Rwanda’s commitment to conserving the environment is through the protection and refurbishment of degraded ecosystems like wetlands and natural forests. The country has also made efforts in reforestation and tree-planting, with ongoing enactment of measures such as agro-forestry and training schemes in forest management. In addition, to achieve its vision of a low-carbon and climate-resilient economy by 2050, the Rwanda Green Fund was established to mobilise, blend, and coordinate finance to support the delivery of a green economy. ALSO READ: Climate change could erode 7% of Rwanda’s GDP by 2050 – report However, it’s not just the government and stakeholders’ role to protect and conserve the environment, everyone is required to get on board, especially young people. For 27-year-old Grace Ineza Umuhoza, starting a youth-led NGO, The Green Protector, in 2017, was intended to boost youth’s participation in safeguarding the environment on the national and global level. The company was created after realising the environmental changes and injustices that exist, and she had no doubt that the youth could do much more if united and equipped with knowledge about environmental protection— to be dynamic actors in this regard. Having taken part in the MILEAD (Moremi Initiative Leadership Empowerment and Development) Fellows Program in 2017, aimed to identify, develop and promote emerging young African female leaders to attain and thrive in leadership in their communities and Africa as a whole, Umuhoza’s zeal was elevated. “We engage with other youth through a series of events organised in schools; that is, capacity enhancement in different areas and elevating our country’s experience beyond our borders to advocate for proper youth inclusion in climate action,” she says. Umuhoza refers to herself as an ecofeminist impact-driven actor in the climate change sector. She believes in the power of frontline voices in shaping tangible climate action. She is very passionate about elevating these voices, especially on the international level, to induce the world to stand in solidarity to address the climate crisis. The climate crisis, she says, interlinks with other challenges, hence, hard to deploy solid solutions within communities. During her third year at the university, Umuhoza noticed that Rwanda is not immune to the climate crisis, and longed to provide relevant information. Knowing that climate change is an intricate issue, she yearned to contribute to quality education and enable the youth to be climate advocates. The Green Protector works closely with the community, to recognise its problems and construct projects to be implemented. It has completed five projects and three have already secured grants from the National Geographic Society, Global Green Fund, and others. Umuhoza is involved actively in the climate negotiation process by working with the government to make concrete decisions around climate change. She has worked with 3,500 young people, and different partners have assisted to elevate climate education. “We work closely with the government on a vast level that allows us not only to augment our voice as active stakeholders but also by equipping us with a safe space to learn how to reshape our vision and engagement while receiving capacity enhancement platforms that help us contour an enhanced future,” she says. Umuhoza’s goal is to ensure that her NGO’s activities are scaled to reach all corners of the country and achieve more climate action, especially around education and promoting the voices of communities. In 2020, she was among the team that started the Loss and Damage Youth Coalition, which is a global alliance of over 600 youth from more than 60 countries aiming to hold leaders accountable and take action on addressing loss and damage. The Green Protector is part of the founding organisation of the coalition. Some of the activities include; organising a cleaning day with the purpose of contributing to the reduction of plastic waste in the community, and formulating a debate and speech competition in order to distribute environmental knowledge among young people. According to Umuhoza, the youth climate dialogues aim to provide a platform for young people to discuss climate change with other young people in other parts of the world. ALSO READ: New approaches to climate change needed On November 12, 2019, the Green Protector hosted a virtual dialogue between students from the University of Rwanda and students from South-West University in China, where the discussion was themed, ‘Climate Change around Us.’ “Students from both universities discussed climate change causes and effects in their respective countries, the role of youth, and how the communities of both countries acknowledge and are combating climate change,” she says. ALSO READ: Youth urged to join fight climate change crisis Umuhoza further notes that in collaboration with the University of Rwanda and Rwanda Environment Management Authority (REMA), in 2018, the Green Protector organised a week-long campaign to raise awareness on desertification launched at the university’s College of Science and Technology, under the theme, ‘Land has true value, invest in it’. The overall objective was to surge awareness of desertification and land degradation in the community. The Green Protector has reached many schools and delivered training sessions on land degradation and desertification in order to bridge the environmental knowledge gap that exists.