The global, youth-led Green Hope Foundation is working to teach young people the meaning of sustainable development.
At the age of 12, founder and president Kehkashan Basu attended Rio+20 in Brazil, her second international conference, and observed what she calls a “severe lack of inclusivity of children in the sustainable development process.” Basu tells Food Tank, “I decided that I had the expertise of four to five years of ground-level work, and I wanted to use that to be able to involve more children and young people in this whole sustainable development process.”
Basu launched Green Hope Foundation in response to this realization. Today, the organization operates in 25 countries, helping youth recognize the interconnectedness of environmental challenges and promote the 17 U.N. Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). “We really want to create this holistic movement, where every single challenge is addressing the work. The solutions work hand in hand and really solve all of our, the world’s, problems,” says Basu.
In many communities, Basu explains that men leave villages in search of work. But many women who remain are not permitted to tend the fields. When they are allowed, they are not compensated the same as men. In some of these communities, Green Hope Foundation organized poultry and organic seed distributions to create sustainable sources of nutrition and income for women.
In India, Liberia and Bangladesh, the organization is planting fruit trees and training women to help them enter the marketplace. “For us,” Basu tells Food Tank, “it’s just about really creating that holistic, positive environment, and addressing as many of the challenges as we can because they are connected.”
Green Hope Foundation also has a Grow Your Own Food campaign with members and educational partners in India, the United Arab Emirates, Oman, and Canada. Youth in both rural areas and cities are learning about selecting and growing appropriate crops, and making their own compost.
Basu explains that the campaign, led by the children’s board, “was a simple way of creating this local circular bioeconomy in their own small environments, and a way for them to reduce their carbon footprint with taking the transport out of that equation, and saving money, and also having a lot of fun growing it.” She adds, “They’re able to help out the planet and ensure food security in their own zones of influence.”
In the Sundarbans, the world’s largest mangrove forest between Bangladesh and India, the organization focuses on mangrove restoration to protect both biodiversity and people from climate disaster. A new sewing school in Bangladesh hopes to provide a stable source of income for women and girls in an area hard hit by the climate crisis. They also distribute solar cookers and solar-powered mobile libraries to bring educational resources to young people.
Green Hope also uses arts and sports to find new ways to engage young people and spread awareness of environmental issues. Basu tells Food Tank, “A lot of the time, the children that we work with don’t speak English and have never been to school. So, a formal presentation is not really going to do anything to bring them in.”
In Syrian refugee camps, Basu explains that rapping both helped the organization teach sustainability goals and allowed children to express some of their trauma. Green Hope organizes soccer and kickball tournaments in rural Liberia, where children compete on behalf of different SDGs and learn about them in the process.
In the future Basu says that the Foundation plans to maintain their ongoing projects and help to ensure stability for youth impacted by climate change. “Every single person has the ability to take action… If all of us did our bit, we definitely would be able to achieve a sustainable world.”
Photo courtesy of Kehkashan Basu, Green Hope Foundation