Food@COP: A youth-led food and climate campaign nearly 4 years young

by Sharon Gakii

Several campaigners (including Sharon Gakii, bottom right) at the African Climate Summit in Nairobi in September 2023Photo by Food@COP

As we wrote for ClimaTalk back in 2021, Food@COP is a collection of youth from across the globe who believe that climate-friendly negotiations must take place over climate-friendly meals. We call upon the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) Conference of the Parties (COP) host country organizers to serve affordable, nutritious, predominantly plant-based, and culturally inclusive foods that reflect the urgency of the climate crisis. Here’s an update on the group’s activities in 2023 and details of a few grassroots projects led by active campaigners.

COP28 Catering Letter

Since the onset of the year, the team worked tirelessly to influence catering menus for COP28. With members of the youth constituency of the UNFCCC (YOUNGO) Food and Agriculture Working Group, supported by ProVeg International, we dispatched an Earth Day letter to the Presidency and had a series of productive engagements with members of the Presidency. We received an official response in May 2023 from the President-elect and all three groups delivered a comprehensive presentation in August. 

The Food@COP campaigners involved generously volunteered their time towards this letter campaign, viewing the food served at COP as a pivotal component of the broader international endeavor to address the Agriculture, Forestry, and Other Land Use (AFOLU) sector. Alongside energy and other sectors, AFOLU is imperative for achieving the objectives set forth by the Paris Agreement.

Food@COP #OurPlantsOurCulture Campaigner Projects in Sub-Saharan Africa 

In advance of COP27, Food@COP launched the #OurPlantsOurCulture campaign to promote the fruits, vegetables, seeds, and legumes of traditional and indigenous cultures. Several Food@COP campaigners have active agricultural projects in their home countries. Below is a short description of three such campaigners, who bring their on-the-ground experience back to the larger group to inform the direction of the campaign.

John Katikomu (Democratic Republic of the Congo)

Enable the Disable Action (EDA) has a specialized urban and sustainable agriculture project in Congo. They benefit from planting amidst volcanic rock, utilizing solely organic and green fertilizers, and steering clear of chemical alternatives. Their approach includes recycling henhouse waste and plant residues as green fertilizers. They grow a vibrant array of produce–from amaranths (lengalenga in Swahili) to cabbages, onions, leeks, eggplants, peppers, tomatoes, and lettuce. Even more exciting, they proudly mentor over 40 young agri-business entrepreneurs, many of whom are now flourishing in their own fields.

EDA’s agricultural project growing organic vegetables in DRCPhoto by Enable the Disable Action (EDA)

Sharon Gakii (Kenya)

The International Consortium on Climate and Biodiversity (ICCB) organized a soil health training with the community members in Kajiado East constituency outside Nairobi in September. They engaged in vital activities such as soil testing, comprehensive training on organic fertilizers, and empowering farmers with essential skills. These efforts play a crucial role in bolstering food security. It’s important to recognize that agriculture is not only the backbone of Kenya’s economy, but also the cornerstone of many families’ livelihoods. This initiative is a significant step towards ensuring a resilient and sustainable food production system for the community. At the heart of ICCB’s mission is ensuring food security through the promotion of organic agricultural practices and innovative farming solutions.The event was in partnership with HBCU Green Fund, Food@COP, Arctic Angels, and She Changes Climate.

ICCB soil health workshop with Maasai community in Kajiado EastPhoto by Food@COP

Miriam Kinuthia (Kenya) 

As part of the Africa Climate Summit Lake Basin Development Authority side event in Kisumu, Food@COP and the Kisumu Environmental Champions presented a unique, plant-based foods exhibition. A good portion of the produce displayed came from campaigner Newton Saisi’s farm in Eldoret. They raised awareness about the importance of traditional foods, and the relationship between food systems and climate change. They also advocated for a global shift to plant-based diets as a way of reducing global greenhouse gas emissions, and shared information about the COP28 catering letter. These campaigners proudly introduced Food@COP and #OurPlantsOurCulture to the Deputy Governor of Kisumu County, H.E. Dr. Mathew Owili and the County Executive Committee (CEC) Member for Trade, Tourism, Industry and Marketing, Hon. Farida Salim, among other dignitaries and directors of the Lake Victoria Basin Development Agency. 

Kisumu Environmental Champions sharing a delicious display of local produce, including many indigenous plants as part of an ACS remote side event in SeptemberPhoto by Food@COP

About the Organisation:

The Food@COP campaign is an active project of YOUNGO’s Food and Agriculture working group. It’s operated by a dedicated global team, predominantly volunteers who are passionately committed to ensuring the provision of nutritious, affordable, and climate-friendly meals at major climate conferences. They champion the active involvement of youth in policy decision-making processes and advocate for the transformation of food systems towards sustainability and equity, alongside spearheading numerous grassroots initiatives such as tree plantings, kitchen gardens, and agricultural projects. Acknowledging the financial and logistical challenges faced by many young activists, particularly those in the Global South, Food@COP’s primary aim is to ease this burden and enable full participation in the conference, to make sure young activists’ voices are present.

Categories All Posts/Featured Guests

Tell us what you think!

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.