Interviews: Empowering Young People

On 8th December 2015, I have decided to attend one of the side event in COP21, known as “Climate Innovators: Empowering a Global Generation of Young People“. Through this inspiring side event, I have decided to approach two young panellists and to get to know more about them and their amazing works!

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Rogie Nichole Aquino, the Philippine. I am a student in a pre-law program at Colegio de San juan de Letran located in Intramuros, Manila, Philippines. For the past two years, I have been devoting myself in my action plan, the Soles4Souls in the Philippines wherein we promote healthcare awareness  and cognitive development to the Filipino youth through interactive trainings and activities, and it aims to address issues that are non-priority of a typical Filipino family under the poverty line – Health Education particularly on Hygiene, Oral and Dental care, and Posture education of the Filipino children. 

We also initiate climate and environmental projects such as “Nilad restoration.”

The Nilad (Scyphophora hydrophyllacea) is a mangrove species whose population is considered threatened in the Philippines and whose worldwide population, according to the International Union for the Conservation of Nature (IUCN) is continuously decreasing in an alarming rate.

Incidentally, the name Manila or Maynila, the Capital of the Philippines is derived from this mangrove species which means “where Nilad grows” or “there is Nilad.”

Long before the Spanish conquest in the Philippines, Nilad can be found in great number along the coasts of Manila Bay and Pasig River. Today, not even a single Nilad plant can be found along these bodies of water.

Through the initiative of my friend, Mr. Rico Mariano, we aim to widen the Nilad Project across the Philippines. The Nilad Project aims to propagate this mangrove species and one of its main goals is to re-introduce it in Pasig River and Manila’s esteros (water tributaries that drains to Pasig River). As of today, the Nilad Project is in the process of acclimatizing juvenile Nilad plants procured in Pagbilao, Quezon province where the biggest Nilad sanctuary is located.

The Nilad Project’s present focus or interest is to propagate by acclimatizing young Nilad plants in urban garden environment and introduce to all schools and barangays in Manila at the same time conduct an educational campaign regarding the importance of mangrove in mitigating the effects of pollution and climate change because Nilad and other mangroves are proven to be an effective carbon sink and in the prevention of coastal erosion and as defense wall against strong winds and storm surges.

What drives you to do work on these projects?

The youth of the Philippines. I do believe that we are the main actors in making this planet sustainable. I believe that if we continuously promote these positive acts, we would be able to inspire and change the lives of several youth in the world.

As a student. How do you get funding for all the projects you are running?

We really tap various government agencies and private companies to gather support for our projects. For instance, one of our partners in the Soles4Souls project donated 300 slippers for the youth last December 2014 and along with some aids from a bookstore that had willingly given stories books to the children and youth in the province. The U.S. Department of State through the Young Southeast Asian Leaders Initiative (YSEALI) also supported the project by providing helpful advice and resources in making the project a success.

What are some of the works you have done in Paris COP21?

I came to Paris, France for the COP21 via sponsorship from UNESCO. At COP21, me and my team made a lot recommendations for local practices on biodiversity and climate change. Through this presentation, we have made our voice (as youth) be heard.

We first attended the Conference of Youth last November 26, 2015 to represent the UNESCO Youth Forum team at the UNESCO booth. We talked to various youth delegates and invited them to join the global youth platform that we are currently working on.

My partner, Nasha Ayelen from Argentina, and I were also part of the Young and Future Generation’s Day Intergenerational Inquiry last December 3, 2015. We were privileged to deliver our speech together with the UNFCCC Executive Secretary, Ms. Christiana Figueres, herself in behalf of the youth who participated during the UNESCO Youth Forum.

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“It is not too late to make a stand. It is not too late to provide an impact and it is not to late to make yourself valuable by establishing a legacy in your community, country and in the entire world.” – Aquino at Young and Future Generation’s Day Intergenerational Inquiry

During the UNESCO Social Transformations in the Face of Climate Change event at the UNESCO Headquarters last December 7, 2015, I were able to share my knowledge when it comes to “Taking Action in Climate Change, Policy and Legal Instruments, and Social Transformations” together with Ms. Francine Cousteau, President of The Cousteau Society, Ms. Corinne Lepage, Lawyer and Founder of Ecological Party COP21, and Mr. Paul Oquist, Minister-Private Secretary for National Policies for the Presidency of the Republic Nicaragua.

