Nasreen Al-Amin and her organisation are building greener communities through locally-led adaptation

In Kano, Nigeria, a youth-led organisation is building resilience of local communities through a forest restoration project. Azeez Abubakar reports. This is the first of the ‘Voices from the Frontline (Phase-II)‘ stories by ICCCAD and GRP. 

Across a wide range of sectors, Nigeria is faced with several climate change challenges. From increased flooding and intensifying droughts to soaring mean annual temperatures and sea-level rise, local communities are at the frontline of climate change impacts. Kano State, situated in the Northern region of Nigeria, is particularly vulnerable to such impacts and is already experiencing the detrimental effects of climate change. The state, located in the Sahel, south of the Sahara Desert has a population of 15 million. This vulnerability to climate change is exacerbated by extreme levels of environmental degradation which has reduced the supply of ecosystem goods and services and thus the coping capacity of many rural communities. However, locally-led adaptation projects are turning the tide. Through these projects, young people are building capacity to facilitate climate-resilient development, thereby tackling adaptation problems within Kano State.

Nasreen Al-Amin is one of many young people who have taken the responsibility to fight the climate crisis and help marginalised communities build resilience through locally-led adaptation projects. Like many other young people in Northern Nigeria, she has first-hand experience of the plights of people on the frontlines of the climate crisis and insurgency.

“Seeing food supply and economy in the communities being adversely affected by deforestation, land degradation, drought and desertification, and the effects being exacerbated by climate change, stirred me to get involved in climate action,” says Nasreen.

She began her endeavour by researching possible sustainable solutions and identifying a local community in her state to conduct outreach. From this, she decided to begin a tree plantation programme. She had ambitions to create greater impact, so she explored more sustainable ways of scaling her work which led her to found the non-profit organisation, Surge Africa.

At Surge Africa, Nasreen and her team launched the Jeji Restoration project co-funded by Plant-for-the-Planet. The Jeji Restoration project supports climate-vulnerable communities through tree plantation. They named the project Jeji Restoration – Jeji being a Hausa word for forest – in alignment with their vision to restore forests in their community and across Africa. The project takes place in Kumbo, originally a degraded area of land in Kano State.

Before launching the project, they consulted the community members to understand their challenges. They designed the project based off of their consultations. “From our interactions with the community members, we learned that their key priorities were to not just restore trees but to have a source of income and livelihoods to put food on their tables and live a good life”, Nasreen says. “Local community leaders played a key role in the project. They were critical in mobilising local community members and implementing the project. We met with them to get their permission to execute the project in their communities”, she adds.

Through the Jeji project, they trained local community members to lead and execute the tree plantation and in turn the members received financial payment for their work. The trainings and material were provided in local languages to ensure that they were reaching the community members. This strategy not only gave the community members ownership of their work, but it also provided them with a source of food and income. Nasreen and her team with the leadership and participation of the local community members restored the land by planting 4,000 seedlings at 500 seedlings per hectare.

Nasreen played a critical role in engaging marginalised communities for the implementation of the Jeji Restoration project. She designed the project to protect 1,000 people affected by war and environmental conflicts with a sustainable source of livelihood through landscape restoration – thereby providing them with a means of income, shelter and food.

According to Nasreen, the project, as it becomes large-scale, will gradually become self-sustaining. “The more ground that is covered, the more opportunities there are for land regeneration,” she adds. She believes that forest resources and crops harvested by local communities will support the sustainability of the project with no need for external funding.

She emphasised that although she and her team have support from both the community and government, financial limitation is the only challenge they face. Nasreen hopes to get institutional support in designing policies that ensure conservation of the restored lands. To achieve greater impact, she is seeking more collaboration with relevant government agencies to help strengthen the efforts of landscape governance. Nasreen highlighted the need for the local indigenous organisations to be provided with more opportunities and financial capital beyond merely small and short-term grants.

From this initiative, Nasreen learned the significance of community cohesion and inclusion when conducting a project and that with the right strategy and implementation plans, achieving sustainable landscape restoration is possible. Nasreen said “there are many innovative ways to support frontline communities, and these innovations do not have to be high-end, technological or even expensive. Sometimes working with nature requires only its understanding and creating measurable solutions in line with its ecosystem.”

Interviewer’s Perspective: 

Young people, particularly women, are the leaders of today. Nasreeen is an incredible young leader paving the way for more young people to co-create locally led adaptation initiatives. She is an energetic and passionate young woman whose voice and perspectives deserve to be amplified. To scale her impact, we must mobilise resources to support her development work to build greener and stronger local communities. With her creativity and ambition, and support from the government and international community, we can ensure that no one is left behind. Consequently, our communities will become more climate resilient.

About the Interviewer

Azeez Abubakar is a 23-year old Climate Champion and a Sustainability Consultant. He is passionate about sustainable development, innovation, and technology. He is a Global Citizen Fellow, COP26 and Pre-COP26 Delegate, Policy & Advocacy Chair of the Commonwealth Youth Climate Change Network (CYCN), Global Shaper, a member of the Loss and Damage Youth Coalition and Pepperdine School of Public Policy Scholar 2021. He supports the most affected communities facing the impacts of climate change and extreme poverty.

About Nasreen Al-Amin

Nasreen Al-Amin is an environmental sustainability practitioner with years of experience in the development and communications sectors. She works with local and international institutions to develop tailored programs and interventions that address Africa’s development needs. She’s the founder of Surge Africa, a non-profit organisation that works closely with governments and stakeholders to situate climate-resilient policies and practices at the local level in Nigeria and Africa at large, through educating local communities about climate change and its effects on them and how to become climate resilient. Surge Africa does so by running community-level workshops to advocate and train farmers about nature-based solutions like agroecology/agroforestry that are affordable, accessible and scalable.

Nasreen’s recent work is in climate media where she launched the platform Surge X Media to address the data gaps on climate change in Africa. The platform incorporates visual data and storytelling as instruments to create awareness, educate and build movements. It uses media technology to generate new sets of visual data that can be used as information to drive constructive conversations, and as evidence to influence policy change and climate governance.