International Youth Day: More action for youth in conservation

About the Author

Harleen Sehmi is the Senior Digital Content Officer at African Wildlife Foundation. She develops articles for AWF’s website and publications, connecting audiences with the organization's work in diverse landscapes and showcasing the impact of community-centered conservation. More

Derrick Mugisha is one of 50 youth participants sponsored by African Wildlife Foundation to attend the inaugural Africa Protected Areas Congress in July 2022. He is the founder and CEO of the Uganda-based Biodiversity Hub International and leads the Uganda chapter of the Global Youth Biodiversity Network (GYBN). On International Youth Day 2022, Mugisha reflects on how the congress helped create new connections to strengthen youth-led action for conservation in his country and the continent at large.

What was the biggest lesson from the Africa Protected Areas Congress?

The entire congress was very educative in terms of my work as a young person — there is a lot now to think about but the the most important thing I have picked out is conservation should be African-led. We cannot always wait for the global North to come and talk about what we do in Africa. One of the key discussions has been on how Africa can raise its own money to carry out conservation initiatives on the continent and the launch of A Pan-African Conservation Trust is instrumental towards achieving this ambitious yet necessary goal. We have never had a fund of this kind on the continent and I hope our leaders can invest in this trust and so that we can transform conservation.

At APAC, I was glad that AWF CEO Kaddu Sebunya underscored the fact that Africa does not have to choose between conservation and development — this belief underpins my organization’s mission and work in Uganda. In addition, the sessions on collaborative land-use planning, the inclusion of indigenous people and local communities, and conservation enterprise will undoubtedly inform our work going forward.

By giving us access to diverse perspectives and conservation approaches from across the continent, the congress has opened my eyes to the opportunities in conservation for African youth. Africa has a common agenda and it is now time to move from amplifying youth voices to supporting youth action.

How does your organization support youth action in conservation?

Biodiversity Hub International works to protect and restore critically important natural ecosystems in Uganda. For instance, we are currently planting thousands of trees to restore 440 hectares of the Mpanga Forest. We also work with young farmers living around protected areas to create sustainable businesses from conservation so that they can avoid poaching, illegal wildlife trade, and other activities that degrade the natural environment.

At the same time, we consult youth across the country on environmental policy matters to inform our position as the Africa chapter of the GYBN. This is vital as we prepare to represent youth interests at the upcoming U.N. biodiversity conference in Montreal later this year.

GYBN Africa and AWF sign MoU at Africa Protected Areas Congress

Derrick Mugisha (fifth from left) with Global Youth Biodiversity Network members at APAC

What is the importance of partnership in conservation?

Fostering relationships and connections brings about positive change in conservation. Thanks to AWF’s support, GYBN Africa chapter members have boosted their capacity as young policymakers through regional workshops.

At APAC, we signed a Memorandum of Understanding aimed at continuing to empower youth at multiple levels to learn from one another and come together as a unified force. When we look back at this time, Africans will not say youth are not engaged in conservation, and we remain thankful for this long-term support from AWF.

> Learn more about the Youth Pre-Congress at APAC