Nature, tech, and youth: Africa leads climate solutions and their young leaders show why

Briefing Room 04.09.23

Posted by Nature4Climate
Africa Climate Week - 2023
Photos: JSE Productions/ Youth Bridge Foundation

Africa Climate Summit 2023 started today (4), taking place in Nairobi, Kenya. This is one of four Regional Climate Weeks that will be held this year to build momentum ahead of the UN Climate Change Conference, COP 28, in December 2023. Nature4Cilmate (N4C) is proud to be using this week as the opportunity to champion African climate solutions implemented by local youth leading six organizations across Africa: in Ghana, Kenya, Uganda, Liberia and Nigeria.

These young leaders will be participating in multiple nature hub panels and activities until September 6th, including the “Implementation Dialogues, Showcasing NBC across Africa”, hosted by Nature4Climate and scheduled to happen next Thursday (7) at 4h30 pm (GMT+3).

We hope that their participation will bolster the UN Decade of Restoration by enhancing nature-based solutions as these organizations are at the front line of devising and implementing nature-based remedies that not only revive essential ecosystems crucial for their communities’ wellbeing but also build resilience against the impacts of climate change. Africa Climate Summit provides these organizations with an opportunity to expand their network and share their successes and lessons with the African and global climate communities.

Who are the local leaders behind Africa’s climate solutions projects?

Since 2022, through the so-called DUAPA project (Good Tree), N4C has allocated approximately US$155,000 in grants for African organizations. These funds, in part, go to supporting young African leaders to spearhead climate action: “We co-create solutions with the youth in the community. We provide platforms for them to express their concerns and propose alternatives they believe will benefit them,” says Joyce Nyame, Program Manager, Youth Bridge Foundation, one of the supported organizations.

All the leaders that Nature4Climate is boosting at Africa Climate Week and are part of the DUAPA project adhere to three key pillars:

  1. Community design and implementation with a community-based organization (CBO)
  2. Economic, environmental, food security, resilience and other benefits directly to the community, regardless of any future offset/crediting revenue
  3. Community-based digital Measurement, Reporting, and Verification (MRV) to foment transparency, scientific accounting, and digital linking of relatively smaller projects that are going unfunded and under the radar.

Get to know the organizations:

Youth Bridge Foundation – Ghana

Youth Bridge Foundation’s “Plant to Own a Tree” campaign encourages communities and individuals across the region to plant trees and share them on social media. YBF has a long history of working with local communities and the local government, but this is their first foray directly into conservation work: Joyce Nyame says that for YBF, “solutions must be consideration of people’s livelihoods. Whether it’s nature-based solutions or technology, we ensure that the community doesn’t perceive them as threats.”

In 2022 , Nature4Climate introduced Peruvian activist Betty Rubio to the Youth Bridge Foundation team in Ghana, to share her use of technology with these communities so that they could adopt and repurpose the same tools for much-needed reforestation activities.

Kenya Environmental Action Network – Kenya

KEAN brings together youth groups working on community-based restoration projects to combine mapping and monitoring for impact. Activities they provide include activism training, planting trees, environmental education and agroecology. Some of the remarkable KEAN’s initiatives include organizing the Africa Youth Caravan to COP27 and its current role in the secretariat of the Africa Youth Africa Climate Summit, bringing together over 650 youth from various African countries and youth allies worldwide, contributing to Africa’s vision for a sustainable future.

Co-founder Kaluki Paul Mutuku, a climate advocate and environmental leader in Kenya, explains that their “primary mission is to highlight key demands that need to be addressed in terms of climate financing, supporting youth-led projects in Africa, and ensuring that we contribute to policy processes, with young people recognized not as victims but as co-leaders in the climate and biodiversity space.”

Big Ship – Kenya

#BringBackTudorCreek is the main Big Ship’s mangrove restoration project that conserves and re-establishes deforested and/or degraded mangrove ecosystems in partnership with the surrounding communities who take the lead in the reforestation. Through the reforestation drive, Big Ship has planted over 300,000 mangroves on 200 hectares (494 acres) of coastline in Tudor Creek. The organization also assisted community members in starting up their own beekeeping practices in the newly reforested areas which helps safeguard the mangroves from clear-cutting and prevents the space from being used as a dumping ground.

