On a Saturday morning, a group of young people gather at the shores of Lake Elementaita in Nakuru County, form a circle and start sharing some black little balls, the size of macadamia nuts.
They then take slingshots and start walking towards the sleeping warrior hill, a few kilometres from the lake.
Some of them carry gunny bags, which as we later learn, are for putting waste that they collect as they ascend uphill.
The young people, many of them in their 20s, are members of Slow Food Youth Network (SFYN) Kenya, who support biodiversity and actions which lean towards climate change mitigation.
SFYN Kenya is a branch of the larger Slow Food Network, an international organisation that supports access to good, clean and fair food for all.
SFYN Kenya unites groups of young food enthusiasts, chefs, activists, students and food producers who participate in public debate about current issues.
Raising food awareness
Through their events and activities, SFYN Kenya raises awareness about important food issues such as how to feed the world, food waste and sustainable food production, stimulating positive action on climate change.
As the youth ascend, they take the slingshots in turns and throw the black balls all over the hills. One would easily be forgiven for confusing them with bird hunters.
But no, the black round things are actually seed balls, most of them of indigenous trees such as acacia, which the young people are broadcasting hoping that at least most of them will germinate.
“Although as young people we may not have resources, we have the zeal and energy to play part in climate change mitigation in our own little way,” said SFYN coordinator Elsphas Masanga.
The hike, he added, was to encourage people to walk more thus bringing down fossil consumption of fuels by vehicles.
It also aimed at creating awareness on deforestation and environmental conservation through, for example, garbage collection and separation.
As they ascended up the hill, discussions revolved around the current climate change situation and its effects such as erratic weather conditions occasioned by drought, floods and heavy winds.
By the time of descent, the hikers had broadcast about 40,000 seed balls, with the hope that they would all sprout, thrive and make the hill a cooler, greener place.
Drought in the north
Currently, Kenya is facing one of the worst drought situations, especially in the north, owing to failed rains causing shortage of human food as well as pasture.
“Just like other populations, young people face the challenges which come with climate change, but they are barely heard,” said Lucy Githieyah, SFYN matron.
Some of the challenges faced by young people include mental health issues due to anxieties and uncertainties about the future.
Additionally, climate change affects sectors such as employment, which is key for the youth.
Young people account for about 75 per cent of Kenya’s population, meaning that they are highest among every group affected by climate change.
This, Ms Githieyah added, calls for activities that are captivating, relaxing yet in line with resilience and combating climate change and its effects.
“We actively involve youth in biodiversity as a way of enhancing food security, creating employment opportunities and encouraging young people to actively participate in agriculture,” said Ms Githieyah.
At the age of 29, Brian Wachira, who was among the hikers, believe that the youth have, more than anyone else, the highest responsibility in climate change matters.
“We, the millennials, are more informed than both the older and younger generations and must use this knowledge towards building resilience as well as taking mitigating actions,” said Mr Wachira.
Build a green world
He called on young people to develop products and services that will give credible and scalable innovative solutions in leading campaigns to build a green world.
In partnership with like-minded youth, Mr Wachira founded Native Thrill Safaris with the aim of promoting local ecotourism and advocating for conservation of indigenous ecosystems.
“By encouraging local excursions we help the locals appreciate nature and also get a first-hand witness of the devastating effects of human activities on our natural attractions,” he noted.
According to experts, it is not all dull and groom in climate change matters and its effects as young people can leverage on opportunities around the same.
“Climate change should not be seen as an all-weep-and-cry affair. There are numerous opportunities which come with it,” said Dr Cromwel Lukorito, an agro-meteorology expert at the University of Nairobi.
In the digital era, he noted, young people can take advantage and engage in economic activities such as e-marketing, e-extension services and early warning systems.
All they need to do, he added, is to be creative and come up with adaptation and solution-based technologies that their target markets can take up fast.
Additionally, young people should explore opportunities in research and academia and pursue lines that are geared towards solving the climate change puzzle.
“They also have a duty to mentor children who are younger than them on climate change matters so that they can prepare them for the future,” said Dr Lukorito.
“Youth are agents of change and they should take key roles in climate change matters,” he emphasised.
He called on the government, development organisations, academic institutions and other stakeholders to ensure that climate change matters are embedded strategically in youth programmes.