By Nyombi Morris
As a person who lives in Africa, climate change is such a real threat that I felt that striking every Friday was not sufficient. My activism has been full of learning opportunities, including my own experience of my family’s farm being destroyed by flooding in 2009. This forced my parents to move to Kampala, where we are now. My mission now is to educate young people on climate change and the best actions to take. Once we defeat ignorance, climate change in Uganda and across Africa will be history. If we achieve our goal, it will help students prepare to enter their professional lives. They will be able to share their knowledge with parents and other family members.
In schools, we plant native fruit trees to give hope. We need 100,000 seedlings of fruit trees. This is because raising people’s expectations is the only way we can change their minds. People cut down trees in order to make quick cash, which is how we have ended up in the desert or drought. I was driven to mobilise people in the field by starting climate change conversations and encouraging tree planting in schools and in communities and have planted over 47,000 trees for reforestation since then. We use immersive learning strategies during our fruit-tree planting sessions, and each student is given personalised education and instruction. By the time 2021 came to an end I had already visited 30 schools country-wide.
It wasn’t enough, however, because most of the people I managed to get involved in the climate change conversation had little knowledge about it. This made it very difficult for me as a ground soldier during the time I was trying to spread the gospel in schools and communities. It is my hope that the Ugandan government’s move to include climate change information and education within textbooks in the national curriculum will be implemented in 2022 to help inform the next generation of climate change-related issues. Ugandan people need this information because they live in the most impacted and vulnerable areas. It is vital that education about the climate crisis be provided in all schools in Uganda and across Africa.
Climate School is my 2022 project. This program offers children and students the opportunity to learn environmental management skills. We discovered eight climate systems that we can use, including climate mitigation, adaptation and collaboration, tree planting, recycling plastic waste, and collaboration. This project is needed because it will help children and others learn about how they can take climate action. They will also be able to use the skills they gain to enhance their education at higher levels, including universities. I have worked with UNICEF to help teachers incorporate climate change lessons into their classes by distributing climate-informed texts to students. We have funding to distribute 100 copies per school, however, this is often not enough to provide every student with a copy, and the costs of printing mean that we can’t print out even that 100. Having individual financing projects would help us with these costs, as relying on one-off donations doesn’t support us fully in printing and distributing textbooks to everyone who needs them. We have only visited one school so far due to lack of support. As we wait, maybe an NGO or someone will say Morris, I would like to support this project.
It is inspiring to see African youth take a lead in fighting climate change. Speaking with young people keeps me going. Every school I visit has a different set of kids who give me positive feedback that makes me believe our future is bright. This is crucial. We must begin to train future leaders who can understand the needs of people and make decisions based on their will. Not investing in fossil fuels subsidies, oil spills, and not encouraging deforestation by approving biomass for a climate solution. These learning experiences will be available to students who want to use them in their studies. They will also receive culturally conscious technology that they can use every day to reduce their carbon footprint. The program is expected to reach more than 60,000 students at the 50 selected schools first, but it will continue in 2023 if 15,000 students are convinced that climate change is real. We also want to show them that if you take an environmental management course you can still make a living and live a sustainable lifestyle.
Our situation in Uganda is not unique. Climate justice starts with you and me working together to protect ourselves, the next generation, and the planet. Our governments may not approve or support climate education or action. At the same time, not many leaders and members of the working classes are willing to support the policies and actions needed to protect nature, to deliver justice and recovery, and to build resilience. This is because they share the same table as the exploiters, whose only belief is money, not humanity. I believe in doing what I can while I have the time.
This blog is part of the Action Today for Tomorrow Series within SEI’s environmental justice research. The blog series highlights the work of activists at the vanguard of climate justice in 2022, with a focus on the grassroots and national environmental justice perspectives of those working to create climate solutions around the world. It is curated by Research Assistants on the Creating Just Food and Energy Policy project, Hannah Della Bosca (SEI) and Oli Moraes (RMIT).
Nyombi Morris is a 23-year-old Ugandan climate activist focusing on issues of deforestation. After his family’s farm was destroyed by flooding, Nyombi became involved in conservation efforts for the Bugoma Forest, the nation’s largest tropical woodland reserve, which has been earmarked for a contentious sugarcane development. Nyombi has led reforestation efforts in his community and was recognised as a #Solvingit26 honouree by Doha Debates. He is currently an UNOCHA Ambassador and a CNN Environmentalist of Tomorrow under the Fridays For Future Uganda, now entering its third year. Nyombi’s activism has been recognised by earth.org, BBC, CBC, TRT and Global Citizen.
Header image: Nyombi Morris holding a Climate School classroom presentation. Author’s own photo.