“As I build climate change awareness throughout my community on this island, I want to lead by example and take more meaningful action that really makes a difference,” says Husna Khamis Hamad, 26, who lives by the coast in Pemba on the island of Zanzibar, Tanzania. 

Before joining DOT’s Climate Corps program, Husna says she knew a little bit about climate and had experienced unexpected weather, but didn’t understand the science behind the reality. “I wanted to join DOT to learn more about climate change and to find out how to help my family and my community secure our environment and economy,” explains Husna, who is working as an intern at the Feed the Future Kilimo Tija Activity, an initiative aiming to transform Zanzibar’s horticulture sector. 

She has enjoyed discovering so many different ways to protect the coastal environment and the community where she lives. “The climate curriculum was particularly impactful for me because it empowered me as a Climate Champion to be able to approach different government leaders – it gave me the confidence to network with high-profile people and start collaborating with leaders who are more influential.”

As a DOT Climate Champion, she is busy spreading awareness about the effects of climate change to local communities in Pemba, guided through DOT’s Participatory Action Research (PAR) toolkit. “Because I now have the right skillset, other people trust what I say and they know they can rely on me – they see me as a leader now and this has built hope within our communities and I have connected with 173 people wanting to get involved in the PAR projects I organize here in Zanzibar.”

Husna has instigated mangrove planting projects in two locations – these plants help store carbon, provide habitat for wildlife and protect against further coastal erosion. So far, more than 80 people aged 18 to 74 have helped plant 6,250 mangrove plants to build greater coastal resilience here in Zanzibar. As well as local residents, volunteers included government officials: “The fishing officer from the Ministry of Blue Economy, the forest officer from the Ministry of Agriculture, Irrigation, Natural Resources and Livestock plus representatives from the Department of Climate Change at the First Vice President Office and other NGOs have joined us.”

Husna could not have imagined this would be possible but now, having the awareness of the problems and urgent need for solutions, she feels compelled to build on the relationships she is making with high level decision-makers. “That’s my biggest transformation – being able to work closely with government leaders like the Micheweni District Commissioner and the Minister of Agriculture, Irrigation, Natural Resources and livestock here in Zanzibar has been a wonderful opportunity. They are keen to learn and engage with our mangrove project – hopefully this experience will inform their future plans too.”

One of the most rewarding outcomes has been working with an older man who felt so depressed about the consequences of the environmental crisis. Husna explains that he had previously cut down plants because some people in his community were using the area where he was replanting  mangroves and other different trees for their own monetary gain without involving him. “I advised him about how best to help protect the environment and showed him that he could benefit, both economically and spiritually, by making the most of opportunities and using his faith to help  him feel stronger and comfortable enough to work with us. This work is about connecting with people’s heart and soul, not just about information and facts.”

Next, Husna will work with 24 other young entrepreneurs to plant fruit, vegetables, spices and trees in Pemba and set up facilities to recycle more waste so families and businesses can start to feel more self-sufficient. She is also looking forward to seeing the mangrove habitats develop and establish in the coming years. “These things give me hope,” she says. 

And on a personal level, she feels that DOT’s Climate Corps program has boosted her confidence. “I’m happy that I’m being trusted as a leader and a Climate Champion. I feel braver about approaching people to ask them to change something and applying for future opportunities.” 

Participating in DOT’s Climate Corps program  and getting involved in community action is “a fantastic idea”, says Husna: “Climate change impacts our society by disrupting the natural, economic and social systems we depend on, so we have to wake up and work hard to spread awareness and take more action. Community projects like this prompt us to make sustainable choices, reduce greenhouse gas emissions and protect our planet for future generations.”

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