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By Nisha Labade
11 July 2024

When we think about climate action, we think about safeguarding children's future. But what does that mean?  

At UNICEF, we believe that building climate resilience is just as essential as providing immediate emergency relief when a disaster strikes. For children and young people, the effects of natural disasters such as floods and drought are often invisible but have lifelong impacts on their health, development and wellbeing.  

Burundi is a small country of 12.5 million people in East Africa, sitting between Tanzania and Rwanda. Climate shocks in Burundi affect food availability and quality, leaving one in two children under the age of five chronically malnourished. With 94% of the population employed in rain-fed agriculture, communities are more at risk than ever, with prolonged dry seasons, delayed or intense rains. 

That’s why UNICEF Australia and Australian production company FINCH are working with young people in Burundi to develop creative problem-solving skills. 

This World Youth Skills Day on 15 July, meet two young individuals using science, science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) to develop solutions for a greener and more sustainable future.   

Meet Ninette, creating sustainable solutions in her community

When Ninette and her classmates participated in the UNICEF-supported Creatable program, they were determined to use their skills learnt in the classroom to solve real-world problems they were facing at home.

 Some of the daily challenges the class worked to solve were;

  • Deforestation: In Burundi, traditional ‘open fire’ stoves are a way of life. This means the demand for firewood in Burundi is increasing at a rapid rate, contributing to widespread clearing of forests, leading to increased risk of drought and other climate disasters. 
  • Poor health and nutrition: Due to deforestation, it is increasingly expensive to obtain firewood for cooking in Burundi. Without firewood, families have limited ability to cook healthy and nutritious meals. Additionally, constant smoke inhalation from the open-fire stoves can cause long-term health risks. 
  • Access to education: Cooking on an open fire can be hard work meaning many young people, especially girls, take time away from learning and being with their friends to collect firewood and engage in lengthy cooking tasks. 

Through the UNICEF program and lessons focused on innovation at school, the students have found a way to help every home in their community have a safe, affordable and efficient way to cook their food – by building a rocket stove. 

"The Creatable program will help us fight climate change. Learning about the rocket stoves taught us to preserve the environment and reduce our community need for firewood."

Photo of Ninette
Ninette
Year 9 student from Ngozi province, one of the 10 provinces participating in the Creatable program in Burundi. 

A rocket stove is an innovative new design which uses up to 75% less wood for fuel. The wood is burned efficiently with an insulated, vertical heat chamber and better airflow, reducing the amount of smoke produced.  

Want to learn more about sustainable creative solutions? 

Young people in Burundi are using sustainable agriculture to shape their futures

95%

of people in Burundi work in the agricultural sector

70%

of people in Burundi face food-insecurity, in part due to climate change 

Meet Christa-Bella, fighting against food insecurity

A young woman at her sustainable agriculture project site in Ngozi province, Burundi.
Christa-Bella at her sustainable agriculture project site in Ngozi province, Burundi.
© UNICEF Burundi/2022

Access to nutritious food remains a huge challenge for many people in Burundi. More than 67% of the population can't afford a nutritious diet. Women and children are disproportionately affected by food and nutrition insecurity due to gender inequality and structural vulnerabilities. And climate change means droughts are impacting crops year after year. 

But Ninette's classmate had an idea to tackle these issues in her community. "As our population keeps growing, Creatable shows us that with a small space, we can cultivate plants," says Christa-Bella, Year 9 student and winner of the ‘shark tank’ Creatable project contest in 2022.

As part of the Creatable program, students including Christa-Bella pitched their innovative idea to a panel of respected entrepreneurs. Christa-Bella won $3,000 (USD) towards making her idea, using urine as fertiliser for crops, a reality.   

With her prize she was able to start a larger-scale sustainable agriculture project, growing vegetables on fields and building community nurseries, using her knowledge of sustainable farming taught to her class in the second year of the Creatable program. 

Christa-Bella advocates for Creatable to be implemented in all schools in Burundi, "It helped us to have confidence in ourselves and motivates us to create work, be self-sufficient after our studies, and overcome unemployment.” 

"I thank the Creatable project. Because of this program, our futures will be better."

Photo of Christa-Bella
Christa-Bella
Year 9 student

Thanks to the generous support of people like you, young people like Christa-Bella and Ninette are empowered with the tools to create sustainable change, supporting their communities to thrive, now and well into the future. 

Creatable is a UNICEF program, developed in partnership with Australian production company FINCH with support from the Australian Government through the Australian NGO Cooperation Program (ANCP). 

Students in Burundi working together as part of the Creatable program that teaches STEM to solve real-world problems.
© UNICEF/EVRA9999/Ngendakumana

Help Burundi’s youth prepare for the future

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