Member Spotlight

What Is Key to Enabling Improvements in Productivity, Sustainability and Climate Resilience in Agriculture?

Mastercard Foundation Scholar, Forget Shareka shares her experience at the Climate Change for Youth Conference.

Published: 7 December 2021

As an agronomic engineer, humanitarian, social entrepreneur and climate justice advocate, most of my work revolves around agribusiness, youth and women empowerment, community development and climate action. I co-founded Chashi Foods a social and green enterprise committed to reducing postharvest losses in Sub-saharan Africa leveraging clean energy and innovative drying technologies while improving farmers livelihoods and reducing greenhouses gases. In addition, I founded a community-based organisation called Life Hope Future Association that empowers the indigenous Doma People and rural farmers in Zimbabwe and Costa Rica with vocational agribusiness, climate-smart agriculture, and entrepreneurship skills. Currently, I am working as a Climate Innovation intern at Solidaridad Network.

 

Forget Shareka

My journey started in 2017 at EARTH University where I was groomed to be a transformative leader and see the world through the lens of sustainable development and shared prosperity. I then made a bucket list, which included being a voice of my generation and ‘the forgotten’ rural smallholder farmers that drive economic prosperity in developing countries on global platforms. I have received this opportunity through collaborations and support from progressive organisations such as AL for Agribusiness, MasterCard Foundation, CAMFED and my alma maters: EARTH and the University of Edinburgh. One of my mentors is Nono Sekhoto, the Sector Lead for AL for Agribusiness network, who has nurtured my skill and confidence and connected me to opportunities to speak in high-level continental discussions amongst others.

 

In October, I attended the UN Climate Change Conference of Youth (COY16) that brought young enthusiastic leaders from 140 countries across the world to discuss the future of the planet and climate emergency. As a youth delegate for Zimbabwe, I was joining 4000+ young people from all over the world, to contribute to the 77 pages Global Youth Statement on the issues of food and agriculture, climate justice, loss and damage.

 

During COP26, I co-host the VCOY talk with Talent Vharachumu, a fellow MasterCard Foundation Alum, focusing on the topic “Girls’ education is key in enabling improvements in productivity, sustainability and climate resilience in agriculture.”. I also chaired a panel discussion themed, “Our Future, Our Voice: Girls’ Education and Tackling the Climate Crisis” with amazing female leaders panelists including the minister of education for Europe and the Americas Wendy Morton and the minister of education for Malawi Agnes Nyalonje.

 

Critical issues raised at both COY16 and COP26 were around the importance of understanding climate change issues in context in developing and developed countries better categorised as global north and south. We learned that African countries only contribute 3% of total global emissions of 34.81 trillion tones in 2020. Yet Africa suffers the worst climate change impacts with countries like Madagascar facing the first-ever climate-induced famine for the past 4 years. My country Zimbabwe, Malawi and Mozambique experienced Cyclone Idai in 2019 that devastated all three regions.

 

This kind of experience made me realise that we must collaborate for action in pushing for climate justice and amplifying the voices of the most affected people. Justice and a true form of change come through continuous efforts and struggle. In this struggle for climate justice, saving the planet and ourselves as people we can’t trust political leaders to deliver us they do trade-offs on good policies for upholding political power and on conferences like  COP they can easily follow the winds blowing from powerful countries so that they can continue to receive aid funding which comes with conditions. Those conditions are not always favourable for our economic growth.

 

Global collaboration on climate action is needed than ever before. Leaders must put aside geopolitics and focus on what we as a global community can do together. There are a handful of really big issues including the pandemic, poverty and inequalities. Collaborative action on climate change unlocks a number of things interlinked SDGs: it addresses gender inequality,  food security, health, agriculture and water and sanitation issues.

 

We as the young generation have a responsibility to change things for the best not for us only but for the next generations as well. Everyone must step up, and we should focus on the climate emergency as it is a humanitarian crisis. Because of climate change, people are dying of hunger, floods, facing the worst forms of malnutrition, displaced and face abuses especially women and girls. As the youth let’s get involved in policymaking and nationally determined contributions (NDCs) drafting. That way we can ensure that the policies formulated in line with climate change are effective and centralised on the planet while protecting human rights. There are several ways to participate and contribute to climate action for instance, at schools you can help raise awareness through climate ambassadorship programmes and demand for climate education to be included in the curriculum as well as conducting climate research. In our homes, you can educate your family about climate change impacts contributing to building resilience and good mental health. At the community level, you can help in facilitating workshops and leading campaigns for change. In workplaces, you can use your career to build the green economy, contribute to innovation and resilience systems. Also, you can contribute to climate discussion in your community, country, and continent by active participation in climate tailored programmes. Taking your action globally is now easier than ever through social media. Harness the social media platforms and spread the word of action through webinars, posting, filming etc. If you can’t do it alone do it with others. Use every opportunity you have to connect with others fighting for the same cause, exchange ideas and combine efforts.

Eventually, I call for all stakeholders:  governments, the public and private sector, businesses, and community members to come together for joined-up action. Any vision for a sustainable future and climate action that will be successful relies on broad systems change that takes into account collaboration, open inclusive innovation and pulling resources (finance and expertise) together for positive impact. In that spirit, each stakeholder must have the zeal to take part in transformational change, building resilience, adaptation and mitigation. Bear in mind that failure to work together worsen the challenges and failure in policies and economic development. At the end of the day, no organisation or business can succeed when the society around it is failing.

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