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Cambridge Institute for Sustainability Leadership (CISL)

5 November 2021 - This report documents the diverse livelihood strategies of young people living in Uganda, the impacts of climate change on their lives, and the adaptation and mitigation strategies that they have employed to address the crisis so far. By foregrounding views of young people, our research presents a vivid picture of how climate disruptions are already impacting young people.

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The climate crisis – the single greatest challenge of our time – is also a crisis multiplier. And Africa, home to the world’s youngest population, stands to be the continent worst impacted by climate change. As the climate crisis exacerbates underlying social, economic, and development challenges, young people will be disproportionately impacted by climate change. We are on course for these challenges to escalate, especially for young people, as climate change deepens. Unless we take urgent action at the local, national, and global scales, today’s young people and subsequent generations will face increasingly severe climate disruptions that will impact many facets of their lives. This report details the early stages of a worsening situation, explores specific challenges, and proposes some solutions.

The voices of young Africans are often unheard in public and political discussions of climate change impacts, adaptation and mitigation. This reflects various barriers including digital disconnection, poverty, denied visas, and non-existent invitations. Yet it is essential that the experiences, insights and recommendations of young people, who already experience climate change in their daily lives, are heard and listened to. This report adds the voices of young people living in Uganda, one of the world’s least developed countries, to the global understandings of climate change adaptation, mitigation, and justice.

This report brings together new research in Uganda with key takeaways from the Kampala-Cambridge Workshop on the impact of climate change on young people in Uganda. The report is composed of four main sections, each focusing on one facet of the interactions between young people and climate change. The first examines climate change in Uganda and the scholarly and policy narratives concerning climate, development, and charcoal in Uganda, alongside young people’s understandings of climate change. The second chapter centres on the diverse impacts that climate change has on the livelihoods, education, mental health, and food security of young people. The third chapter considers the adaptation and mitigation strategies that young people in Uganda have employed, especially at the individual and household levels, and reviews youth activism. The penultimate chapter elaborates on practical solutions, focusing on green jobs and policy innovation. The final chapter of the report concludes with targeted recommendations informed by young people experiencing the sharp end of climate change, including the following:

  1. Education should emphasise climate change and adaptation strategies.
  2. Training is needed in alternative, climate-resilient livelihoods.
  3. Young people need stable income sources and finance for adaptation.
  4. Inclusive policy dialogue is needed to engage young people’s expertise.

Citing this report

Barford, A., Olwell, R. H., Mugeere, A., Nyiraneza, M., Magimbi, P., Mankhwazi, C., & Isiko, B. (2021). Living in the climate crisis: young people in Uganda. University of Cambridge.

Published: November 2021

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Authors and acknowledgements

The authors of this report are Dr. Anna Barford, Rose Hardwick Olwell, Dr. Anthony Mugeere, Mollen Nyiraneza, Paul Magimbi, Charles Mankhwazi, and Benard Isiko. 

The author would like to thank the youth researchers and young respondents, and the participants in the Kampala-Cambridge Workshop. In addition, Katie Whipkey, Sam Simmons, Professor Clive Oppenheimer, Sean Canty and Paola Buonadonna gave valuable feedback and input. 

This work was funded by the British Academy Youth Futures Programme grant, for the research project Peak Youth, Climate Change and the Role of Young People in Seizing their Future. The School of Technology at the University of Cambridge funded the production of this report.


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The opinions expressed here are those of the authors and do not represent an official position of CISL or The University of Cambridge.