“As an organization focusing on nature-based solutions, we have gained a unique perspective by integrating beekeeping, clean tourism involving canoe boats, and fishing through restoration efforts. The mangroves we planted have created a favourable habitat for crabs.” says Bosco Juma, Executive Director of Big Ship. As a result, the creek is flourishing and is no longer threatened by harmful resource exploitation, including mangroves being used for construction and charcoal.

A common theme with these organizations is the long-term job security benefits that they bring to the communities, on top of the groundbreaking climate action. And Big Ship is no different. Bosco continues:

“In terms of insights, I’ve cultivated a profound understanding of how to cultivate a dynamic force of young individuals with diverse skills, all dedicated to advancing climate action. This involves creating a tailor-made training program that seamlessly integrates various skills into the ecosystem of climate action.”

Regenshope Initiative – Uganda

Regenshope has launched a community reforestation project across the Gulu province in northern Uganda to restore degraded landscapes through diversified reforestation and support food security for local communities. Regenshope started with hectares of forest with local communities in the Nwoya District, planting 13 native species that produce fruit, herbs and more. Not only was this aiming to restore and enhance the local biodiversity and ecosystem but also boost the local economy.

Regenshope may act locally, but the organization thinks globally, as embodied by Robert Ocen, the Co-founder and Director of Regenshope Initiative: “As we work toward mitigating climate change, this isn’t just a local issue or a problem for high-income nations. It’s a global challenge that requires collective action. We need to come together as one. I’m incredibly grateful for the opportunity to be connected with various players, different people working in the same field.”

Now, Regenshope plans to expand their efforts and start a tree nursery in partnership with a local university, where they aim to have 50,000 documented planted trees by 2025 and further engage local young people.

Liberian Youth for Climate Action – Liberia

Studies have shown that in Liberia, around 2.2 million people are exposed to flooding, 320,000 to coastal erosion, and 2.1 million to windstorms. And with the impact of climate change, the country is expected to see increased risks from natural disasters.

Liberian Youth for Climate Action is a climate change resilience, adaptation capacity and restoration project that engages youth from coastal communities to restore degraded areas. Such degradation has caused erosion, which strengthens the force of storm surges caused by rising sea levels.

“Essentially, [Liberia] functions as the world’s third lung, trailing only the Congo basin and the Amazon rainforest,” says Ezekiel Nyanfor, Founder, Liberian Youth for Climate Action. “This incredible potential holds promise for the international community, especially as we diligently work to safeguard our primary forests and contribute significantly to biodiversity conservation.”

As of 2023, LYCA, in partnership with local communities, has planted over 1,000 cashew, moringa and coconut trees with no sign of slowing down; LYCA aims to plant several thousand more trees in this area. The organization also engages young people in reducing waste in their communities and using these waste materials as fertilizers for tree planting.

Nigerian Conservation Foundation – Nigeria

The Nigerian Conservation Foundation (NCF) is engaged in preserving Nigeria’s unique ecosystems. In the Omo Forest, where one of Nigeria’s last elephant populations resides, illegal logging has posed significant threats. NCF, in collaboration with local youth park rangers, has taken action by planting almost 7,000 native tree species and utilizing MRV technology to measure the growth and survival rates of these trees.

NCF extends its efforts to the Nnamdi Azikiwe University Forest in Anambra State, where they have planted 10,000 trees, including the Giant African Breadfruit, Indigenous Orange, Cashew, Sourop/Guanabana/Graviola, and Bush Mango These trees were carefully selected in consultation with university students from the community. They are all native to eastern Nigeria, and the surrounding communities highly value them for their nutritional and cultural significance. This project has the potential to provide employment opportunities for local youth in the area if properly financed.

