Young climate champion pushes hard from the periphery

Kholwani Nyathi

He prides himself in pushing for the meaningful participation of children and young people in shaping their future
Desire Nyagura
UNICEFZimbabwe/2023/Kudzai Tinago
22 June 2023
Epworth, Zimbabwe- Desire Nyagura is emerging as a leading voice in Zimbabwe’s fight against climate change and is aggressively pushing for a clean and safe environment in urban areas.

Nyagura (18) from Epworth, a township on the eastern periphery of the capital Harare, has been in the thick of things from an early age by providing leadership as a climate advocate.

He is a member of the Adolescent Youth Advisory Committee for UNICEF Zimbabwe and a former junior mayor for Epworth.

“In Epworth, I have been pushing for practical steps to be taken to protect the environment by authorities and the community,” Nyagura said.

“I advocate against unsafe and improper waste disposal and unsustainable waste management systems.

“There are dumpsites in Epworth, which are located in delicate areas, and they pose a major threat to the environment and wellbeing of the community.

“Through the Junior Council, we pushed for proper management, and the local authorities have been trying, but clearly, they are failing to maintain the dumpsites, and that’s why I am now advocating for their relocation.”

Call to action

He is mobilising the community to sign a petition to relocate a dumpsite in Epworth’s Glenwood Park, which he says has become a health time bomb.

“The dumpsite is now an eyesore,” Nyagura said. “It is in the middle of a housing area and a business centre, which does not bode well for the community’s health.

“I have started collecting signatures for the petition I intend to submit to the council for action to be taken before it is too late.

“I am receiving much support from the business owners, who are the most affected by the dumpsite, and I will submit it in the coming few days.”

UNICEFZimbabwe/2023/Kudzai Tinago
To ensure that his advocacy has an impact beyond Epworth and Harare, Nyagura founded a youth-focused organisation known as Youth Light Zimbabwe, which deals with climate change and the management of the environment.

He is also in the process of launching an organisation that aims to empower Zimbabwe children as agents for change in climate advocacy known as the Nature Police.

“I also advocate for climate change adaptation, health and sustainable environmental management through my Facebook page called A Beep From Nature, where I post advocacy messages on areas that need protection in Epworth and Harare,” Nyagura added.

“As children and young people, we call for developing, financing and implementing child-sensitive climate strategies, policies and plans.

“We call for meaningful engagement, inclusion and participation of children in all decision-making platforms for climate change.

“We also call for the provision and development of climate resilient services in sectors such as health, education, nutrition, water sanitation and hygiene as well as social protection.”

Children and climate change

According to the 2021 UNICEF Children’s Climate Risk Index, Zimbabwe ranks at ‘high risk to climate-induced disasters’. The 2022 Zimbabwe Population Census reports that 6.5 million of the population in Zimbabwe are children aged 0 -18. This means that 43% of the population in Zimbabwe faces heightened risk from the impacts of climate-induced emergencies.

Children suffer the biggest brunt of climate change as it directly affects their ability to survive and thrive, yet they are the least responsible for climate change.

They are also victims of increasingly frequent and severe storms, flooding and droughts that lead to outbreaks of diseases, food insecurity, safe water shortages and broader livelihoods impacts on their families.

Nyagura’s other passion is the planting of trees. He has assisted several environment clubs around Epworth to secure seedlings for different tree species.

“We have been running several programmes to support environmental clubs in schools to plant trees,” he said.

“My biggest motivation comes from the fact that most schools do not have shade for children to sit during break time, and they end up loitering in corridors.”

“So, a simple solution is to plant trees around the schools and provide a natural shed for the children to sit in during break time.”

Actors of change

The climate advocate’s activism and the impact he is making in the community vindicates UNICEF’s position that children and young people can be actors of change, and their voices need to be heard in climate adaptation and mitigation efforts.

UNICEF also emphasises that essential services such as water, sanitation, health, education, nutrition and protection must be climate sensitive and resilient, a theme underpinning Nyagura’s advocacy.

Nyagura prides himself in pushing for the meaningful participation of children and young people in shaping their future.