Abdifatah Hared can often be found on Somalia’s beaches leading groups of young volunteers in green T-shirts emblazoned with the words “Greenwatch Trust’.
They spend hours picking up the rubbish scattered all over the sand, polluting the Indian Ocean and ruining the beauty of Somalia’s coastline, which at more than three-thousand kilometres is the longest in Africa.
“I have loved being in nature since I was a child,” says Mr Hared. “I saw that hardly anyone cared or did anything about protecting our environment. So 12 years ago I set up the Greenwatch Trust to encourage the youth to protect this beautiful country.”
Initially, Mr Hared focused on cleaning beaches and planting trees. Greenwatch Trust has more than 100 volunteers across the country who collect rubbish from public places and encourage others to do the same.
“When we started our rubbish collection campaign, people were sceptical about our work. Some even accused us of trying to benefit from it personally in some way. But later they realised we were just trying to clean things up and started to encourage us.”
He later launched the Green Schools Programme whereby the volunteers teach children about the environment. It runs Eco-Art competitions, rewarding children who produce the best images of nature.
Children are taught how to plant and care for trees in their school grounds. Greenwatch Trust also plants trees in public places including mosques and hospitals.
Mr Haret teaches environmental science at the Somali National University in the capital Mogadishu. He says the new government seems more serious about protecting the environment and addressing climate change but believes the country has suffered unfairly.
“I know Somalia has a problem when it comes to the environment, especially the mass cutting down of trees for charcoal. But it is the pollution of industrialised nations that is killing our people with droughts, floods and cyclones.”