The co-founder of Pan-African Climate Justice Alliance (PACJA), Joseph Mithika Mwenda introduced sporting activities among the young people as a way of trickling down climate action and environmental conservation awareness at the grassroots levels.
Mwenda, commonly known as Mzalendo and who has been PACJA’s Executive Director for the last 10 years introduced the exercise in August last year in his Igembe South home tuff, where he brought together 57 football teams for a tournament dubbed, Mzalendo Mazingira Tournament, whose grand finale was held Sunday between Athiru Gaiti and Antubochiu football clubs.
Speaking during the event that was attended by hundreds of sports enthusiasts, Mwenda said sports was one of the most powerful tools for mobilization of environmental consciousness in a country and the world at large.
“Imagine if we turn all these youths from 57 clubs into our agents of consciousness, transformation, and environmental conservation! He exclaimed.
The Executive Director said considering the success story of the initiative, henceforth he will be seeking partnership from relevant government ministries at both the County level and national government to incorporate youth in sports as the alliance’s champions in building a movement for climate and environmental consciousness.
“These youths gathered here today can potentially join the surging climate justice movement from across the world to reclaim their future. It can happen and it will happen, as they have demonstrated truly that they have what it takes to turn around challenges into opportunities. This is a potent power which has remained untapped,” said Mwenda.
On the other hand, the conservationist noted that talents, which can be a source of both entertainment, youth empowerment and employment were going to waste due to lack of inspiring leadership to nurture them.
“It is for this reason that my ambitious plan to promote and nurture talents is not limited to football, but will extend to other sports and youth passion, artists and other innovations,” he said.
“The transformation I aspire for Igembe South and the country at large will be led by young people, as they are potential agents of change. And this has started with this tournament. We can direct their oozing energy into beneficial initiatives that promote socio-economic and political development of our people,” added Mwenda.
He also announced a plan to provide opportunities for the best footballers in Igembe South by establishing Igembe South FC, where players will be drawn from all the teams that participated in the tournament.
The process, he said, is still ongoing and throughout the period, tacticians and scouts have already identified around 40 players who would constitute the Constituency Club.
“I am also committed to supporting clubs and players which demonstrate potential to top County and National Leagues. Ultimately, sons and daughters of Igembe South will have a feel of what it means to be in top-league clubs, both at county and national levels,” he said.
Mwenda assured sports enthusiasts that the Mazingira Tournament is not a localized affair, but a pilot initiative whose success and lessons will be replicated not only in Meru County, but also across the country in a Program driven by PACJA to instill conservation culture to young people in rural areas.
“I will reach out to our partners and convince them that this is an initiative worth supporting, as for too long, top-down model of working has never solved our myriad of problems, from ecological, economic development to social transformation,” he asserted.
” I believe we have solutions to our unique challenges and mobilization through such initiatives like Mazingira Tournament can create opportunities for conversations on what course to take to collectively defeat challenges facing us today, notably climate change,” Mwenda said.
The Executive Director also hailed efforts by the Football Kenya Federation’s office led by Paul Gitonga for their diligence in conducting and running the league from the start to the end.