I grew up in a village setting like millions across Africa do. Our village called Jinkfuin was and still is a typical African setting where you have a chief, you have an entire community, and every child is everyone’s child and there is this African proverb that says, “it takes a village to raise a child”. We were brought up in a communal way of interacting with each other. Doing things to support the community. I went to school in the same village and after primary school and secondary school, I later went to High school in the city of Bamenda where I did my GCE Advanced levels.
At the university, I studied education and physics, so I was trained to be a teacher. After my university studies, I volunteered for one year and the experience gained from this volunteering helped get me a scholarship to study at the University of Nottingham, where I did my Masters and later on my PhD in Climate change and Development Policy. What I am today is a climate change Action and Development Policy Expert. More importantly, my passion is to inspire young people so that they can be able to find purpose and retool their skills in such a way that benefits society and helps them see themselves as problem solvers.
When we were growing up, we were not as vocal as the young people of today and I think one of the reasons is the social media platforms they have today like Twitter, LinkedIn, so they can say anything they want to say so they have the opportunities we never had 40 years ago. The reality is what I have noticed is that young people especially today seem not to have role models to inspire them to use their skills to solve problems but rather they look up to people who have wealth and are popular. It is more about optics and not solutions to problems.
As a result of that young people want to be like them, but what I have learnt is that dealing with the youth you need to guide them to make them see value in themselves. Most of them follow instructions and guidance when they are told it is valuable to build themselves. Inspiring the Youth to a self-belief that they have what it takes, is one of the most important aspects. When you show them an example of how life experiences can help shape you from nothing to something, this becomes a very powerful message for them to believe they can make it.
It is super important that people showcase the good of others starting from themselves to inspire others so that at least they can also know that if they are good and they do something nice, they will become role models for others. The beauty is, being a role model, sometimes you might not know, but there are some people, who are silently looking up to you and emulating you. Sometimes when you do good you will not have an output now, however, one day someone will tell you that they emulated you.
Your actions and behaviour are copied by others and hence you must always do what is right and connect with those who are doing right. I think that kind of value system approach to engaging people, building on values of respect, humility, is urgently needed in our society. Value systems approach used to engage people, building on values of respect, humility, ensuring that we can also listen to the guidance and instruction and do something great is what is urgently needed in our society today.
The reality is if you look at a community there are so many challenges. I call it multifaceted challenges. I mean you have challenges of poverty. People live in poverty, they cannot afford a home, they cannot afford food and they cannot even afford to send their kids to school. These are realities that are spotted across the world. However, at the same time if you look at one challenge that wires throughout all these challenges is climate change because when there is a drought there is no food. When there is a drought, those who depend on livestock, their livestock die, then when there is no food, those who depend on food to feed their family will not be able to feed their family. Those who depend on selling food in the market will not be able to. So, climate change only helps to make a problem that is already a big problem bigger. If you are not addressing climate change, then the injustice aspect becomes even bigger because, in a world that is so rich, no single citizen should be poor; that is a fact and so if there is an issue, an environmental issue like climate change that can be addressed, we must all pull together to do whatever we can to ensure we address it.
Young people taking up climate activism are doing the right thing. However, activism alone is important but not enough. Activism is a means not an end. Therefore, in as much as there is activism, there needs also to be certain actions that young people can take. Therefore, I developed and championed the innovative development model called Innovative volunteerism which centers on engaging the entirety of Africa in providing structured guidance to tap into opportunities in the entire agro value chain leveraging clean energy solutions and other enablers but do so for the willing who are ready to be guided. This has yielded fruits from across the entire continent. Innovative volunteerism stems from the fact that many always think without money they cannot do anything which is false and has crippled Africa for many years and now with motivation and innovative structured guidance leveraging on passion and inspiration for the willing we are debunking that myth of money first attitude. The structural guidance also ensures traceability of climate action solutions and accountability which is key for transformational development both for individual youth and continent. Dr Munang