“The ecological crises are not our fault – we were born into them. Nor were they the fault of past generations – they were doing what they could to create a better future for us. And the future is hardly hopeless.” ~ From Break Through by Michael Shellenberger and Ted Nordhaus
Young people today have an advantage, so did the youth before us during their time and so will the youth who will come after us at their time. This is the cycle of life. Regardless of whichever time frame you find yourself in, as a young person in this beautiful world, we each have an obligation to be and do the best with whatever we have been given at that particular time.
Governments, companies and organization all across the world are seeking ways in which they can engage the youth. They understand that young people are going to hold the helm once those who are there now are not there tomorrow. Environmental conservation agencies have not been left behind as they too see the need in engaging the youth to solve current and future environmental challenges. With this, here in Kenya, we have seen the launch of an amazing film, Mabingwa, which encourages young people to be the stakeholders in conservation. We also have several organizations which could do a lot to engage the future generation in conservation matters. And, we also know of organizations which are playing a part in listening to what young people have to say about conservation in Africa, not forgetting to mention organizations, inspired by the late Wangari Maathai, to build and mentor young women in environmental conservation.
World Wide Fund for Nature, WWF, keeping in line with ways they can engage young people to be involved in environmental conservation, launched the WWF Africa Youth Award in 2017. This is designed to recognize and celebrate young adults throughout Africa who have developed innovative projects, practices, activities and solutions to the sustainable development challenges facing our continent today. It is open to young people aged between 18 and 30 and WWF offices in Africa make nominations.
At WWF Africa Youth Awards, 2018, Kenya has had the privileged to be represented by three nominees; Unelker Maoga, Abraham Njenga and Anthony Ochieng.
Unelker is among the Africa Youth Awards 2018 winners.
Unelker’s project is based in Nyanza Province which is one of Kenya’s main agricultural zones. However, over the years, climate change which has led to weather variability thus affecting farming practices in the region. Another challenge affecting the region is access to electricity which has resulted to people in the region using kerosene lamps for lighting which in the long term result to adverse respiratory effects to children and causes eye damage.
In 2016, in an effort to find a solution to the challenges facing the region, Unelker founded a community-based project on Climate Change Awareness and Green Technologies which focuses on Nyamira County called Konservation.
Since 2017, the project has been able to; Recruit, train and empower youth who volunteer in the project in order to build their capacity in environmental education; Raise awareness about climate change in school platforms through interactive class lectures and tree planting sessions and Enabled increase access to clean and affordable energy through the distribution of solar lamps to homes that lack access to electricity, by partnering with women-owned kiosks within the county.
Abraham seeks to be the voice for wildlife, especially, endangered species. His vision is to build a future in which people live in harmony with nature. He advocates for humane conservation in the broadest sense and seeks to inspire others to advance the course of conservation by promoting retention of the wild and indigenous nature and biological diversity.
Through being actively engaged in various conservation organizations, he aids in promoting conservation awareness programs since success in conservation depends on how ready people are to be part of conservation. It is a fact that conservation cannot be left to conservation organizations or “conservationists” since conservation is far more than wildlife.
Abraham created the I Am Justice for Wildlife Youth Group while in campus which brought on board fellow youths enthusiastic about conservation which led to the creation of the conservation blog https://iamjusticeforwildlife.blogspot.co.ke. “The blog is my avenue to reach out to the world and share my sincere sentiments about my passion for conservation and sustainable environmental practices,” says Abraham.
Abraham is also a wildlife ranger at the Ol Pejeta Conservancy in charge of the black Rhino monitoring program, Problem Animal Control (PAC) among other roles.
Anthony’s passion is to change the negative behaviour and limited or no concern of wildlife and environment issues by the youth, regardless of the career they may be pursuing. With his organization, Tony Wild, they mainly use photographs, art and photo stories to influence positive behaviour change towards the environment. The organization envisions a generation that will influence sustainable natural resource management through photography and art.
Anthony also does thematic conservation photography projects, to increase awareness on specific conservation issues and is currently involved in a project themed Traveling For Birds. The project aims at creating awareness on the importance of the environment with birds being a flagship species. Birds have no boundaries and are a great point of entry to regions that do not have the ‘big five’ of wildlife species in Africa – Elephant, lion, leopard, rhino and buffalo.
Anthony believes that individuals will be key champions of wildlife across different workforces in our society. Environmental conservation is the role of each and every person and working together is very important.