Mithika – a climate change activist
Mithika Mwenda is a passionate change maker who is working courageously alongside others so that people living in poverty can gain power over their own lives.
Created Africa's largest network
Mithika Mwenda is a change maker who is politically active in the fight against climate change. He was one of the founders of the Pan Africa Climate Justice Alliance (PACJA), Africa's largest network of individuals and organizations involved in climate issues. Its work, which began in 2008 with scanty resources, has subsequently managed to expand at a tremendous pace.
Today PACJA is made up of over 300 organizations from 45 African countries and plays a key role in the climate debate.
"You no longer need to be a scientist to prove that climate change is real. I see it every day in the form of floods, droughts and erratic weather," says Mithika Mwenda.
Active since his twenties
Mithika Mwenda lives and works in Nairobi, Kenya, and he has been an activist for various rights issues since his twenties. In recent years, he has put all his energy into what he terms the world’s biggest challenge: climate change. He knows what he is talking about. In an increasing number of locations all around Africa, he has encountered the same things: arid areas of land, dried-up wells and unpredictable rain that causes great destruction. It is no longer possible to predict the seasons or harvest periods, and the poorest citizens are those who pay the highest price.
The men move to the cities to find new ways of making a living while the women stay behind and look after the home. The women are forced to spend large parts of the day trying to get hold of water. The villages, dependent on cattle for their livelihood, are forced to watch their animals starve and their milk production dry up due to drought. Their daily lives have been turned upside down. People are forced to fight for their survival.
"Climate change is a threat to our existence, and we’re all in the same boat. It’s like the Titanic: the poorest and most vulnerable on the lower deck are affected first but in the end, the whole boat sinks and everyone goes down with it," says Mithika Mwenda.
Wants a world free from global warming
We have been invited home to Mithika, who has to pack his bag so that after our meeting he can catch the plane to Ethiopia, where climate negotiations are being held. Mithika is a busy man, but he is so passionate about creating a world free from global warming that he only sees the positives in a hectic schedule – it means that people are committed and want to listen. His home is situated in what he calls middle-class Nairobi, around an hour from the city centre. The infrastructure there is almost non-existent, and roads of red sand full of potholes are testament to its need for repair. The electric power supply is sporadic.
Not just an environmental issue
During our conversation, Mithika stresses that the climate issue is not just an environmental one: it's also a poverty issue, an economic issue, an ethical issue and a political issue. But above all, it's a human rights issue. He wants PACJA to play an active part in the solution to the problems of climate change, a solution which needs to encompass all people at all levels. It isn't reasonable that those hardest hit – poor people, women and children – cannot make their voices heard. PACJA wants to give these people and poor countries a voice and ensure global climate justice. Mithika is a strong believer in global cooperation. We ask him about his vision for the future.
"My vision is a world free from global warming and a generation aware of the legacy they will be leaving behind for future generations. And there is hope – there must be hope. Because we are all part of the solution to the problem. I believe that people and governments will soon wake up and understand that we need to come to cross-border agreements," says Mithika, smiling optimistically.