Nasreen Al-Amin is the founder of Surge Africa, a nonprofit focused on advocacy aimed at mitigating the social impacts of climate change in Africa’s local communities
What inspired your founding of Surge Africa and what successes have you recorded so far?
I founded Surge Africa about three years ago, as a not-for-profit organization that focuses on promoting climate change remediation through advocacy, and capacity building, aimed at mitigating the social impacts of climate change in local communities on the African continent. It was after graduating from the university that I began to develop interest in climate change – at the time there was lots of news about climate change in the media including the withdrawal of the US from the 2015 Paris Agreement.
So, I decided to begin research into the phenomenon and found it was an issue that was already affecting millions of Africans and their livelihoods. However, I observed that people lacked knowledge of climate change; many thought it was just a ‘change of weather’ and nothing more than that.
This was why I founded Surge Africa and we started raising awareness among locals in affected communities. Our vision is to protect people and the planet by creating a pathway for development that embodies inclusive participation, equal opportunities and progression for all. In the next five years, we hope to see Surge Africa become one of the five leading advocacy organizations dedicated to fighting climate change and spearheading climate solutions in the world.
Thus far, we have recorded some significant achievements; likewise, we encountered some challenges in the process. But we haven`t faced any major setbacks, thanks to the kind support of our partners and my mentors and advisors in the environmental activism space. In terms of funding people might think that we have a major funding source; actually we haven`t got any major external funding yet. Most of the projects that we have executed thus far were funded independently by us.
We have sponsored over 80 underprivileged children and orphans through Surge Africa`s ‘Save Our Children’ educational program in the past two years – and we are continuing to do so. In addition, we have helped to remediate over 16 hectares of land in some states in northwestern Nigeria: Kano, Katsina, and Jigawa. Also, we have trained more than 200 farmers from across 14 communities in Nigeria and equipped them with skills and techniques on how to adapt to changing climate using nature-based solutions and eco-restoration practices such as agroecology to strengthen their climate adaptation capacity and boost climate resilience.
What is the role of local communities in developing and adapting climate resilience solutions?
I have long observed that there are lots of changes happening in our environment caused by global warming which leads to climate change. These changes include but are not limited to heat waves, scarcity of natural resources, land degradation, food shortages and lack of access to water.
Hence, I wanted people to know about climate change especially at the grassroots level because although they are affected the most, many of them don’t know what climate change is all about and how to mitigate its impacts. I feel personally responsible that these communities should know about climate change and have the knowledge of what is affecting them as well as how they can develop responses to it. Moreover, I am passionate about impacting knowledge and creating awareness about climate issues.
There is an increasing rise in conflicts across sub-Saharan Africa due to climate change. What is the nexus between climate change and these rising conflicts?
It cannot be unrelated to the scarcity of natural resources and poor land management practices. For instance, many communities in the Sahel region no longer have access to water bodies because the wells and rivers that they were using only few years ago have dried up. And lack of access to water means farmers can`t farm well which will ultimately result in poor crop yield and also lead to hunger and migration.
In addition, the environmental conflicts that we are currently experiencing are also a direct result of poor land management which causes people to migrate in search of greener pastures, once their resources have been depleted. This is a common practice particularly among farmers and pastoralists who lack adequate knowledge of good land management practices.
Consequently, when people migrate in search of arable land and water for their animals, they move to other regions with distinct cultural and religious beliefs which sometimes leads to ethnic hostilities and conflicts. To tackle this, we need to encourage the adoption of indigenous knowledge to proffer solutions for climate adaption in local communities. For example, whereas farmers have for generations been using indigenous knowledge and practices to mitigate the impacts of climate change, due to migration, the knowledge has not been passed down to their offspring.
Local communities have a critical role to play in developing and adapting climate change resilience solutions. Hence, these communities should be trained and encouraged to use their indigenous knowledge to resolve these issues. Some of these communities are hard-to-reach, hence we just need to let them know that they have the answers to some of these problems and all they need to do is to adapt them in their communities.
Editor’s note: This interview has been edited for length and clarity
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