Lastly, I were part of the panel during the Climate Innovators: Empowering a Global Generation of Youth People event last December 8, 2015. I represented the Soles4Souls Philippines and UNESCO during the said event and also shared my views in various topics such as the significance of the youth in this fight against climate change.

As a youth, what do you do to make your voice heard?

In our current era, the youth generation usually has a lot of opportunities given by various sectors of the government and private corporations. However, not enough measures are being taken by these entities to fully make the voice of youth be heard and be part of the deciding body.

With this, we really need to prove to them that we, as change-makers, are capable of being a great support in this very significant decision-making. We can start by establishing our own initiatives and local practices in our communities. I do believe that the recommendations made during the UNESCO Youth Forum are really important in making the adults realize and fully understand that we are not just here to talk and propose some programs because we are here to make a change and be the change that this beloved world needs.

“You need to promote and initiate change. Who else will start if it is not me or you?”

Do you have any upcoming events happening at COP or Post-COP that you would like to share with us?

We would be part of the follow-up activities in relation to the recommendations made during the UNESCO Youth Forum. Be updated by checking the Ninth UNESCO Youth Forum website and join us in building a sustainable world!


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Kabiito Denis, Uganda. I am a farmer of 8 ha land in the central region of UGANDA (I am also a aquaculturist & agriculturalist). I mainly grow coffee, maize, beans, bananas and rear some goats. Farming is my passion. I have been born on a farm. My dad is a farmer, and my mother is a poultry and crop farmer (mainly for bananas). I started work with Caritas Kasanaensis (CK) around 2005 with an aim of advising farmers on sustainable agriculture and in aquaculture practices.

“Advising farmers is not easy if you DON’T practice. After four years of working, I have decided to start farming on my own. This allows me to harness and strengthen my existing knowledge and skills that help me to give better advice to our local farmers.”

At Caritas Kasanaensis (CK), I was focusing on organizing farmers into groups/ associations and cooperatives via advocacy, marketing, resilient building on risks and shocks and working on governances (i.e leadership, and civil rights). Also,  have successfully formed special youth groups and associations. The majority of the farmers in CK are old, so we are trying to form younger generation of farmer groups.

I have been working together with Uganda National Farmers’ Federation (bodies for farmers in Uganda) to establish the Uganda National Young Farmers association (UNFYA – an affiliate). Currently, there are 6 staffs working at UNFYA and it is supported independently from our own resources. Sometimes, we receive supports from youth secretary in each and every district voluntarily too. Now, I am a National Coordinator of UNYFA. We establish structures right from grassroots to national levels as in Uganda. Hopefully in two to three years time, We can be unite as many youth as possible. There are two regions we are focusing on with 20,000 youth from 750 groups of people.

What does youth think about farming?

Not that very much because youth still take agriculture as a dirty and unprofitable business.

Farming is a “Dignified” and a paying job.

How are you or your organization going to inspire youth to join farming ?

Firstly, we provide a platform where we will evaluate the youth interests (What they are looking for).  We will be looking for activities youth would want to be involved in that in (e.g. training in technology and mechanization, exposures, and also exchange visits including exchange programs with German farmers).

It is common in Uganda where, many young people coming from farmer’s background do not have succession plans in the family. Hence, most of the young people do not have land or credits to start farming.  

Secondly, we will engage with the government, elders and the farmers to understand how we can assist our youth. We have to look at how to link the youth into the value chains. For instance, in the area of marketing and communication, you often you need money to establish.

Thirdly, we are currently looking at advocating special farming/agriculture education to be incorporated into education policy of Uganda. There is lack farmers’ institution (special education) in our country.

German-Uganda Student Exchange Program to Exchange Agricultural Knowledge.

German-Uganda Student Exchange Program to Exchange Agricultural Knowledge.

So, why are you at COP21 today and what you are looking forward at COP21?

Our mother organization is linked to World Food Organization. Platform for all farmers in the globe (based in Rome) and is advocating farmers’ issues in international forum. I am an African Representative for the youth in the WFO of selected community.

What are the major / potential climate change induced disasters that are affecting your country?

Prolonged drought, increasing temperature, erratic rains, two massive rains cause floods (in December 2015, we are experiencing extreme El Nino effect). At Uganda, we have deforestation, pests disease, prevalence of pests and diseases e.g. coffee, banana, due to increasing temperature. We also have crop failure, death of animals and livestock.

Climate Change is going to affect the younger generation of young farmers. It is happening now and it is still changing in the future. They are going to face challenges in mitigation, adaptation and resiliency.

Written by Jolene

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