When looking for solutions to achieve the world’s collective climate goals, we must include local voices.
It’s a shame it is taking this long for the world to accept that climate change is a reality. Some still refuse to either acknowledge an existing relationship between human beings and the natural environment, or accept that for more than a century, human activities have been the primary source of greenhouse emissions, unequivocally creating the effects of climate change.
Many of the proposed efforts to stop environmental destruction have not made any significant difference. Take, for instance, the annual climate change conference held by world leaders to discuss solutions. If the rising sea levels, high temperatures, destruction of forests and rise of carbon emissions is anything to go by, little has changed since 1995 when the first conference was held. It has often been about “pledges” and “promises” to reduce global carbon emissions, with billions of dollars spent and little worthwhile action.
World leaders continue to ignore a critical group in climate discussions, one that is most disproportionately affected by climate change. The forest communities. From the lack of rainfall due to drought, the drying up of river sources, to scrambling for resources alongside wildlife, these communities are on the frontline and face the wrath of nature in different forms. It is these communities who are displaced from their ancestral homes when a mining or logging company invades their settlement. It is them who walk for kilometres in search of water because their rivers and lakes are dead or polluted. The same people that live in buffer zones and often rely on natural resources for subsistence, livelihoods, and their traditional cultural practices. Yet these are the same communities who have been occupying and protecting their forested land for centuries without recognition. If we need solutions on how to protect these forests, we cannot ignore them.
Throughout my five years of highlighting conservation stories in the Kasigau Corridor in Kenya as the Media & Communications Officer, I have continued to acknowledge the need to amplify communities’ voices and ensure their seat at the table in any climate change conversation. In my extensive journalism experience, nothing comes close to storytelling from the heart from a community perspective. Even now, it is the driving force behind my conservation storytelling in the Kasigau Corridor. I couldn’t be more privileged to witness and interact with local communities, whilst facilitating an avenue for genuine voices to be heard by a wider audience through carbon financing. Practically, conservation can be achieved by approaching it from a local perspective. Communities can address challenges of accessing social amenities, drought, and human-wildlife conflict. I will be sharing powerful stories of how a rural community in Kenya is taking this active role in forest protection activities to alleviate these issues.
In the face of unprecedented threats to our planet, the active engagement and leadership of local communities is a critical component of securing a healthy future for wildlife and the environment. I believe that the local communities are the creators of environmental initiatives and catalysts for change. Join me in this exciting journey as we amplify the voices on the frontline of community-led conservation.