TOP AFRICA NEWS has held an exclusive Interview with Iyamuremye after realizing that he was actively involved in several environmental initiatives on the national and International level.
Could you introduce yourself and tell me about your organisation?
My name is Leonard IYAMUREMYE, I’m from Rwanda, and I work with different organisations, but I’m here representing Youth for Nature Organization. Youth for Nature is an international organisation, which is based in Canada where It has headquarters. So I am a global ambassador there, and I represent it here in Rwanda. And also, what I do, I’m a leader of a research task force, and I currently base or am involved in a storytelling programme.
Our work has three pillars. The first one is capacity building, where we build the capacity of young people around the world, training them, giving access to opportunities, like attending international events, and many other opportunities. And also, we have knowledge sharing, where we prepare different things like research as we have an Education Task Force, which basically help young people to get knowledge in different activities. And also, we produce knowledge based resources, like the nature based solutions toolkit that we published last year. And again, we have a storytelling programme. Storytelling programmes are very important, because we call up young people around the world to tell stories about their past, their narratives on what they do in their countries, the projects they have, and then we showcase them because we have a story map where we upload and publish those stories for young people.
Apart from that, I’m representing the African Youth Development Centre, which is helping young people and gathering them for sustainable development and also environmental and climate issues. And again, I was just also working with COY (Conference of Youth). I was Regional Coordinator for East Africa, where it was helping young people to attend COY 16, which happened in Glasgow as we were required to have a national statement on climate change and environmental issues, so I was coordinating activities of collecting a national statement of youth around Easter Africa. So I was coordinating and leading those volunteers from countries.
Again, I am an ambassador of IUCN PAPACO, which is giving online courses on protected areas in Africa. So basically, that’ s my involvement in these environmental and climate movements.
What are the challenges you meet as young people?
So first of all, young people used to say that we don’t have a capacity or financial support for doing or implementing tangible projects and when we come up with solutions sometimes it is very hard to get funded, because most people don’t believe in young people’s knowledge or ability to manage them. But that’s really a challenge of not believing young people. Most organisations are fearing that. Young people, they don’t have access to opportunities, I mean, platforms where they can really get information. So it is not that the platforms are not there. But it is, I mean, access to them is very hard for young people because most of the time we don’t have financial stability, which will allow us to always be online or linking to other people. So that’s a challenge. But also, something important is that young people themselves have the challenge because most of them are afraid of being involved, and they don’t use their commitment to push on. And I can say they have a fear to get involved or approach leaders and other organisations and start maybe volunteering or being engaged in activities so they can grow and have that experience. So that’s a challenge.
But also, another thing I saw is that young people, especially in Rwanda, don’t have, I mean, a full access to international desk, I mean events like attending high Table events, like COY events and other conferences on biodiversity, and as you know there are a lot of international events that could be supporting young people to get knowledge. So these are the challenges because they don’t have capacity to attend or to fund themselves. One of the experiences I met with when I was Regional Coordinator at COY, I was just trying to find out how we can support young people from Africa, East Africa to attend Conference of Parties, and even conference of youth, which happened in the UK last year. And getting funds was not easy because even most of our volunteers were not able to attend even if they helped us. Even me, personally, I was even challenged because I didn’t get there. So imagine. And people were just looking for opportunities, but in the end we didn’t find support. So those are like main challenges.
Can you propose some solutions to those main challenges?
One of the solutions I see is that first of all, young people must push and even advocate for their right to be getting the support that they need to attend or to do those projects. You know, young people are the ones who have the power to lead on. Again, they must feel themselves as future leaders and they should also be present leaders, because thinking that you will lead in the future, this will limit you in start doing or start trying. So you must start acting now.
Another solution is that organisations, governments, stakeholders and different partners could be investing in young people. Because investing in young people is a good way to just tackle climate change issues and even empower the future generation. So investing in their solution is getting time to hear about them, getting their projects and advising them is very important. So we need to be involved. I used to give an example to different people on being fully involved. What does it mean? It means that young people shouldn’t be working with elders and our leaders in day to day activity.
Like I tried to tell the stories of myself when I was still young, my parents used to tell me: please wake up, let’s go, let’s go in the field and go to cultivate. So I woke up and took my tools and went with my father and my mother to cultivate. So from that I got knowledge on how to cultivate, how to raise plants, and how to care for them. So that was really good knowledge and good involvement. So from that engagement, I have experience on that. So young people could be empowered through being involved, bringing them to the tables and having them sit with decision makers and propose solutions to their communities.
What do you think about financial limitations among young people?
Financial limitations are something crucial to talk about. But also, I can say, you know, when you are going to finance you first see what I can invest in. So as I mentioned before, we have financial instability as young people and people fear to fund and to support our projects. So what I can recommend is that people, I mean, government, stakeholders and even other partners should empower young people, give support to their project, or maybe having capacity building activities or programmes to support young people in financial means so that they can be able to improve their knowledge, to run their projects and to start them because I’m really sure that there are a lot of young people with brilliant ideas, but they don’t have financial means to implement them.