Climate Champ: Brighton Kaoma, Zambia’s YEN for the Environment, Meet CYNESA, Middle East Climate Champs: Goumbook

by | Jan 11, 2022 | Podcasts, The Climate Daily

Zambian climate champion, Brighton Kaoma, plus the Zambia’s Youth Environment Network. Keeping the faith with the Catholic Youth Network For Environmental Sustainability in Africa, and Middle East climate champs,



Growing up in the tiny village of Kitwe, in Zambia, Africa, Brighton Kaoma, now 22, listened to the radio, a lot. In fact, his whole village did. It was THE form of communication. From a young age, Kaoma was aware of the polluted rivers and the heavy CO2 impact on his village and how both negatively affected all aspects of village life. So Kaoma took it upon himself to study climate change, environmental health and economic well-being, as a young teenager!

He decided what he learned was important enough to share with his community. And at age 14, with zero radio production experience, Kaoma wrote a letter to his local radio station. He said, “I am very interested in running a weekly radio show at your radio station. I don’t have a buck of money. I have only passion. Would you give me the opportunity to do that?”

A week later, the station manager agreed, and gave Kaoma 30 minutes once a week focused on climate change, pollution, and environmental degradation. That was eight years ago. Kaoma’s radio success propelled him to found Agents of Change Foundation Zambia in 2014. Its mission is to train youth in radio journalism, leadership and environmental and ethical issues.

He is now both a Global Youth Climate Ambassador at the Children’s Radio Foundation, and a UNICEF climate ambassador. In 2015, Britain’s Queen Elizabeth II honored him with the Queen’s Young Leader Award. In 2016, he received the International President’s Award from the World Wildlife Federation.

And just last June, Kaoma joined the UN’s Sustainable Development Solutions Network as its Global Director of SDSN Youth.

Says Kaoma, “Young people need to realize that constraints build innovation. If you want to create something long-lasting, you should think about those constraints and innovative solutions. You don’t need to be great to start, but you need to start to be great.”




Staying in Zambia, our story on Brighton Kaoma led us to find another great youth-oriented Zambian climate change combatting organization, the Youth Environment Network, Zambia.

It was formed in 2007 by Billy M. Lombe, to address a number of issues affecting biodiversity. The non profit youth based organization’s purpose is to educate, engage and empower young people, women and children in activities that will improve their living standards and the natural environment as a whole.

Its mission is to develop and implement environmental Programs with the local communities in order for them to realize a dream of a green, clean and healthy environment.

YEN’s vision sees this green, clean and healthy community for young people, women and children to thrive in and be able to make a positive contribution for the betterment of the environment and the generations to come.

YEN played a major role in Zambia’s #KickingTheBagsOut campaign to stop the distribution of single-use plastic bags. The efforts of its members on that campaign helped convince the grocery store ShopRite Zambia to end the use of plastic bags in its stores in November 2018.

And that’s just one reason why Youth Environment Network, Zambia matters to us. They’re a reminder of how youth can create real change.

And I love their “ANTICIPATED OUTCOMES” statement: Increase the survival rate of natural resources; Increase in the numbers of women, youths and children accessing environmental education; Decrease the imminent cutting down of trees in the communities and the forests; Increase the number of community members able to maintain a green and healthy environment; Increase in the improvement of livelihood of rural families especially Youth and Women; Increase in the number of environmental education activities in communities and schools.

DEEPER DIVE: YEN FB, LinkedIn, AgriProFocus 



Sticking and staying in sub-Saharan Africa today, we take a look at another climate change fighting youth network, this one backed by the Catholic Church. It’s called the Catholic Youth Network For Environmental Sustainability In Africa or CYNESA.

Back in 1990, then Pope John Paul II spoke on the World Day of Peace, and in his speech called for the need to scale up ecological awareness. Heeding the call, African Catholics from Kenya, Ethiopia, Zimbabwe Tanzania, Zambia, Rwanda and South Africa formed CYNESA.

Based in Nairobi, Kenya, the organization’s mission is to help young Catholics in sub-Saharan Africa – their movements and communities, individually and with their colleagues – to respond to the twin challenges of environmental degradation and climate change. And to do that in an effective, coordinated and evangelical manner, that is culturally sensitive and spiritually grounded. Its mission is to link young Catholics together with colleagues in mutual encouragement and support.

Most recently, CYNESA sent a delegation to COP26 in Glasgow. At the conference, CYNESA Executive Director, Allen Ottaro stated that “a major focus at COP26 for African countries is for climate solutions, particularly those involving a transition toward a green economy, to invest in jobs and opportunities that can help lift people from poverty while eliminating emissions.”

The group has also put a lot of emphasis on spreading the word of the Laudato si’, or Second Encyclical of Pope Francis. An encyclical is an official letter from the Pope to all bishops of the Roman Catholic Church.

Pope Francis’s second encyclical is subtitled “on care for our common home”. In it, he critiques consumerism and irresponsible development, laments environmental degradation and global warming, and calls all people of the world to take “swift and unified global action.”

And if that’s all we know about CYNESA, that’s why this group matters to us—getting the word out for all the peoples of the world to take “swift and unified global action” to combat climate change.




When I was researching tree-planting organizations, I discovered Goumbook, the leading social enterprise promoting sustainable living and green practices in the UAE, in our inbox.   

The organization was founded by Tatiana Antonelli Abella in 2009. As a social enterprise, Goumbook aims for high impact change in its community. Goumbook aims to guide, inspire and empower businesses and individuals on their path towards greener and more sustainable practices.

Goumbook was born to be a sustainable organization that brings attention to the region’s efforts towards a greener economy.  Its founders chose to make sure it was strongly rooted into the local culture.

Goumbook’: translates as “stand up for a better future!” Goum’: is a Bedouin tribe that used to travel around the desert from Persia up to Morocco, living together according to an ethic of self-help and collective responsibility, sharing resources, reusing them when possible and avoiding waste.

Why does Goumbook matter to us? Well for one, it’s unique to that part of the world in that its leadership is made up entirely of women. And secondly, for the Initiatives it pushes, some of which include Trees Matter, Eat it or Save it, Refill & Go, Youth Action, and Give a Ghaf!

The Ghaf is a tree indigenous specifically to the UAE, Oman and Saudi Arabia region of the Middle East. The Ghaf is a drought – tolerant, evergreen tree which is, possibly, the sturdiest plant of the harsh desert environment.  Its roots penetrate as deep as 90 feet feet to access water and may have a lifespan exceeding 120 years.

The Give a Ghaf tree planting program was officially launched in 2011, and since then Goumbook has planted over 75,000 Ghaf seeds, over 25,000 Ghaf trees.

DEEPER DIVE: Goumbook, Give a Ghaf!