Sudan is amidst a tumultuous political situation at present, due to ongoing protests which seek to remove exiting President Omar al-Bashir from power.
In spite of this, Sudan is also witness to a rise in innovative young people who are striving towards a better environmental future for the country.
Groups of motivated teenagers and young adults are getting together in Khartoum, Sudan’s largest city, to create a movement for change. One of their biggest goals is to reduce the effects of climate change, which can cause immeasurable devastation in African countries, particularly where resources and infrastructure are strained.
Khartoum has seen rising temperatures and extreme, unpredictable weather increasing in recent years, and is now one of the hottest cities in the world, according to the UN.
“Founded in 1823 at the confluence of the Blue and White Nile rivers, Khartoum is not only the political capital of Africa’s third largest country but also its leading commercial centre, and home to about 6.3 million people. Just like other parts of Sudan, the city has experienced serious environmental degradation due to extensive deforestation and droughts, which have conspired to make it vulnerable to climate-related hazards. Floods, dust storms and heatwaves pose a serious threat to the livelihoods and well-being of Khartoum’s residents. Between March and May, Khartoum experiences low relative humidity and temperatures can exceed 40°C, making it one of the hottest cities in the world.” – United Nations Environment Report, March 2019
The United Nations reported on how a number of these Sudanese startups participated in Climathon Khartoum 2018, an event led by Impact Hub Khartoum —supported by the Global Climate Change Alliance Plus (GCCA+) –European Union in collaboration with the Sudan National Council for Environment, UN Environment and others.
“The event brought together software developers, entrepreneurs, students and others interested in finding answers that would help the country’s capital become more livable and adapt to extreme weather.”
The Climathon, which was held late last year, allowed teams to pitch their concepts for a greener, more sustainable future. It takes the form of a 24-hour meeting in which ‘citizens, city officials and other partner institutions connect to develop climate solutions for their cities.’ This was the first of its kind to be held in Khartoum.
One of the participants was Dalia Adil, a graphic design graduate who had left her native Sudan to study in Malaysia. Upon her return in 2016, she began to focus on climate change and started to consider ways in which she could help get the message out there. “Being a graphic designer enables me to communicate messages in an artistic way and to raise awareness about the environment,” she said.
Adil teamed up with her friend Omar Galal and, together, they took one of their ideas, Sudan Utopia, to Climathon.
They ended up winning first place.
“The most important thing is to have passion. We formed a team of five—dubbed Sudan Utopia—to address the effects of extreme weather. Through this event, we acquired more knowledge about the country’s environmental situation,” Dalia Adil, Sudan Utopia.
“Sudan Utopia’s intention is to contain desertification and restore the country’s ecosystems through reforestation, through their winning idea of producing and casting seed pods using drones. Currently, they are consulting experts to identify potential pilot sites in the country’s western Darfur region.”
Bashir Elsamani, another Climathon participant, wants to tackle extreme weather and waste management, a growing problem in the area. Floods can cause particular problems with regard to waste and sanitation.
“We would like to improve the collection and disposal of green waste. An estimated 8,000 tonnes of household waste is generated by households and only 40—50 per cent finds its way to dumpsites, where they generate methane and leachate,” says Bashir, a University of Khartoum-trained chemical engineer and leader of The Scavengers team.
“The Climathon also enabled me to meet people from different backgrounds. It was a great forum to exchange ideas about mitigating the impact of climate change,” adds Bashir.
These driven young people, and others like them, could hold the key to changing things on the ground in countries such as Sudan, where socio-political problems often take precedent over environmental issues. As stated by Kofi Anan:
“Young people should be at the forefront of global change and innovation. Empowered, they can be key agents for development and peace. If, however, they are left on society’s margins, all of us will be impoverished. Let us ensure that all young people have every opportunity to participate fully in the lives of their societies.” – Kofi Anan, Former Secretary-General of the United Nations
In a Press Release, the United Nations Environment added:
“UN Environment, the leading global voice on the world’s environment, is keen to work with and empower Sudan’s young people such as Adil, Galal and Elsamani to address the inevitable environmental, political, economic as well as social stresses caused by climate change. It supports this work through its Adapt for Environment and Climate Resilience in Sudan programme (commonly known as ADAPT!)—a four-year US$13 million project launched in December 2015 by UN Environment and the British Government through the United Kingdom’s Department for International Development.
“We are working closely with the Government of Sudan, United Nations agencies, academia, donors and non-governmental organizations to increase climate resilience and environmental management in Sudan. Through the Climathon we were able to work with the youth to draw innovative solutions to address the effects of extreme weather as well as to manage, reduce and recycle waste,” says Raju Sorekaidoddi, UN Environment’s ADAPT! Project Manager.
Ahead of the United Nations Environment Assembly, UN Environment is urging people to Think Beyond and Live Within. Join the debate on social media using #SolveDifferent to share your stories and see what others are doing to ensure a sustainable future for our planet.”
Last autumn, former United Nations High Commissioner on Human Rights Mrs. Mary Robinson launched her book, Climate Justice, in which she placed a great deal of focus on African nations and the effects which climate change can have upon them.