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April 23, 2018

Education is key to protecting nature

Bridge pupils in class
Bridge pupils in class

The world is slowly becoming environmentally conscious. The recently launched National Climate Change Action Plan aims at helping Kenya reduce vulnerability to climate change and to improve our country’s ability to take advantage of the opportunities that climate change offers.

The NCCAP sets out a vision for a low-carbon, climate-resilient development pathway. It summarises analysis of mitigation and adaptation options by enabling policy and regulatory framework. And it sets out the next steps for knowledge management and capacity development, technology requirements, a financial mechanism and a National Performance and Benefit Measurement system.

The environment is widely recognised as a ‘pillar’ of sustainable development. It provides essential goods and services that contribute to meeting basic human needs, and is essential to human development, quality of life and economic development.

It provides services to ecosystems, including water catchments, which protect freshwater resources, wetlands, riverbank environments, biodiversity habitats and ecologically functioning landscapes. Destruction of the environment through land degradation, deforestation, biodiversity loss, pollution and poor waste management practices lead to climate change.

The Unep Global Environment Outlook-5 Report shows that Africa has built a substantial record of responding to environmental challenges in the last approximately 25 years. The greatest progress has been in the realm of institutional development, international cooperation, public participation, and the emergence of private-sector action.

It is important that good environmental practices be inculcated into every Kenyan. A good way is through educating the younger generation while we still can. Studies show that teaching them desirable behaviours in their formative ages helps them retain the learnt behaviours and attitudes as they grow up.

The country’s educational reforms have integrated environmental studies as a learning area for pupils in lower primary and pre-primary. Equipping these future leaders with the necessary environmental knowledge and skills will help in mitigating the effects of climate change through environmental restoration and conservation.

In a bid to propel Kenya into a middle-income country by the year 2030, the government has singled out environment, water and sanitation, as among the major drivers of Kenya’s socioeconomic well-being. The Vision 2030 social pillar on Environment and Mineral Resources acknowledges this sector as vital for long-term growth and development.

One of the key pillars of President Uhuru Kenyatta’s Big Four strategy aimed at securing his legacy is food security. This can only be attained in the short and long term through environmental protection, restoration and conservation as Kenya relies on rain-fed agriculture.

Kenya’s forest cover stands at approximately seven per cent, according to Unep. This is relatively low as the minimum required forest cover for every country is 10 per cent of its total area. Restoring forest cover requires us all to get involved at different levels, therefore environmental education is critical so as to get as many people and organisations engaged and committed as possible.

Therefore, environmental education is a foolproof approach to ensuring that we conserve our environment for the survival of the future generations. Tomorrow's leaders need to be equipped for tomorrow's challenges, and we must adequately prepare our children for the future they will inherit.

This requires a commitment from the public sector as well as the private sector to provide children with the kind of knowledge they need to grow into the next generation as conservation leaders.

A case in point is Lafarge Eco Systems, the environmental arm of Bamburi Cement Limited. Lafarge Eco Systems has developed environmental education programmes designed to improve learner experience by deliberately transforming two of its former quarries into recreational parks. These are Haller Park and the Forest Trails where learners, academicians and researchers of all levels can find a diverse range of flora and fauna.

Additionally, Lafarge Eco Systems entered into a partnership with Pwani University in 2016 to support environmental research for its students. Other collaborative partnerships include the Kenya Wildlife Services and the Kenya Forest Services for research on quarry rehabilitation, biodiversity management and environmental education.

Lafarge Eco Systems offers daily guided tours to Haller Park and Bamburi Forest Trails, parks which draw many of their visitors from learning institutions. The tours are designed to enable the learners interact with the biodiversity and appreciate environmental conservation efforts. In effect, this outdoor learning therefore complements the indoor class learning on environmental education and helps teachers identify-at an early age - the pupils who are skilled or passionate about the environment, and nurture the next professionals in environment-related professions.

In conclusion, we are in an era where most children prefer to stay indoors and watch TV, and play video and computer games. Of all generations, today’s takes the lead when it comes to being disconnected from nature. They therefore need more encouragement, resources, and time to devote attention to environmental education.

Once this is achieved, then we can sit back as we watch them transfer their knowledge into positive environmental action in their own schools and communities.

Chief operating officer of Lafarge Eco Systems, the environmental arm of Bamburi Cement Ltd

STAR COMMUNITY POLICY AND PARTICIPATION GUIDLINES