudan, the city has experienced serious environmental degradation due to extensive deforestation and droughts, which have conspired to make it vulnerable to climate-related hazards. Floods, dust storms and heatwaves pose a serious threat to the livelihoods and well-being of Khartoum’s residents. Between March and May, Khartoum experiences low relative humidity and temperatures can exceed 40°C, making it one of the hottest cities in the world.
The increasing climate change threat that Sudan faces has not gone unnoticed, and youth in Khartoum, such Dalia Adil, are actively joining hands with their peers in search of ways to mitigate the changes. Following her return home in 2016 from Malaysia where she was pursuing her degree in graphic design, Adil developed an interest in climate change. Together with her friend Omar Galal, they often spent significant amounts of time trying to figure out how they could play their part in addressing the challenge.
“Being a graphic designer enables me to communicate messages in an artistic way and to raise awareness about the environment,” she says.
A chance for the duo to make their contribution arose in October 2018 when they decided to participate in the Climathon Khartoum 2018, an event led by Impact Hub Khartoum —supported by the Global Climate Change Alliance Plus (GCCA+) -European Union in collaboration with the Sudan National Council for Environment , and UN Environment, among others—seeking innovative solutions to address the city’s climate challenges. The event’s goals were to connect different people concerned about climate change to bring about a shared vision for a better Khartoum
Adil and Galal leapt at the opportunity to transform their aspirations into reality by participating in the Climathon.
“The most important thing is to have passion. We formed a team of five—dubbed Sudan Utopia—to address the effects of extreme weather. Through this event, we acquired more knowledge about the country’s environmental situation,” says Adil.
Sudan Utopia’s intention is to contain desertification and restore the country’s ecosystems through reforestation, through their winning idea of producing and casting seed pods using drones. Currently, they are consulting experts to identify potential pilot sites in the country’s western Darfur region.
Extreme weather has also posed serious challenges to Khartoum’s waste management. And this is precisely what Bashir Elsamani, together with five other young Climathon participants —three women and two men—sought to address when they participated in the event.
“We would like to improve the collection and disposal of green waste. An estimated 8,000 tonnes of household waste is generated by households and only 40—50 per cent finds its way to dumpsites, where they generate methane and leachate,” says the University of Khartoum-trained chemical engineer and leader of The Scavengers team. During floods in the city and elsewhere in the country, waste management can become even more complex.
“The Climathon also enabled me to meet people from different backgrounds. It was a great forum to exchange ideas about mitigating the impact of climate change,” says Bashir.
The event brought together software developers, entrepreneurs, students and others interested in finding answers that would help the country’s capital become more livable and adapt to extreme weather.
The Climathon is an international event where people from all around the world host a 24-hour meeting in which citizens, city officials and other partner institutions connect to develop climate solutions for their cities. For Khartoum, Climathon 2018 was the first such event and during the event UN Environment climate change specialists Mayada Umbadda and Rob Elsworth provided mentorship to the participants and evaluated the ideas submitted.
UN Environment, the leading global voice on the world’s environment, is keen to work with and empower Sudan’s young people such as Adil, Galal and Elsamani to address the inevitable environmental, political, economic as well as social stresses caused by climate change. It supports this work hrough its Adapt for Environment and Climate Resilience in Sudan programme (commonly known as ADAPT!)—a four-year US$13 million project launched in December 2015 by UN Environment and the British Government through the United Kingdom’s Department for International Development.
“We are working closely with the Government of Sudan, United Nations agencies, academia, donors and non-governmental organizations to increase climate resilience and environmental management in Sudan. Through the Climathon we were able to work with the youth to draw innovative solutions to address the effects of extreme weather as well as to manage, reduce and recycle waste,” says Raju Sorekaidoddi, UN Environment’s ADAPT! Project Manager.
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