350.org's Africa Coordinator, Samantha Bailey, reports from her recent travelings across the continent to meet and train a new wave of climate activists…

It's late Saturday night in Lagos and I've a hacking cough and tight lungs. All the carbon monoxide I've been breathing in here and in Addis Ababa and Nairobi over the past 3 weeks has caught up with my body, a minor unexpected fallout of the series of "climate leadership" workshops I've been running in each city with local partners and my 350 team mates. These workshops were primarily attended by young people, and boy, have I had an invaluable education from these amazing, bright, passionate activists.

Africa's vulnerability to climate change could not be more present for me than now with the drought hitting Ethiopia, Kenya and Somalia, and the flooding that Lagos just suffered through. And the images are still sharp in my mind of my recent visit to the terraced slopes of Ethiopia's north-eastern Tigray region, all bright green from recent rains and brimming over with barley, tiff (millet) and cactus fruit that seem in sharp contrast to the drought slamming the south-east where people are starving amidst desert-like conditions. And yet should the rainfall patterns shift just enough to "confuse the crops", as one workshop participant put it, the millions of people living in Tigray utterly dependent on their environment for their daily meals could soon feel the suffering their brothers and sisters are down south.

In Kenya, debate is thick in the media and ordinary conversations about genetically modified food crops as Monsanto and others continue to promise drought-resistant 'super' crop varieties, but not everyone is buying it (literally and figuratively). As I ate ogali (maize) in Nairobi, injera (millet) in Addis and cassava in Lagos, locals discussed the rise of 'colonist' crops such as maize and the decline of indigenous, drought-resistant (and far more nutritious) crops such as sorghum and millet. The Kenyan workshop participants were particularly passionate about the link between the loss of tree cover and encroaching desert, and how the reverse provides conditions to enable food production and livelihood support.

None of the 90+ participants needed any help understanding the relationship between climate change and the exacerbation of Africa's drought and flood cycles. (Should any of the USA's House of Representatives still be unclear on this link, feel free to come visit us.) As an Ethiopian meterologist noted in our Addis workshop, Ethiopia used to experience droughts every 15 – 20 years; now it's every 2 – 3 years. And the intimate weaving of the coastline of Lagos with its inhabitants is making sea level rise and the dangers of flooding a life-threatening reality for its feisty locals.

What I am bouyed by is the energy and commitment and creativity of the workshop participants – these are Africans facing the climate crisis head-, heart- and hands-on, looking at ways their own countries can reduce emissions (including the city car fumes that have haunted my lungs), and at how they can stand by their brave sister and brother activists in the major polluting countries to push those leaders to wake the hell up and start getting emissions down below the 350 threshold.

They're getting more strategic and bold in their own plans, and they're collaborating across various society groupings, from artists to elders, from business people to stand-up comedians, from youth to faith leaders. I'm particularly excited about the weaving of the traditional wisdom rich in Africa among the elders of how to live in harmony with the natural world with the energy of the youth who are full of new ideas and incredibly savvy at using new media to share information.

There's a lot of work to do to get us below 350 once again, to get our climate more stable once again. And yes, Africa will still suffer droughts and floods once we've back below 350, but not of the severity and frequency we're getting hit with now.

Knowing that the East Africa drought and Lagos flooding and all the suffering caused could become a more and more frequent occurrence the longer and further we're beyond 350 is plenty motivation to get onto the streets, write the letters, brainstorm creative tactics and spread the word to grow this movement to kick some stubborn polluters' butts, and at the same time to remake our continent and world so as to have a more socially just, environmentally harmonious, and spiritually fulfilling future.

…this piece originally appeared on DailyKos, as part of a 48-hour blogathon fundraiser for Oxfam's emergency relief work in East Africa. Check out the many other eye-opening and moving posts written over the weekend, and please consider chipping in

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