Updated: Aug 26
Mmabatho laughs when I ask her what sparked her interest in nature. “I am from Botswana. In our traditional culture, we have totems, national animals that are respected, together with the ecosystems they live in. My mother’s totem is a buffalo, and my father’s a hartebeest. So it wasn’t sparked by anything, it was just always there. I was born and raised with that.”
Even though Mmabatho is only 28, she has seen first-hand how Botswana is paying the price for climate change. Where once there were lakes, there are now pans, dried out lakes that cover the land with salt. The extreme heat these days tells her that reforestation is a must. And the existing forests need to be protected so that there can be, among other services, cooling areas.
Mmabatho feels that economic growth focuses largely on industrialization, overlooking environmental sustainability and human inclusion. “I want to sensitize people to the fact that real sustainable development should be serving people and nature. That’s the only way to grow and move forward. In my opinion, Africa’s sustainability needs to be rooted in green, human-centered development.”
Mmabatho writes about these issues on her blog, the Afrolutionist . “I believe there are many solutionists in Africa, many are young and African, and the blog aims to profile them, their opinions and their solutions,” she says. “I want to show people that climate issues are directly related to our well-being. I tell them about climate migration due to hurricanes and about climate health issues, for example, the impact of rising temperatures on people’s eyes.”
When she started her blog five years ago, she had five different bloggers across the continent contributing articles and 5,000 followers. These days, she is blogging less and spending more time on research, policy reform and hosting in-person discussions on cross cutting development and enhancing the role of young people in decision-making across Africa.
In 2018, Mmabatho was a Young Feminist Climate Justice Story Collector which brought her to the COP in Poland where she shared her stories about African women mitigating climate change. You can read those stories here: https://youngfeministclimatestorytelling.wordpress.com/africa/ https://youngfeministclimatestorytelling.wordpress.com/africa-2/
She has also worked with Africa Climate Reality and with Climate Tracker, a global NGO, where she was trained in climate journalism. In 2019, Mmabatho was elected as one of five youth ambassadors leading restoration initiatives by the 4th African Forest Landscape Restoration (AFR100), a project that has African countries committed to restoring over 111 million hectares of degraded land by 2030. The ambassadors are tasked with creating momentum to restore degraded forests, farms and grasslands, providing an inspiring example for other youth to follow and creating awareness among policy and decision-makers across the African continent on the economic and social opportunities that restoration can bring.
Griet Ingrid Dierckxsens
Africa regional comms and KM officer for UN-REDD Programme