The climate campaigner empowering South Africans

You’re reading Patrons of the Planet, a weekly series in which we hear from climate heroes of the Global South and the world’s indigenous communities.

Over the last few decades, I’ve seen our food supplies worsening here in South Africa. I’ve seen vegetables come out the ground shrunken and hard due to drought. I’ve seen erratic rain or wind destroy local crops, so food prices shoot up. It’s become increasingly difficult to feed our families. 

But all these problems have only inspired me to work harder to find solutions. As an organiser for 360 Degrees Environmental Organisation, I work with our communities to help them wake up to the realities of the climate crisis and take action to achieve the transformation our country needs. 

To do this, I engage local people in a dialogue about the environmental issues they face so they recognise why these problems are arising. Food scarcity is one topic that really catches people’s attention. Another is energy. 

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Since we were told to expect electricity costs to increase by over 14% over August and September, the price rises have ripped into household budgets. Everybody needs energy to carry out basic household tasks, especially in winter. By talking to communities about these immediate problems, I build awareness about climate change and engage progressively more people in climate campaign work.

Once I have people’s attention, I invite them to community discussions with policy makers, which I lead, to allow ordinary people to have a say in how our climate budget is spent. We also discuss ways we can adapt to the new climate situation, strengthen communities and build resilience against what’s to come.

Luckily local media outlets are starting to amplify our voices, giving us time to speak on the radio and spread awareness of our work. But our biggest success has been engaging increasing numbers of people. When we hold events, passers by will stop to ask what we’re doing and many leave their contact details, asking for us to keep them updated about future campaigns. 

Having these discussions on the issues of climate change gives me hope that we can overcome climate impacts. Now, it seems like we are coming together as a society, internationally and in the media. 

Going forward it would be incredible to engage even more South Africans with what is happening within our society – not only the politicians, but every community and every individual. If we all become climate resilient, and climate sensitive in our daily activities then, in essence, we will be able to save our planet for future generations.

Patrons of the Planet is a weekly series to amplify the voices of heroes on the frontline of climate campaign work. Every Tuesday we meet individuals from the Global South and indigenous groups who have risen above increasing adversity to support their communities, conserve nature and protect the planet for future generations.