"Great to see that adults are listening to the messages of children."

On World Children's Day, Daniel took over the Ministry of Environment and Forestry

By Daniel Athian
A boy sitting behind the minister's desk
30 November 2020

On November 20 - World Children's Day - I had the pleasure to take-over the Ministry of Environment and Forestry of South Sudan and to represent the children of South Sudan on the important matter of climate change and the impact it has on our lives.

To celebrate World Children's Day UNICEF child reporters rolled out a campaign under the slogan A clean and Green Environment for a Better Future with children taking over different Ministries to generate attention for the environmental issues. As I was given the opportunity to take over Ministry of Environment and Forestry, I worked a whole day with Hon. Undersecretary Joseph Africano Bartel, who leads the Ministry.

We started the day with attending an event at the Juba City Council where the Japan International Cooperation Agency (JICA) handed over environmental equipment. During the press conference that followed I was able to give a short speech on thanking JICA for the equipment.


A boy standing up and speaking
Daniel Akuei Garang,acting South Sudan minister of environment addressing the city council staffs and representatives from the embassy of Japan.

Later that day we returned to the Ministry and had a meeting with the board of members which oversees all the directorates under the Ministry. I had the opportunity of interacting with all leading civil servants of the Ministry. I spoke with Lutana Musa, the head of the directorate for climate change and development. The directorate's main goal is to stop the wood cutting and increase the plantation of crops and trees in South Sudan.

Afterwards I had a discussion with John Ater who is the acting chief of the wetlands and biodiversity directorate. This directorate is mainly responsible for the management of the water resources, the containment of floods and the protection of the different biological resources. To prevent floods in the future the directorate is leading on a project to construct dikes in areas like Bor. Other projects include the reopening of national parks soon. The directorate led by David Batali Oliver is responsible for environmental management and promotes eco-friendly programmes. One of the main concerns is the matter of clean energy.  90% of the people in South Sudan are using charcoal and wood, which contributes to the deforestation and is having a major impact on the environment of the country. The directorate is advocating for using cleaner and safer energy. At the meeting Daniel Natalie Oliver said: "The Environment is our life if we destroy it, we destroy life".


A boy is talking to a minister
The undersecretary of the ministry of environment Joseph Africano Bartel (right) handing over books about the environment to Daniel Akuei Garang, acting South Sudan minister of environment.

The participants at the meeting reviewed the different programmes they are rolling out to protect the environment in South Sudan. I was intrigued by the different projects that are ongoing or will start soon, including projects for the protection of wildlife and the promotion of environmentally friendly forms of agriculture.

It was a great experience for me to be able to work side by side with the Hon. Undersecretary Joseph Africano Bartel to discuss the environmental issues South Sudan is facing. At the events and meetings, I attended during the day I was able to share the messages of the children of South Sudan for a clean and green environment. And I noticed that the adults were listening with attention to our messages, which gave me a great feeling of satisfaction.