‘We cannot give up’
Vanessa Nakate, a young woman from Uganda, is a leading voice for climate justice.
Vanessa Nakate first came to international attention for being erased. The climate movement Fridays for Future had invited the young climate activist from Uganda to attend the Annual Meeting of the World Economic Forum in Davos in early 2020.
Nakate, then 23, was photographed in Davos with Greta Thunberg, Luisa Neubauer and two other activists after a press conference. The news agency AP cropped the photo and erased the only climate activist of colour in the version sent to the newspapers.
In an emotional video posted by Nakate on social media, she asked, ‘Does that mean I have no value as an African activist? Or the people from Africa don’t have any value at all?’ and later stated that the news agency ‘did not just erase a photo’ (…), they ‘erased a continent’.
Many international media outlets reported on Nakate and the cropped photo. She used this attention to talk about the challenges of climate change in Africa. The continent is particularly hard hit by extreme weather events like droughts and flooding, which are becoming increasingly frequent. In addition, the regular pattern of rainfall is changing: in some cases, rainy seasons are becoming more intense, do not last as long or do not occur at all as there are longer periods of drought.
Nakate joined Fridays for Future in 2019. In interviews, she explains how talking to her uncle helped her understand the existential impact that climate change is having on the people of Africa: harvests are failing because farmers no longer know when to expect rain and when to sow. And crops are drying out in the fields because the sun’s rays have become too intense.
The direct impact of this is hunger, as the majority of the African population still depends on their own crop yields to survive. In sub-Saharan Africa, around two thirds of the working population – more than 215 million people – work in the agricultural sector.