Youth emerge as vanguard of a growing movement to restore degraded landscapes in Africa

26 May 2021
Fatou Jeng, a youth climate activist from Gambia, was recently featured in Landscape News’ 8 African women shaping the future. She founded the youth-led environmental NGO Clean Earth Gambia and served as one of 30 people selected to organize the first ever UN Youth Climate Summit in 2019.

Key facts

  • Median age of Africa’s population: 19.7 years
  • Projected African youth population by 2030: 1.2 billion
  • Drylands occupy almost half of Africa’s land surface
  • About 50% of Africa’s population lives on drylands
  • GLF Africa: 70% of participants aged 18 to 35
  • 3000 young people from 90 countries sign up

Young people are emerging as the vanguard of a growing movement to restore degraded landscapes in Africa. With a median age of 19.7 years, Africa’s diverse population is much younger than that of any other continent in the world. These unique demographics offer a significant advantage in the drive to revive its ecosystems and safeguard people’s livelihoods.

Efforts to mitigate and adapt to the effects of a warming planet are gaining a welcome boost from the abundant energy and commitment of Africa’s youth, which is projected to number 1.2 billion by 2030. The transformation of economies along the path to a decarbonized world will also require young, dynamic workforces that are up to the challenge of restoring land on the African continent.

The 2021‒2030 UN Decade on Ecosystem Restoration presents an ideal opportunity to tap the growing interest of Africa’s youth in landscape restoration activities. Almost half of Africa’s surface is categorized as drylands, which are home to about 500 million people, or roughly 50 percent of the continent’s population, according to the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations.

Drylands provide jobs and livelihoods for millions of people, who depend primarily on rain-fed agriculture and livestock husbandry for their survival. However, these water-scarce landscapes in Africa are prone to degradation due to the intensification of agricultural production, mining, infrastructure development and urbanization. Climate change, armed conflicts and the economic fallout from the COVID-19 pandemic are exacerbating this process.

GLF Africa

The Global Landscapes Forum is organizing the first-ever conference focused entirely on African drylands. GLF Africa: Restoring Africa’s Drylands will address the urgent need to rapidly increase and improve efforts to restore the world’s drylands, almost half of which are located in Africa.

This conference will serve as the perfect forum for young people to connect with each other, share their work and network with other organizations. They will also have the opportunity to create new partnerships, while exploring ways to get involved in restoration activities and to bring positive change to landscapes on the African continent. What’s more, 100 young people have been paired with a mentor to receive guidance on their career and to create a supportive connection that will last beyond the conference.

At least 70 percent of the conference’s registered participants are students and young professionals aged from 18 to 35 years, with more than 3000 individuals from 90 countries having already signed up. This reflects the eagerness of young Africans to take action and drive change on land restoration activities.

Young people will also be among the speakers or moderators in plenaries and conference sessions, while working behind the scenes as event volunteers. Speakers include ecopreneur Helina Teklu, who is helping restore Ethiopia with her seed bombs; Fatou Jeng, a climate activist who founded the youth-led organization Clean Earth Gambia to focus on climate change, gender and conservation; Diana Kyalo, who is raising awareness about land-tenure rights for youth; and many other young thought leaders from all over Africa.

Youth on the agenda at GLF Africa

During GLF Africa, you will have the opportunity to follow these youth-led sessions twice per day (East Africa Time applies):

2 June
08:30 – Young restoration practitioners showcase successful restoration stories.

13:00 – Activists and ecopreneurs talk about dryland restoration as youth job opportunities.

3 June
08:00 – We will highlight the amazing role that women play in restoration efforts and the importance of passing on traditional knowledge.

10:30 – An intergenerational plenary about exploring challenges and identifying solutions on land-tenure conflicts.

13:00 – Discussion on the importance of integrating agroforestry in restoration solutions.

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