Posted by: Martin Fox | March 24, 2009

Youth Kilimanjaro initiative combats climate change

Very cool youth initiative coming out of Africa. Peace out – Martin Fox with the Center for Global Leadership.


On 28 February 2009, a group of 31 climbers, assisted by 15 guides, 2 cooks and 45 porters, made their way through the gates of Kilimanjaro National Park, Tanzania – on route to the highest point of Africa and the largest freestanding mountain in the world. Brought together by Kilimanjaro Initiative (KI), a youth empowerment NGO, the climbers aimed to reach the summit of Mount Kilimanjaro to highlight the importance of creating a sustainable environment, under the United Nations banner ‘UNite to Combat Climate Change.’

The team included young people from disadvantaged communities in Ghana, Kenya and Tanzania, UN staff and representatives from the private sector. The climbers received messages of support form United Nations Secretary General Ban Ki-moon and his Special Adviser on Sport for Development and Peace Wilfried Lemke. In addition, the Climb garnered support from the UN Federal Credit Union (UNFCU) and several UN agencies, including UN Environment Programme (UNEP), the UN Human Settlements Programme (UN-HABITAT) and the UN Office of Sport for Development and Peace (UNOSDP).

The annual ascent of Mount Kilimanjaro to the “rooftop of Africa” is at the centre of the KI activities. Conquering the mountain provides a ready metaphor for overcoming life’s challenges and was the genesis of the initiative itself. The climb demonstrates how people from all walks of life can come together to unite in overcoming common adversity, raise awareness on issues to which young people are confronted and collect funds for youth based community projects. Other KI projects, in Kenya and Tanzania, have included refurbishing a soccer pitch that was a crime haven, establishing security patrols, developing plans for micro-finance facilities and leading a “Youth Peace” rally in the wake of the Kenyan elections in December 2007.

This year, the climb focused on the importance of a sustainable environment. Nineteen climbers reached the rim of the sleeping volcano, enduring extremely difficult conditions. While glaciers still graced the summit, far less ice is visible than in previous years. KI founder, Tim Challen underlined the issue at stake: “If we don’t do what we can to prevent global warming, unseen weather patterns will severely affect our communities. For example, rising oceans and droughts will force people into urban areas that just won’t have the capacity to deal with those migration flows. This may lead to a greater increase in social ills.”

One of the youth climbers Mohamed Abdulahi Mohamed, from Nairobi’s Kibera slum turned organic farmer personifies some of the positive changes that can take place in our society. “Converting a dumping site into productive land presents many challenges as well as opportunities. It can help transform community attitudes towards waste management by providing a clean and healthy living environment,” said Mr. Mohamed, who like nine other youth received “Outward Bound” wilderness training, sponsored by UNFCU, to prepare for the arduous journey.

“Young people are fundamental to the future of this planet and we must make sure we encourage them to be at the forefront of the battle against climate change and leaders in their own communities,” Mr. Challen explained. Felix Oduor, a former Mount Kilimanjaro climber who also hails from Kibera and is now a proud KI employee sent a rallying call to all the young people of this world. “There are young people in Kibera that are so disillusioned, so hopeless and I was part of that disillusionment and hopelessness. To those who think everything is difficult, everything cannot be done – we’ve re-energized ourselves to make sure we improve our lives.” His sentiments were echoed by Mr. Mohamed: “Never give up in life, no matter how easy, or how difficult. Never give up!”.



  1. Individuals rarely seem to have problems being at peace with each other. It’s the greedy, rich and powerful in control of nations that are the problem.

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