NAIROBI, Kenya, Mar 8 – Kenya’s quest to achieve its climate change mitigation ambitions and increase its forest cover targets will be achieved much faster if wide-scale inclusion of women and youth in environmental conservation is prioritized.
According to environmental conservationists, deliberate interventions and investments should be put in place to harness the potential of women and the young population in environmental management and conservation response measures. “Women and youth not only make up the largest percentage of the Kenyan population, but they also interact more with nature and yet are mostly on the receiving end of the harsh effects of climate change.”
“Therefore, their inclusion in environmental conservation coupled with young people’s innovation and ingenuity can have far-reaching and long-term effects on environmental sustainability,” said Ricardo Romero, the Global Programme Manager, International Tree Foundation. One way of doing this would be to target the approximately 20-million school-going population and leverage their love and appreciation of nature and bring them on board the environmental movement.
“Based on our experience we have learnt that, understanding the local context, a deeper engagement of community groups, especially women and families brings real strength to forest protection and conservation efforts. This deeper community engagement is based on tangible livelihood improvements, mutual support, and a real understanding of long-term benefits,” the Foundation’s Kenya Programme Manager Teresa Gitonga said at an event to celebrate the International Women’s Day at Mai- a- Ihii Primary School in Kikuyu. Some 200 indigenous trees were planted in partnership with technology firm SICPA and Karai Youth Forum Community Based Organization.
The ITF’s sentiments were echoed by SICPA who reckon that the responsibility of protecting the environment, reducing carbon emissions and fighting global warming must be placed on every citizen. “We have all seen the devastating effects of adverse weather patterns and climatic conditions on livelihoods, the environment, wildlife and biodiversity as well as on the economy. We all have been impacted negatively by these conditions which have been occasioned by insensitive human activities and actions. Reversing this damage requires the adoption of collaborative approaches by all stakeholders,” said Lilian Atogo, SICPA Kenya General Manager.
She added: “As SICPA Kenya employees, we are demonstrating our commitment to contribute towards the health of the planet by targeting to each plant at least 10 trees every year as we look to play our part in boosting the country’s efforts of achieving the 10 percent forest cover objective by 2022.”
For the corporates, Ms Atogo challenged them to adopt holistic climate change adaptation and Green House Gas emission mitigation approaches that will supplement the Government’s efforts to build a climate change resilient country. “Innovation and sustainability go hand in hand and so the protection of the environment is part of SICPA’s DNA. As a member of the United Nations Global Compact, SICPA’s aim is to integrate the world’s best practices in sustainability in its business and operations, adapting to a future where sustainability is ever more essential,” she said. “since 2019, SICPA has adopted the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) as a benchmark to which we will align our actions,” she added.
The partners noted that when women are provided with access to resources and education, and empowered to act as community leaders, the resulting benefits aren’t just more productive farms and healthier families, but also meaningful carbon emission reductions. During the event that was also graced by representatives from UNEP, Kenya Forest Service,National Environment Management Authority (NEMA), the Green Belt Movement, sanitary towels and undergarments were donated by Karai Youth Forum Community Based Organization to both the girls and boys of the school.
“For a sustainable future, we have to address challenges that plague students such as school absenteeism due to menstruation. The provision of the sanitary towels not only ensures menstrual hygiene but also promotes the girls’ dignity and in the long term entrenches affirmative action,” Karai Youth Forum Chairman Paul Hinga said. “At the same time and with the distribution of the undergarments to the boys, we are sending the message that the promotion of the welfare of the boy child is equally important.
Boys too need our care, attention, and support if they are to become responsible and empowered adults that value equity and equality for all,” he concluded.