5 Young South African Eco-Warriors You Should Know About
By Jessie Leverzencie
Being an environmental activist is a title someone of any age can hold. All you need to be is someone who cares deeply for the health and survival of our planet and its inhabitants, and who wants to do something to take care of it. Whether a big or small contribution, every single action matters.
This is true for these 5 inspiring young people from South Africa, who are paving the way for change! From an 11-year-old recycling warrior to a 14-year-old girl from Khayelitsha who is spreading awareness in her community – the youth are setting change into motion.
1. Rocco Da Silva (Cape Town, South Africa)
Photo credit: @thefuturekidsclub
Rocco Da Silva is an 11-year-old eco-activist from Cape Town, who started The Future Kids, a platform which connects kids like Rocco, who are looking to get active for the planet. They organise beach clean-ups and have some fun resources on their website that educate kids about pollution.
Rocco encourages other children to join the Future Kids club, where they will get active for the health of our oceans by attending monthly beach cleanups. “We’re quite small compared to other beach clean-up clubs, but that doesn’t matter. That won’t stop me,” said Rocco in an interview with Beautiful News. Rocco won the PETCO Waste Reduction Youth Warrior award in 2019, its youngest winner!
2. Yola Mgogwana (Khayelitsha, South Africa)
Photo credit: Yola Mgogwana – Giraffe.org
Yola Mgogwana is a 14-year-old from Khayelitsha outside of Cape Town, who is educating her local community members and school peers, about the importance of taking care of the planet, and that that action starts from home.
“I’m marching, singing, and shouting for my right to a liveable future,” Yola said in an interview with Global Citizen. Yola speaks about the importance of taking action against climate change and global warming issues and that mobilisation needs to take place on the ground now. “People have become less sensitive to global warming because they aren’t faced with reality yet,” she says. “But where I’m from this reality already exists.”
3. Ayakha Melithafa (Cape Town, South Africa)
Photo credit: @ayakhamelithafa
Ayakha Melithafa, a 20-year-old environmental activist from Cape Town, is changing the narrative around what an environmental activist is – and is breaking stereotypes with regard to race and gender in the eco-activism space.
When the drought hit Cape Town and the Western Cape in 2017, Ayakha’s family, who have a farming background, were directly affected and their livelihood threatened. “That pushed me to actually do some research on what could be causing the drought. And that’s when I came across climate change [and] global warming, confirming our biggest fears. And that just prompted me to start my activism journey,” Ayakha said in an interview with the Daily Maverick.
4. Romario Valentine (Durban, South Africa)
Photo credit: Romario Valentine
Romario Valentine is an 11-year-old from Durban. Romario has cleaned the beach over 150 times and is the youngest ambassador for Kenyan-based non-profit organisation, Ocean Sole, which is converting washed-up flip flops which once polluted the ocean, into works of art.
Besides the aforementioned, Romario has also self-funded campaigns to plant trees on 4 continents and raised money on his 10th birthday to raise funds to make an aviary for abandoned African Grey Parrots. His mother describes on his BackaBuddy campaign page that “Earth Shaker, Romario has decided that his 10th birthday gift for the 26th of July 2021, will be to restore habitats for biodiversity and to leave a legacy for other children and generations to come.”
5. Kiara Nirghin (Johannesburg, South Africa)
Photo credit: Alex Kekauoha
Kiara Nirghin is a 22-year-old eco inventor from Johannesburg who is paving the way for more eco-friendly inventions that can help in the fight against climate change and drought. “I want to innovate and solve problems and create products that help people.”
In 2016, when Kiara was just 16 years old, she invented a super-absorbent polymer that can help prevent crop loss during seasons of drought, by ensuring that crops remain well watered. This invention led Kiara to win the Google Science Fair Prize. She is also on Time Magazine’s 30 Most Influential list and has been a voice on platforms such as Teen Vogue, Forbes Africa, UN Women as well as TEDx.
If these young eco-warriors are not a true testament to the fact that being an environmentalist has no age, then nothing is. Each of us has the means to make a difference, change starts where you are and with the resources, you have at your disposal.
All you need is the willingness to get active, to choose change and to believe that the seemingly impossible is only a change in mindset away from becoming possible.
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