“At the core of NCF’s approach is the belief that involving local communities in forest restoration efforts not only ensures sustainability and protection but also contributes to urban greenery, reducing the urban heat island effect and enhancing people’s overall well-being. This strategy creates a win-win situation where the community actively participates in protecting and benefitting from their environment, strengthening livelihoods through forest-based products and carbon sequestration while preserving their cultural and ecological heritage”, explains the NCF representative, Folake Salawu.

How is technology being used in land restoration?

Measurement, Reporting, and Verification (MRV) is a form of nature tech that helps organizations measure, report and verify their work. In our case, MRV takes the form of an application that can be used offline to measure growth, take photos and track the location of trees that have been planted. As Tom Bewick, International Program Specialist at Nature4Climate highlights, “You cannot plant a seed and just walk away from it, expecting to generate desired results.”

MRV allows users to track the growth of a plant from seed to stalk and beyond, with full transparency on the data involved every step of the way.

Using MRV on a global level, organizations from around the world are encouraged to share their data which is collated in a cohesive map, showing the progress of different projects on a global scale. In the last instance, MRV’s technology showcases the impact of the restoration projects on the ground and facilitates opportunities to finance nature-based solutions.

Using MRV technology supports organizations in three ways:

  1. Previously, it was challenging for communities to track the health and growth rate of trees planted in dispersed areas, as consistent data was lacking or non-existent. Using MRV brings a data-led approach to their work, backed by clear digital measurements. This makes it easier to gather insights and learnings as the project progresses.
  2. Progress based on data can be shared amongst stakeholders to maintain interest and strengthen social links.
  3. In the carbon offsetting space, MRV provides a direct connection between a credit or offset purchaser and the developer. This rewards both agents and increases transparency; MRV is the key to making people trust and further invest in any payments for results systems.

However, there are not only nature-related benefits to using MRV. The technology training, which is a key part of the 1 Million Trees project in Liberia, for example, incorporates the use of drones and presents an opportunity for young people to build new technological skills and provide long-term job security. Sanda Sha, of the EU Delegation in Liberia, gives his support to this project and says that not only do projects such as 1 Million Trees help prevent sea erosion but also build the community’s economic resilience.

The important role of nature-based solutions in the climate crisis

Several themes unite these African countries: unemployment, food and health insecurity. It is estimated that Africa currently spends US$35 billion on food imports annually, despite its enormous agricultural potential in part due to climate change-induced land degradation. Indeed, 65% of Africa’s land is currently degraded. Rural communities are dependent on these continuously declining ecosystems for resources such as food and firewood, which makes them most vulnerable to the effects of climate change.

One way in which projects on the frontline of climate change could access funding is by providing investors with carbon credits. The demand for the voluntary carbon market is expected to grow 15 times by 2030, but currently, there is a low quantity of high-integrity carbon credits in the marketplace. This is rooted in the opaque nature of the intermediaries, questions of integrity and lack of reliable, consistent MRV technology communicated to buyers and oversight agencies. Upwards of 50% of credit values disappear among multiple transactions and not enough funds go to communities or front-line project developers or implementors. Presently, 15 developers are issuing 70% of all credits in Africa, and almost none of them disclose their percentages and fees.

Local communities control 37% of the world’s remaining natural lands, and therefore are the perfect actors to carry out effective conservation. Furthermore, Africa proportionately has the world’s highest youth population, providing a plentiful labour pool to execute projects and conserve landscapes.

Research shows that nature-based solutions, and in particular forest-based actions, can provide an important part of the mitigation needed to limit global warming to well below 2°C, and play an important role in meeting the goals of the Paris Agreement. Experts agree that collective action on nature-based solutions can be catalyzed through government action that mainstreams such approaches into national planning. However, financing remains a critical factor; investments must triple by 2030 to meet climate, nature and land-neutrality targets.


Support our mission in making this a decade of delivery and boost the influence of nature-based solutions in these communities by getting involved.

“As we work toward mitigating climate change, this isn’t just a local issue or a problem for high-income nations. It’s a global challenge that requires collective action.”

Robert Ocen, the Co-founder and Director of Regenshope Initiative.