Billy Lombe is the Founder and Chief Executive Officer of Youth Environment Network Zambia, he is also the Executive Coordinator for The African Youth Initiative on Climate change (AYICC), a renowned Global Climate change network for youth, he will serve as the Executive coordinator for AYICC for the next two years. He has worked for various youth oriented organizations in Zambia and Kenya.
Billy Lombe has been an advocate for the ban or associated fee on plastic bags to promote the health and hygiene of citizens in their environment. Among his works is the Zero Waste Centre for Africa Initiative (ZWCA) that seeks to engage the public, Local government, Organizations and private sectors in sustainable Zero waste strategies that will directly address the challenges faced by the waste management systems in Africa.
One on One with Billy
1.Tell us a bit about your background and work experiences
I was born and grew up in Chawama Township – a densely populated community – in the heart of Zambia’s capital city, Lusaka. Growing up in Lusaka, I very early on became passionate about becoming a part of changing the society I was growing up in. In 2007, I founded the Youth Environment Network (YEN) Zambia of which I am CEO. I also founded Green Awakening Media, a media house which seeks to provide quality entertainment in a sustainable manner. I studied at the University of Zambia and later went on to train in community development and environmental conservation. I am a trained expert in Urban Agriculture and Composting, having undergone my training at Eco-City Farms and Prince George Community College in Washington, DC. In addition, I spent time, part of 2013, in the United States as one of 56 exceptional and brightest leaders selected from around the world to participate in a Community Solutions Program (CSP) sponsored by the US Department of State and administered by International Research Exchanges Board (IREX). I have worked for various youth, environmental, policy and research-oriented organizations in Zambia, USA, Kenya and the rest of Africa. My work has ranged from youth engagement at the YMCA to environmental activism at Habitat for Humanity. I have also worked for Cosmos Education in the USA and at the Institute for Local Self Reliance (ILSR) in Washington DC, Eco-Diva TV in Los Angeles, California. My work with Youth Environment Network (YEN) has also given me an opportunity to be a member of the Zambian delegation to the UN for several high level meetings on Climate Change (UNFCCC) and the Biological diversity (UN-CBD). I currently serve as the Executive Coordinator for the African Youth Initiative on Climate Change (AYICC). AYICC has more than 20,000 members in over 40 African countries. I also serve on the executive committees of the African Artists Peace Initiative (AAPI), UNESCO Pan-African Youth Network for a Culture of Peace (PAYNCoP) and finally a Community Solutions Program (CSP) Alumni Board Member.
Getting my voice heard by the people in order to change their attitudes towards the environment has been tough for over eight years in an attempt to creating an environmentally conscious society. This has not been an easy task. It requires needs consistently and focused investments in education aligned with clear environmental policies.
3.As a young person that is passionate about the issues surrounding development and environmental sustainability from the perspective of youth empowerment and community development, what inspired you to choose this path?
Africa is a relatively young continent. It is a continent full of young people who are rarely consulted or engaged actively in policy/strategic meetings which directly affect their future and generations to come. Correcting this was one of my inspirations. Also, I wanted to contribute to changing the narrative that young people are only job seekers or tools of violence. Young people should be seen as a key part of the process and should not be ignored when addressing developmental challenges such as poverty, climate change and inequalities.
4. As a young person who works with and around youth development, how would you rate the enthusiasm of young people?
I think young people have always been enthusiastic about change. Over the decades and across Africa large numbers of young people have been highly interested in development and they have the will power to create the change they are looking to see in the world. It is crucial that governments provide more opportunities and enabling environments that will enable them to contribute effectively to the development process without any interference.
5. How have decisions you made and initiatives you have taken in the past contributed to the success you have attained today?
I believe that making bold decisions and participating in various initiatives has gotten me where I am today. There are times I wanted to give up because I felt there was not much progress being made, in spite of the hard work we put in but over the years, things changed. Now I have an opportunity to travel around the world to learn and share, to connect with great leaders and participate in change at very high levels. My leadership skills have also improved over the years and it makes me proud to know that I am helping to change the face of Africa.
I always say that it is important young people to first find their passion around climate change and other environmental issues. They have to open their hearts to volunteerism and actively take part in actions such as tree planting, clean-up activities and many more at local level. They ought to become partners in promoting and safeguarding our planet’s well being. I spent more than five years of volunteering with different non-profits organizations before I established Youth Environment Network (YEN) Zambia. I had to become grounded and understand the gaps which needed urgent attention before I set out on my own.
7. Can you briefly enlighten us on the Youth Environment Network?
Youth Environment Network (YEN) Zambia is a Non-Governmental Organization (NGO). Our goal is to educate, engage and empower youths, women and children and the general community in environmental and climate change issues that ultimately help in improving their livelihoods. The organization also endeavors to advocate for better environmental related policies and build the capacities of citizens. We encourage the participation of youth, women and children in protecting and safeguarding our natural resources.
8.What do you suggest is the correct approach to tackling climate change as regards to the problem it causes in agriculture?
I strongly suggest that we invest more in conservation farming (CF) in order to effectively deal with climate change and avoid emission increase from agriculture. We have witnessed so much deforestation for agricultural practices which is highly unsustainable and threatens our valuable ecosystems in the process. We must then shift to agricultural practices that enable high crop yields but do not destroy our environment in order to do so.
9. About the African Youth Initiative on Climate Change (AYICC): Can you highlight how this will impact on youth development in Africa and if there are some early successes to celebrate or flagship programs in the pipeline?
AYICC’s goal is to develop capacity and enable strong partnerships among African youth. We help them to understand the urgent need to take action against the impacts of climate change for both present and future generations. Since its inception, AYICC has impacted a lot on youth developmental agenda in Africa. At national level, we have raised the profile a number of grassroots youth organizations and individuals who are at the forefront of responding to impacts of climate change. Furthermore, we have ensured the inclusion, and active participation of youth voices from Africa, in the international climate change negotiations. At AYICC, we proudly celebrate a number of successes; its presence in 42 countries with over 20,000 members, its representation of our youth delegates in all COP meetings since COY2 in Nairobi, 2006. In 2011, we also organized the road to Durban climate caravan that traversed 6 African countries from Nairobi, Kenya to the onset of COP 18 in Durban. In 2014, AYICC hosted the first ever African Youth Conference on Climate Change (AfriYOCC). AfriYOCC provides an avenue for African youths to showcase their climate change adaptation and mitigation strategies, projects and initiatives and further share some of the best practices. AYICC is in the process of rolling out its flagship project Youth Farm ‘YFarm’ in all the regions of Africa. YFarm project adopts a comprehensive and integrated approach that directly engages young Africans and different stakeholders in Agriculture to promote multi-sectoral and inter-generational partnerships necessary to promote agriculture and food security across the region. Finally, we are working on an African youth climate change adaptation and mitigation best practices data base and handbook which we hope to unveil during COP22 in Marrakesh, Morocco.
10. Predictably, a number of young Africans look up to you as a mentor, but for lack of time, you are unable to mentor these youngsters directly, in this minute what words do you have for such young Africans?
The most important thing in life especially, for young Africans is to be determined and dedicated always in whatever you choose to pursue. Always know that discipline is a trait of successful people. Never be discouraged whenever your friends are achieving great things but rather be inspired to do more.