Investing in Change: A Case for Supporting Youth Climate Initiatives

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A survey by Pew Research Center found that only about 28% of the public believe that climate activism support climate action. With younger generations being more engaged with climate change, it would be safe to assume that supports for climate action would also reciprocate. However, it couldn’t be further than the truth as youth-led climate initiatives makes up only 0.76% of grants.

Firstly, let me define activism because a lot of the time we only associate activism with campaigning, rallying, and protests. While there is nothing wrong with this, any way we can get our voices heard, any ways we can advocate for change are good medium and more power to the young activists out there, but activism is so much more than that. Activism is also a hands-on solution that empower communities like providing training to the local people on composting or providing them equipment to make compost.

But I believe these discrepancies are being noticed. There are efforts at the global stage to support youth-led initiatives and I am going to shed light on the two opportunities my team received last year. In 2023, my team got this amazing opportunity to represent our work and apply for fundings. One was the World Food Forum (WFF) flagship event while the other was Youth4Climate: Sparking Solutions initiative both in Rome.

To give a bit of context, at the WFF event we were presenting our works in biopesticide prototype as part of Youth Food Lab which identifies, supports, and scales high-potential solutions to transform agrifood systems worldwide. Our team, Wetlands for Nepal was one of the 10 teams who were part of this first cohort. We were provided with capacity building, networking, and mentorship through this program and finally with the opportunity to represent the team in WFF flagship event. With the Youth4Climate: Sparking Solutions, I had applied for funding in the theme of food and agriculture in a bid to promote regenerative agriculture for green economy through my organization SENSE. As a shortlist candidate I was invited to present our solution.

The excitement was through the roof. It was a first-time exposure for us at a global event at this scale. At the WFF event, Manoj presented our story how Wetlands for Nepal started as a nature-based solution for restoring a degraded wetland and how we turned the problem of invasive species proliferation into a solution for pest problems in the farms. At the Youth4Climate event, I presented how a regenerative approach is the way to go for farming and tourism as climate action and livelihood regeneration.

In both the events we were met with success. Manoj nabbed the Youth Seed Award allowing us to run tests while I was one of the winners as Youth4Climate awardee which enabled us to work on promoting regenerative agriculture.

These fundings have enabled us to conduct further research on biopesticide evaluating its effectiveness on fall armyworm, an agricultural pest. Likewise, we have also been able to practice co-creation with the local community for developing a shared vision of regenerated landscape at Nagdaha because of these grants.

We are building support for our initiative based on several projects implemented on different problems in the same area as opposed to the single project centered approach. This has taken considerable efforts from our end and is a concern for many youth movements as well. Project-specific funding can pose a much bigger administrative burden for youths. Likewise, over-professionalizing the youth-led movement can stifle organic grassroot youth movement, as well as lack of trust can hamper the youth movements in climate action.

As someone who has been bogged down by a project-centric, over-professionalizing, and an untrusting funding scheme transition to a more flexible, co-creating, and trusting scheme, I can confidently say the latter conserves my energy and will to continue working.

At one time I was so frustrated with some grants requiring that we follow everything to the agreement with even slight changes warranting long meetings and approval and all that work too on a voluntary basis that I felt it would have been better to not have the grant at all. But I persevered when many people left because they couldn’t handle the zero paying voluntary work with many red tapes I still persevered and ended the project on a good note. It took all the energy I had, and I thought I would be resentful of the whole ordeal and would have to stop talking to people for some period. Yes, I was that frustrated but the anger and resentment all wafted away in the end because the reception of the project was heartening. 

Hence, it is necessary to provide flexibility to youth-led initiatives with respect and trust throughout the process. This will empower us to keep on working for the greater good of climate action and maintain momentum, but this requires reciprocal support as well. It is also necessary to acknowledge the work that we have put into. Time and again I hear that we aren’t doing any good by traveling to events, but such recognition fuels our commitment to work more. And the networking opportunities that we get out of such events are invaluable as not only do we get to meet experts in our fields, but the youth-to-youth transference of knowledge and shared experiences keeps us motivated to strive further.

Anu Rai

I am an aspiring environmental researcher.

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