Climate Change and Youth in Kenya


Climate change is a major issue in Kenya today and poses a significant economic, social, and environmental threat.The country is climate-vulnerable and has already been facing adverse impacts of climate change, with projections of temperatures rising by 2.5º C between 2000 and 2050 and rainfall patterns becoming more intense and unpredictable.[i]According to a 2018 study by the Kenya National Bureau of Statistics, the country loses 2–2.4% of its gross domestic product annually due to the adverse effects of climate change, such as drought and floods.[ii]

Given this background, it is extremely important that all groups of people within the country take part in joint efforts to counter and adapt to the effects of climate change. Youth are one of the most important groups with a major impact on the economic development, which in turn has a major influence on the trajectory of climate change.

Currently, many economic activities depend on raw materials and resources that are obtained from the environment, often resulting in environmental degradation due to prioritisation of profits. Youth are an important part of the economy, but they need to be more included more effectively and meaningfully in relevant policy-making processes policies.

This is articulated in the United Nations’ “Youth Development and Participation” publication, which notes that most young people, particularly those in developing countries, are facing social and economic challenges but are regularly excluded from policy decisions that affect them now and have implications for their future,[iii] such as those on climate change and the environment.

In Kenya, youth constitute 29 percent of the total population as per the 2019 population census by the National Council for Population and Development.[iv] This demonstrates the major impact that youth in these countries can have on climate change advocacy and contributing to climate policies in Kenya. The Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights in its report on “Challenges Facing the Young People in Kenya” notes that due to environmental degradation, youth can not be assured of quality life in the future, hence the need to conserve the environment has become increasingly important.


How climate change is affecting youth in Kenya

Kenya is situated in East Africa and vulnerable to the adverse effects of global warming due to its reliance on agriculture, limited resources, and inadequate infrastructure.[v] Climate change poses significant challenges for youth in Kenya, impacting their well being, livelihoods, and future prospects.

One of the most pressing issues affecting youth in Kenya are impacts on agriculture,[vi] a sector on which the country heavily depends for its economy and sustenance. However,with changing weather patterns, unpredictable rainfall, and prolonged droughts,crop yields are becoming increasingly uncertain. This has adverse effects on food security, leading to malnutrition and hunger, particularly for vulnerable youth populations.[vii]

Additionally, climate change contributes to the spread of diseases and affects the health of young people in these nations.[viii]Changing temperatures can create suitable environments for disease-carrying vectors like mosquitoes, leading to increased cases of malaria and other vector-borne illnesses. Moreover, extreme weather events such as floods and storms can disrupt healthcare infrastructure, further exacerbating health challenges for the youth.

Another critical impact of climate change on youth in Kenya is its influence on education and access to opportunities.[ix] As extreme weather events become more frequent, schools may face disruptions or even damage, hindering students’ learning and development. Moreover, the economic strain caused by climate-related challenges can lead to reduced financial resources for education and limit access to quality schooling for many young individuals.

Furthermore, climate change exacerbates existing socio-economic disparities, disproportionately affecting marginalised communities and rural areas where many young people reside.[x]Limited access to resources, education, and economic opportunities can hinder the youth's potential for growth and advancement, trapping them in a cycle of poverty and vulnerability.

However, youth in Kenya are also at the forefront of climate action and adaptation efforts.[xi] Young activists, environmental advocates, and community leaders are raising awareness about climate change, advocating for sustainable practices, and demanding policy changes to mitigate its effects. Their resilience and determination offer hope for a more sustainable and equitable future.


The significance of youth inclusion

Climate change is a global challenge that requires collective efforts from all segments of society to address its impacts effectively. One essential aspect of this collaborative approach is the active involvement of young people in climate change initiatives. In Kenya, the youth play a crucial role in shaping the sustainable future of its country.

