• The young student has passion and unwavering commitment to the environment
• It runs in the family and has earned him a place in Daystar University's history books
For Chris Waweru, climate activism runs in the family. At only nine years of age, he watched his grandfather lead protests that compelled the local government to clear a towering rubbish heap that had stood outside their home for years.
"My elder brother almost lost his life to a severe infection caused by a fall on a rainy day when he had gone to throw garbage at that dumpsite. After my grandfather led protests, the local government almost immediately cleared the area," Waweru said.
This call to action by his grandfather inspired him, and ever since, he has been at the forefront of many environmental campaigns in Kenya.
Today, the young student's passion and unwavering commitment to the environment have earned him a place in Daystar University's history books.
Waweru founded the university's first-ever environment club three years ago, and has since spearheaded numerous initiatives on campus, including the newly established Ayiro Park.
The space was once full of thorny shrubs and acacia trees with no shade areas, but it now has landscaped grass, young trees and lush green spaces for students to hang out in.
"Every time I watch students enjoying their time at the park, I feel proud that our efforts have not been futile. But this could not have been possible without the support of our vice chancellor Laban Ayiro, who has walked with us every step of the way," Waweru said.
Nyingi Wahome, Daystar's succeeding environment club president, said the Ayiro Park is one of Waweru's projects that will remain embedded in their hearts.
"The park has provided a lot of students with tranquility and the ability to brainstorm ideas in group discussions," Wahome said.
"Previously, we would either rely on hot classrooms or hostels to hold discussions, but a walk into the university will just show any new person how students enjoy the park."
His other notable project, the Green Daystar initiative, turned a once-barren three-acre land into a thriving, sustainable farm that boasts over 3,000 trees, a water irrigation system, and a lush ecosystem that feeds the entire campus.
The project has ended previous water shortages in student hostels, a long-standing problem that had plagued the university.
He's also led installing solar street lighting on campus, provided bins for proper waste disposal and even partnered with Coca-Cola to collect plastic waste.
The environment club co-patron Maurice Masiga praised Waweru's efforts, saying the green bins, tree planting, solar power installations and other environmental activities have now grown out of the environment club.
"Daystar's Green Agenda has gone on fairly well. It has not been a walk in the park, though," he said.
"This main campus is in an Asal region, which makes the agenda a big challenge for the university. The rains we get at Athi River are not as favourable as in Nairobi, which is only 40km away.
"But our sustainable energy solutions present a great opportunity for the growth of green energy and sustainable solutions."
During the launch of the 35,000-seedling tree nursery at the university on February 16, Kenya's Forestry PS Ephantus Kimani promised to give more seeds and tubes to the university, to put up more nurseries and give technical support to increase the survival rate of the trees.
Ayiro, the VC, said, "I anticipate a time when Daystar University will become a demonstration centre in environmental conservation for Machakos county."
Southern Africa Development Community climate change youth ambassador Laurel Kivuyo supports the initiative by governments to engage university students, as youths are a critical component in climate action projects.
"In Tanzania, ocean clean-ups are done by university students," Kivuyo said.
"As the first youth envoy of SADC, we deal with youth environmental assemblies. The students are really active and always show up. This is also because the flow of information is also easy."
Waweru is not only leading conservation efforts at his school but also at home, where he continues to change his community's perspectives on the environment.
"My mum and dad have had the biggest shift of perception, and they make their friends aware of the environment. My mum, for example, plants trees during her women's group meetings, and my dad is always quick to share environmental articles with me," he said.