We are a very passionate team who give our heart and soul to this work. Read more about us and our story:
We give great thanks to the essential support from our founding youth network, our 2019 supporters steering committee and all our organisational partners. Thank you to those, too many to mention, who offered up countless hours through meetings, actions and more, before we found our structure. Up until 2021 we all acted as volunteers until our organisation received funding to scale in 2022. This is the organisational team behind our programmes and broader network:
Left: Our board: Celiwe Shivambu, Bridget Pitt and Xoli Fuyani. Right: Our team and board together.
17-year-old Ruby Sampson had traveled around Africa with her family in a carbon-neutral truck before returning to do Matric at Wynberg Girls. When the first international climate strike date was announced, Ruby asked her mom Sam Pearce to help her heed the call.
Simultaneously, 27-year-old Sarah Robyn Farrell and community activist Chantal Dette had met during their search for the right movement to channel their activism. They too had agreed to organise a protest in Cape Town for the global strike.
Through the powers of social media, the group connected with one another and agreed to work together to organise Cape Town’s first-ever major climate protest.
Within only three weeks, Ruby led mobilisation across schools in Cape Town, whilst Sarah and Chantal led on logistics, general mobilisation, PR and transport (to ensure equal access to students on the outskirts of Cape Town) with Sam organising media and guiding the team from the Big Green carbon neutral Truck in Malawi.
The protest saw more than 2000 mostly young people in front of Parliament. The protest included a diverse and powerful line-up of speakers, including environmental educator Xoli Fuyani and her mentee 11-year-old Yola Mgogwana who had also engaged with the group in the media leading up to the protest.
After the first protest, the core team continued to organise with the help of the interschools Youth Climate Council, as well as a supporting group and steering committee consisting of civil society, parents and concerned older youth and adults.
The Youth Climate Council wanted to promote intersectional climate justice, whilst engaging an Afrocentric version of the global youth movement. They hoped this mobilisation could lead to youth-led climate alliances across Africa. The aspirational name African Climate Alliance (ACA) was chosen and the group formalised.
More youth leaders emerged from ACA, such as matric student Ayakha Melithafa. When ACA was approached to include a young South African in an international lawsuit defending the Rights of the Child against polluting countries, Ayakha showed interest in taking on this massive task. This assisted in springboarding Ayakha as a prominent South African climate activist who has since attended World Economic Forum, and now holds a seat on the Presidential Climate Change Coordinating Commission where she represents Ayakha Melithafa Foundation and ACA.
The second and third protests were organised by the core team in partnership with a youth and adult steering committee. Each protest drew hundreds of youth, and more than 2500 protestors in September. The protests garnered local and international attention and were recognised by the president. Momentum and coalition with civil society partners grew, especially with environmental educator Xoli Fuyani and her young mentee eco warriors who joined the growing youth activist network.
Despite this growing momentum, one thing was clear: the European way of climate organizing didn’t necessarily fit the South African mold. There was a lack of climate literacy amongst youth, especially in underserved areas, and the space was dominated by those with financial, educational and racial privilege. This meant the most affected youth were not the voices who always felt welcome, or were heard loud enough.
The core team recognised the need for a more sustainable approach to growing the movement whilst a more structured backing was called for by ACA youth. They needed freedom to continue their schooling and university lives, whilst having a structured entity to keep the work consistent, and receive training and support to lead the movement in their communities.
It was with these understandings that ACA began to transform. Xoli Fuyani officially joined as a coordinator in 2020, and together with Sarah Robyn Farrell focused on transforming the group, making afrocentric climate literacy and social inclusion a focal point. Despite the disruption of Covid-19, the youth network had regular meetings with Farrell and Fuyani facilitating youth-led conversations to develop the group’s aims and values, and work on media pieces and actions within the constraints of lockdown.
This process saw the emergence of youth leader, 21-year-old Gabriel Klaasen. With a natural affinity to lead and connect with youth of all ages, Gabriel officially became youth coordinator of ACA in July 2020. Despite challenges posed by Covid-19, a 2020 action was organised by the group, led by Gabriel. Whilst still aligning with the global climate strike, this action saw elements of education and protest in three communities across greater Cape Town. A testament to the way the group was starting to live up to its desire to transform.
Towards the end of 2020, ACA was formalised as an organisation with three directors: Xoli Fuyani, Sarah Robyn Farrell and Chantal Dette. The aim: to build up youth leadership and hand over the organisation to a group of younger people who could further build a cycle of capacity-building for young people in the climate space. With this in mind, Gabriel has since taken over from Chantal as the third director.
In 2021, a restructure saw the introduction of the distinct programmes that you see today. Another emerging 21-year-old youth leader, Mitchelle Mhaka was appointed as the youth education coordinator.
With Mhaka and Klaasen contributing further to the ongoing transformation and development of the organisation, the organisational team started to expand. Since then the organisation received its first year of core funding, enabling the team to focus more fully on the work of the movement-based organisation. It has expanded its programmes into:
Despite being led by a small team, the African Climate Alliance has a network of young people from across Africa, and is slowly growing into its aspirational name.The team continues to organise protest actions, but now leads with education at the heart and foundation of everything they do. They are also the first youth organisation to be involved in a climate-change court case in South African history. They are calling for a stop to the building of new coal infrastructure in the country. Importantly the team doesn’t only focus on what those in power can and must do. The team has expanded its reach into actions on the ground that develop climate adaptation through practical solutions that foster food security and other important socio-environmental justice issues