Engaging young people in climate change initiatives is vital due to their potential as agents of transformative action. They bring fresh perspectives, innovative ideas, and technological proficiency to the table, making them valuable contributors to sustainable development. Research has shown that involving youth in environmental decision-making processes can lead to more effective and inclusive solutions to climate challenges.[xii]

By tapping into the passion and activism of the youth, Kenya can drive climate action forward and build a greener future. With a sizeable portion of their populations under the age of 35, Kenya has substantial youth demographics[xiii].Involving young people in climate discussions acknowledges their demographic significance and ensures that they have a stake in shaping climate policies and strategies. Excluding their perspectives and experiences would be detrimental to achieving long-term climate goals, as young people will bear the brunt of climate impacts in the future.

The consequences of climate change will significantly impact future generations therefore, engaging young people in climate change initiatives allows them to have a say in measures taken today that will shape their lives and the world they inherit tomorrow. Their active involvement in decision-making processes fosters a sense of ownership and responsibility for the planet's future, empowering them to advocate for sustainable practices throughout their lives.[xiv]

The youth often serve as bridges between generations and communities. Their active involvement in climate change initiatives can effectively raise awareness, mobilise support, and influence behavioural change within their families and social circles. Engaging youth in environmental activities has been found to enhance intergenerational communication and facilitate knowledge transfer.[xv] This outreach can significantly contribute to the dissemination of climate-friendly practices in both rural and urban settings.

Kenya has made efforts to include youth in climate change, but there is significant potential to further enhance this. Kenya also has numerous youth-led environmental organisations and initiatives, exemplifying the passion and commitment of young people towards environmental conservation. Supporting and collaborating with these youth-led efforts can amplify their impact, inspire other young individuals to take action, and foster a sense of ownership over climate issues. These initiatives serve as models of bottom-up approaches to environmental sustainability,emphasising the potential of youth-driven change.


Ways forward for enhancing youth inclusion

To overcome these challenges and harness the potential of youth inclusion in climate change efforts, various strategies can be adopted: The first is through the application and creation of youth-centric policies. Governments and other organisations should develop and implement policies that specifically target youth inclusion in climate change initiatives. Such policies should provide young people with resources, support,and platforms to participate actively.

The second strategy revolves around capacity-building programmes and investing in training for young people, for example, on climate issues, sustainability, and leadership, empowering them to become effective climate advocates and leaders in their communities.

Lastly, there is need to ensure youth representation in decision-making bodies and involving them in climate policy formulation enhances their voice and influence in climate change discussions. Youth delegates should be encouraged to participate in more international climate conferences that are centred on combating the climate change effects in Kenya.[xvi]

In conclusion, a lot can be done in Kenya to improve and scale up the inclusion of youth in climate action. Bodies that are heavily included in the discussions on climate action should consider amending the structure of the inclusion of neglected sects such as the youth.This will in turn have a positive impact on the trajectory of climate change regulations, policy, and action plans in the future concerning climate change.



[i] Kibii E, “Kenya’s efforts to mitigate climate change” 2021 ,

[ii] International Union for Conservation of nature,2021,

[iii] United Nations, World Youth Report: Youth Social Entrepreneurship and the 2030 Agenda, Chapter 2 ‘Youth Development andParticipation,

[iv] National Council for Population and Development, The Stateof Kenya’s Population,

[v] East African Community Climate change policy,

[vi] IGAD climate predictions and applications centre,2021,,%2C%20Rice%2C%20Soybean%2C%20Millet.

[vii] Terry K and Rai A, “Amid Record Drought and Food Insecurity, East Africa’s Protracted Humanitarian CrisisWorsens”, <,starvation%20as%20of%20June%202022> on 18 January 2023.

[viii] “Climate Change Impacts on Health: Kenya Assessment” April2021, 4.

[ix] “The Climate Crisis: Climate Change Impacts, trends and vulnerabilities: Children in sub-Saharan Africa,” xi.

[x] Ijjasz-Vasquez E and Ordu A.U,” Breaking silos between think tanks and youth groups for climate change action in Africa” < > on 30 November 2022.

[xi] Louw A,”10 African youth climate activists changing the face of the planet” < > on 21 October 2021.

[xii] Bezabih et al., 2021

[xiii] World Bank demographic report, 2022.

[xiv] United Nations Environmental Program report, 2021.

[xv] Jørgensen.H, 2005.

[xvi] Youth climate report, 2019.