Gemma Munday, Global Brand & Stories lead at Restless Development, interviewed Franco about his climate activism and what inspired him to become a leader in his community
Who inspired you as a leader growing up?
My mother. She was so passionate about making sure the environment was protected, she liked planting trees. I knew I was supposed to support my neighbourhood and the environment because of her.
What do you do now?
I am a volunteer trainer with Restless Development. I am also a student at University, studying Environmental Studies.
What is your role as a Restless Development volunteer?
I am a community peer educator. I have been trained on how to run community groups, and lead the project in the community on how to do farming that adapts to climate change, I was so happy because I am able to grow vegetables even in the dry seasons.
There is also the cultural tourism aspect of the project. I work with community groups to turn their cultural heritage into something they can make money from. This includes making and selling their traditional beads and crafts. The young people in the community here really like this.
What role do you have in your community?
In my community, people look to me as someone with foresight and potential to lead the community.
“I am leading many community groups in different areas – like farming and cultural tourism. I now have the skills needed to support the groups to succeed.”
When did you start realising the impact climate change is having on your community?
My mum cared for environment ever since she was young. When she was still alive, before she passed away this year, she always encouraged us to be cautious about the environment. She was working with the National Forest Authority and trained me in environmental issues when I was growing up. She realised the environment was changing when trees were getting cut down across Karamoja.
All my life I stayed in Karamoja, in the last 15 years the climate has become even more harsh. For instance in the last 5 years, the rain is becoming unpredictable and the dry season is becoming hotter.
Deforestation is a huge problem, but selling wood is a livelihood for many. How did you convince people about the threat of climate change?
I don’t have to convince them. People are seeing it with their own eyes, the floods are extreme and our rivers can overflow or totally dry up. They see the evidence for themselves. As a young person I make sure I approach the dry season by training farmers in how to use the water systems. When the dry season comes, some communities that still don’t have water systems have little food to eat.
“As a young person, I am trying to find the issues and address them. This includes advising people in how to harvest water and crow crops in extreme weather.”
Myself and other young people are working with the environmental government departments to put water systems in every village. We are working alongside NGOs, like Restless Development. Our ambition is to get clean water to all the villages.
Tell us how you grew your action against climate change from a vision to a movement?
“To make change work, people need to be in an organised group with an intended common goal.”
I turned my own ideas into real change by working with a group of young people tackling different climate change issues. This can be an inspiration for other young people to create organised groups and change the things they care about.
Have politicians been supportive of your vision for change?
They are supportive. The local ones are great. We need their advice and support, connect us to other organisation and national government. They also give us extra support. They give us free trees to plant and provide training in different areas, such as protecting the environment.
What was it like making the film with Restless Development? What was your favourite part?
My favorite part was freely interacting with my community and asking them about different issues. The interview in my home was very nice, it was all about my initiatives as a young person in terms of the environment and climate change.
I felt very good, it was my first time to shoot a video. I felt very proud and very happy with it. I’m so so happy I am an example to other young people to change issues they care about.
What do you hope the impact of this film will be?
I hope that young people out there who watch the film will interpret and use it in their own communities. I hope it will inspire them.
We all have the capacity to change whatever is important for our people. For my people, it is important to protect the environment, however for others they have different issues they are tackling.
“I hope anyone who has a chance to hear my story is inspired that they too can change their lives and benefit their community.”