Omonuk determined to get global voice for climate justice

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Omonuk determined to get global voice for climate justice
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Uganda stands among the nations most vulnerable to climate change, facing threats from disrupted crop production to increased malnutrition and disease spread.

In this decade, global awareness of climate change has grown markedly. Calls for leaders to take action resonate worldwide as signs of a shifting climate become harder to ignore.

At the heart of this movement is Nicholas Omonuk, a 24-year-old climate justice activist from Uganda.

Rising from a rural community in Pallisa, he taking the climate change gospel to the world, embodying resilience, determination, and the transformative power of personal experience.

His impact on the global climate movement has been profound.

In his brief tenure as a climate activist, Omonuk aims to cultivate a generation that prioritises environmental concerns, believing that if leaders fail to act, individuals can still make a difference.

Devastating wildfires have recently ravaged numerous countries, causing unprecedented damage.

Uganda, too, grapples with prolonged droughts in various regions, landslides in the east, and flooding exacerbated by deforestation.

Omonuk grew up in a pastoralist family in Pallisa, Eastern Uganda, which greatly influenced his journey toward making the world a better place.

He hails from the Iteso tribe, where each child has specific household responsibilities. Boys tend to livestock while girls fetch water.

"His family's livelihood depended on livestock and cash crops like cotton. However, severe droughts disrupted our lives, drying up wells and causing malnutrition among our livestock," he recalls.

"We had to travel farther to graze our livestock. If you don't work, school fees get delayed," he noted.

The droughts forced many families, including Omonuk's own, to sell off most of their livestock. His father switched to poultry farming and egg sales, although profits were marginal.

"He sold each tray of eggs for about $2.5, below market price," he said.

The impact of these environmental changes was profound.

"If I didn’t go to school, I would not have known about climate change," Omonuk reflects.

His exposure to climate education at a university workshop in 2021 was transformative.

"Different activists explained how climate change is interconnected to different aspects of our lives. When I left this workshop, I didn't stay the same," he notes.

Omonuk's experiences and newfound knowledge ignited a passion for climate activism. He began raising awareness, joining local climate strikes, and engaging in digital activism.

"I believed there had to be a way to prevent this crisis from recurring," he says.

In 2023, he founded End Fossil Occupy Uganda, a local climate movement demanding a phase-out of fossil fuels and a just transition for Africa.

His activism took him to various international platforms. In December 2022, he represented the Most Affected People and Areas (MAPA) at COP27 alongside prominent young activists.

In April 2023, he organized a climate protest for more investment in renewable energies.

"We have held protests both online and physically in Uganda and Europe," he shares.

Omonuk’s activism is deeply rooted in his personal experiences.

"I use my story as a testimony," he says.

"Whenever I speak about my story, it hurts me emotionally and sometimes I want to cry. But I know that if I don't let the world know about it, they will not act on such climate injustices."

Climate change has forced many in Omonuk's community to migrate.

"In my village, a lot of households sold off their livestock and land because they could no longer get enough money," he explains.

"Some went far east to cross the border to Kenya, some went to nearby towns like Jinja and Kampala, and others decided to go to DRC and Rwanda."

This migration has had severe repercussions

. "A lot of people moved from Karamoja to Kampala only to become street beggars," he notes. The frequent landslides in neighboring towns like Mbale have also driven communities away. "Many left because the landslides had killed many of their loved ones and destroyed a lot of property."

Despite these challenges, Omonuk's community has shown remarkable resilience.

"In Pallisa, a minority of the people are resorting to new ways of getting money like selling chicken, eggs, and maybe offering boda boda services," he says.

However, the majority still struggle with limited access to water and declining agricultural productivity.

Various initiatives aim to address these challenges.

"There are initiatives to provide water for people, but it's still limited," Omonuk acknowledges.

The government has also introduced resilient agriculture and improved access to fresh water. However, more needs to be done

"The government should develop inclusive National Adaptation Plans that will leave no one behind,” he states.

Omonuk’s advocacy extends beyond Uganda. He has participated in climate campaigns in Europe, collaborating with NGOs and climate movements to amplify the voices of affected communities.

In December 2023, Omonuk represented the Global South at COP28, playing a pivotal role in advancing decisions on operationalizing the Loss and Damage Fund and advocating for the phase-out of fossil fuels.

Omonuk is also the co-founder of Plant For My Future, an initiative mobilizing youth and communities across Africa to plant trees and educate people about climate change.

Additionally, Omonuk has shared his insights on climate change intersectionalities, including migration, corporate neocolonialism, and social justice, through various podcasts and speaking engagements.

In 2023, he founded End Fossil Occupy Uganda, a local climate movement demanding fossil fuel phase-outs and a just African transition.

His activism took him around the world, participating in protests, conferences, and speaking engagements to raise awareness about climate change and advocate for climate justice.

In February 2024, Omonuk and his team at End Fossil Occupy Uganda launched a targeted campaign urging insurance companies to stop insuring fossil fuel projects.

This campaign led to a significant victory when Probitas, an insurance company involved in the East African Crude Oil Pipeline (EACOP), withdrew its support.

Omonuk has valuable advice for individuals and communities dealing with the impacts of climate change.

"People affected by climate change should know their rights," he asserts. "They should learn to speak out about climate injustices. It doesn’t matter whether you can speak English or not; what matters is your story and the solution you think can work for your community."

He also emphasizes the importance of support. "Amplify their stories and let them speak for themselves about their climate issues and solutions," he advises.

"Join climate activism to help raise their voices and build more capacity to fight for climate justice."

Looking ahead, Omonuk envisions a future where communities like his have adequate access to food and water.

"I would love to inspire more young individuals in Uganda and throughout Africa to become active participants in the African climate movement," he says.

"A future where communities like mine have adequate access to food and water is possible."

Omonuk's journey from a rural village in Pallisa to the global stage is a powerful narrative of resilience, activism, and hope.

His story highlights the urgent need for climate action and the importance of amplifying the voices of those most affected by climate change.

As he continues to advocate for climate justice, Omonuk says he remains a beacon of hope and inspiration for many.

"We have to be able to share our stories when we are still children," he insists, "to learn how to tackle them and ensure a better future for all."

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