Diana Kyalo, 26, is a land rights advocate and founder of Land Pages, a resource portal for land issues across Africa. She lives in Kenya.
For Earth Day, Diana shared some challenges and opportunities in the fight against climate change, why youth are leading the drive for action, and her vision for a climate secure future.
How has climate change affected your life? Your community?
I come from a community which relies heavily on agriculture-small scale farming as livelihood. Growing up I have seen a significant drop in the food production. This means less for surplus for sale.
Though there has been improvement in the kind of seedlings, the inconsistent rainfall patterns frustrate farmers. My hometown is a basin, it is surrounded by hills which have significant density of forests. In search of other forms of income, charcoal burning and illegal logging has befallen these forests. Sometimes these activities lead to brush fires in the forests. Such destruction of forest disturbs the micro-climate in my hometown. The lack of work in agriculture has led to young people and more male adults migrating to urban areas in search of employment opportunities.
What are you doing to lessen climate change impacts in your community? How are you adapting to changing circumstances?
I am guilty of not doing enough! See I reuse my Nutella jars, I even have woven tote bags for shopping, I plant trees in the villages in my father’s farm papers, I even take walks to the supermarkets. But you know what, I still buy cooking oil plastic containers. It can feel helpless sometimes.
I however do not give up. I do what I know best – I advocate for secure rights for all, especially the youth. There are linkages between land tenure and climate change. I know we are energetic and given the opportunity we can make decisions which will be impactful to our lives.
Why is youth involvement important in the fight for climate justice? What makes youth special?
Youth constitute the majority of the global population and we will inherit the earth. We inherit the mistakes of the older generations, and the effects will not be kind to us. Countries where youth form a majority of the population heavily depend on agriculture, which is directly affected by climate change.
Youth are special because they have decided to raise their voices and act. Millions of young voices globally are contributing in the war on climate change. I am always excited when I visit flea markets in my city and see all eco-friendly businesses and products run by young people. From reusable straws to fashion apparels from recycled materials. Youth are the driving force in this agenda. Despite the many barriers young people face, they know the realities and are working for a better earth.
What role do land rights play in climate action?
Access to land and security of tenure are widely recognized as critical to improving the situation of the poor, who often live in informal settlements with no recognized rights to shelter or land that can provide food for basic needs. The rapidly increasing number of people living in non-regularized settlements in developing countries presents a significant challenge in the fight against poverty. These existing challenges when combined with climate change inflict more challenges to societies.
The 2019 Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change study stated unequivocally that land is related to climate change, as it absorbs and stores about a third of all man-made pollution through its trees, plants, and soil.
Why are land rights for youth particularly important?
Climate vulnerabilities can have different intensities on different land tenure systems. Securing land rights informs effective land use planning and control. Land tenure insecurity can reduce incentives for good land management, resulting in environmental degradation.
Youths are more vulnerable to climate impact; they also are more likely to have insecure and informal land arrangements. Youth, just like in my hometown, are more likely to migrate when affected by climate change. Secure land rights for youth and more importantly inviting youth to decision making on land matters, can create room for innovation. Youth can thrive in tenure systems which allow for more flexible lifestyles. Youth can make huge contributions in climate action by leveraging on research and technology in land conservation efforts.
What changes do you hope to see in your lifetime?
Just like YILAA and Landesa have accorded me the opportunity to amplify my voice, I hope to see many other young people getting involved in land conversations. It is my hope that through YILAA and Landesa we can have change agents across Africa mobilizing and defending and promoting our interests in land.
Besides, I hope to see more young people being involved in the decision-making tables, where young people can have a say on development issues affecting them. I hope to see greener cities; it is discouraging to see how green spaces in cities are dwindling and infrastructure takes up more space. I hope to see a community with more equitable resource–sharing techniques.
I hope for a safer, cleaner and peaceful earth. Namaste!