Families at the Forefront of Climate Resilience in East Africa

When it comes to the battle for climate resilience, people usually think about organizations and individual leaders as the primary agents of change. Nevertheless, we are pausing on this International Day of Families to reflect on the ways that families can be some of the most powerful climate champions.

In East Africa, family is everything and it is through family members that we nurture community resilience and sustainability. This is particularly true in Somalia, a nation where families are crucial in addressing the severe environmental challenges presented by climate change. Adeso since its inception by environmental activist Fatima Jibrell in 1991, has been instrumental in merging family welfare with environmental conservation. Today, we acknowledge three decades of Adeso’s dedicated efforts towards a sustainable future through community driven projects.

Somalia faces significant climate-related challenges, including recurrent droughts and flooding, which have led to failed crops, loss of livestock, and widespread food insecurity. These chronic challenges  threaten the socio-economic stability of the country, exacerbating water and food scarcity, increasing the need for humanitarian aid, and forcing many to abandon their traditional livelihoods.

Adeso has been working to counter the effects of climate change and environmental degradation in Somalia for decades. In 1996, Adeso launched a pivotal campaign against the charcoal trade, critical for preserving Somalia’s acacia forests and establishing a foundation for environmental restoration and sustainable practices. The spirit of our founder continued through innovative initiatives like the Pastoral Youth Leadership Program, featuring the unique Camel Caravan project. These initiatives not only protect the environment but also empowered a new generation of Somali pastoralists to take stewardship of their heritage and land, highlighting Adeso’s commitment to reinforcing family and community ties for a greener future.

Families play a vital role in environmental action. Somali families exemplify this beautifully. With more than half of the population under 15, Somalia is brimming with the energy and determination of its young people. These young leaders are emerging as a formidable force for change, offering a beacon of hope for a peaceful and sustainable future. Adeso’s initiatives, like the Camel Caravan project, harness this youthful energy by directly involving young people alongside their families. This intergenerational approach alongside families to work together as environmental stewards, protecting their land and heritage for future generations.

Looking forward, Adeso remains committed to integrating intergenerational environmental education into its broader humanitarian and development efforts, recognizing the crucial link between ecological sustainability and community welfare. Among these initiatives is the Durdur Water Enterprise, a community-driven social enterprise that delivers clean, piped water to hundreds of Somali households, with thousands more expected to benefit. This project exemplifies Adeso’s approach to sustainable development. Another key initiative, Saxansaxo, employs a survivor and community-led crisis response approach to enhance community resilience, empowering communities to tackle the challenges posed by climate change and improve the livelihoods of Somali families. These initiatives illustrate the powerful impact of families coming together to solve environmental and economic challenges collectively.

Much of Somalia is covered by rangelands, which are a vital asset in the battle against climate change. Everyday, Somali families work to preserve a more beautiful and livable planet for everyone, everywhere. Despite contributing only a very small fraction of total global emissions, they bear the brunt of its impacts. We salute and thank them, and remain committed to supporting their efforts.

From Adeso’s family to yours – Happy International Day of the Family