Marie Christina Kolo, who describes herself as a climate activist, ecofeminist and social entrepreneur, was one of two young people who spoke to the UN Secretary-General, António Guterres ahead of International Mother Earth Day marked annually on 22 April.
She expressed her concerns, about the dual impact on the Indian Ocean island of the COVID-19 pandemic and the ongoing climate crisis:
“Climate change didn’t stop with COVID-19 and that’s true of my country, Madagascar. The current pandemic has taught us lessons.
The first one is that global trade requires global cooperation. In developing countries like mine, we were able to receive lots of donations and support from the international community. It was also a good opportunity for us to prove again, our traditional solidarity and solidarity among countries.
However, the question we face is how can we promote healthy water and sanitation initiatives like handwashing, which play a part in defeating the virus when three out of four people in Madagascar don’t have access to clean water and sanitation services?
How can you promote these initiatives when there are droughts and floods which are related to climate change?
So, we need to focus on climate actions that are relevant in terms of increasing access to water, for example, rehabilitating wetland areas.
We need to learn how to focus on climate-smart agriculture. We need to learn how to be self-sufficient in food production, to depend less on tourism and trade.
The second lesson for me is important as well. When we think about support, we need to consider climate change adaptation and resilience. Health is one of the key areas of adaptation, so it’s a perfect time to invest in health infrastructure and in human resources.
COVID-19 also disrupted the supply chain, so that’s another area for countries like mine to consider.
Last but not the least, COVID-19 relief and recovery investment must address the disproportionate ways in which women and other marginalized populations have been affected.
I think my country’s biodiversity has been put at risk during the pandemic, because, you know, in this context, where people are suffering from poverty, they go to the forest to just find a way of living.
Here most of the poorest people, depend on natural resources; 80 per cent of the population of Madagascar live in rural areas.
They only think about their daily life; they can bring food to their families from the forest. So, when you talk about biodiversity in this pandemic, we are looking at a crisis in terms of protecting our natural habitat.
At this time of crisis, it’s really a big challenge for us to mobilize, to bring awareness to people that we need to protect these natural resources, that we need to find a balance between our livelihoods and protecting the natural world.
‘We have a voice’
I keep saying that I’m optimistic because more and more young people are trying to promote a greener economy, and to prove that we don’t need to exploit these natural resources too much.
I want to say that the youth won’t stay silent, we have a voice, and we will be heard and that we need to be included in decision-making. We need to do it first at the national level. We can work together, we can share best practices.
So, I take this opportunity to call on all the youth movements around the world to work together to bring change.