Practice what you preach

Sunday 2 October 2022

Kaiyum (20), the young climate activist handles and mobilizes the network of more than 50 children and young people in Madhesh Pradesh of Nepal. Kaiyum however was not this active in the past. He used to shy away from speaking and never thought he had the capacity to manage and motivate this large group of young climate enthusiasts. He thinks he learnt the skill with practice and patience. “I had some great leaders to look up to and follow. They believed in me and provided me with the opportunities to realize and hone my skills,” Kaiyum says.  Kaiyum himself and the young people are members of Kayapalat, a youth group that is actively working on climate change related issues in Madhesh Pradesh.

Recently, Kayapalat in collaboration with the Ministry of Forest, local organizations and development agencies like Save the Children was successful in planting more than 100 thousand tress in Madhesh Pradesh. “To protect the degrading environment, something different needs to be done and someone must start it. Being an educated young person, I feel it is my responsibility to act first. Starting small and starting from myself, my house and my community is the only way to encourage others to act,” Kaiyum says. “I can ask people to plant trees around their house only if I have done that already”, he adds. Therefore, he has followed what he has been requesting others to follow, be it proper disposal of household waste, tree plantation, minimum use of vehicles, etc.

Working on climate change is important for Kaiyum as he himself has experienced the impacts of climate change in his village. “No matter where we stand, all we see around are climate hazards, haphazardly constructed buildings, diseases and impacts of climate change. This should be changed so that we can see planned construction, greenery, beauty and hope around,” he envisions.

“10 years back, we used to play on the ground all day, even in the mid-day; we used to have small ponds in our village where we used to swim, we used to have cycles to go to the school.  Our parents did not have to worry about rain or production of crops. But now, things have changed a lot. The heat is rising and it’s impossible for the children to play outside during daytime. We have fewer ponds and fewer cycles. People have shifted to motorbike, polluting the environment even more. As the weather patterns have changed, there is not enough rainfall during planting season and there is too heavy rainfall during the time of harvest. This makes my parents worry for the production and loss of crops. If we do not act now, it is impossible to protect the future generation”.

“Young people have both power and challenges,” he says. He thinks that having a network of young people who have knowledge on climate change, who have ideas on what can be changed and how can the change happen is power, while not having access to government officials and structures is a challenge. “We are not taken seriously at times, and we do not get to be involved in the decision-making processes of local governments. Government and organizations like Save the Children should give the space to young people. The change is possible only if all of us work together,” adds Kaiyum.

Kaiyum feels like he has been taken away from the nature these days. “I do not feel the connection with nature as before. I like the feeling of spending time in green forests, reading sitting under a tree or playing in a green playground. These were the things that I did in the past, but I cannot do it now as we have no green space left in the city,” says Kaiyum.

Kaiyum thinks the government can make the difference by forming policies that prioritize greenery, green spaces, and green jobs. “They should also revisit the policies that directly affect environment,” he says. Kaiyum through the network aims to plant more trees for the conservation of Chure as the homes of various wildlife and livelihood of communities depend on it. Chure is also the major source of drinking water in the area. They also have plans for awareness raising among community people. “Our plan is to motivate the people from our community to follow sustainable practices in a role model basis. We will do it, show it, and tell them how it is done,” Kaiyum confidently says.

About the group:

Kayapalat is a network of more than 50 young climate enthusiasts who aim to role model climate friendly behaviours to inspire others for environmental conservation. The group also aims to work closely with the government and the stakeholders for climate friendly policies and actions in Madhesh Pradesh. The group in coordination with the local government, Save the Children, and local like-minded networks, have plans to plant more trees in the Chure region while also conserving the ones that are already planted. The group will continue the plantation activities along with awareness raising and lobbying works.

Kayapalat is also one of the youth partner organizations for the SHIFT project being jointly run by Save the Children and WWF Nepal. Through the SHIFT funding, Kayapalat aims to increase the knowledge of children and adult in Madhesh Pradesh on climate change. They will conduct various activities in the schools and communities to inspire people to take climate action.