YOUTH FOR GREEN GROWTH by Lorraine Dixon

In the words of Klaus Schwab, founder of the World Economic Forum, we are living in “a complex, uncertain and anxious world”. Challenges are steep across the board – from coming to grips with the fourth industrial revolution to strengthening effective multilateralism, to ending poverty and building more open and cohesive societies.

In 2015, the world came together to chart a new course for the next 15 years, embodied in the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development, the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) and also the Paris Climate Agreement. Kenya has been a top advocate of Agenda 2030 and was a member of the High Level Panel of Eminent Persons who advised the United Nations Secretary General on the global development framework beyond 2015. The Permanent Representative of Kenya to the UN Ambassador Macharia Kamau co-chaired the UN General Assembly Open Working Group on SDGs mandated to develop a set of sustainable development goals. 

Kenya has mainstreamed the SDGs in both national and county development plans, with the launch of the Green Economy Strategy Implementation Plan (GESIP) cementing the country’s commitment to green growth. The policy framework for Green Economy is designed to support a globally competitive low carbon development path through promoting economic resilience and resource efficiency, sustainable management of natural resources, development of sustainable infrastructure and providing support for social inclusion.

The Kenya Organization for Environmental Education (KOEE) is affiliated to the Foundation for Environmental Education (FEE) and is the sole implementer of FEE programmes in Kenya that include Eco-schools and Learning About Forests. Eco-Schools is an international programme for schools working on sustainability issues. The Eco-Schools strategy is a whole-school approach that uses all members, departments and stakeholders of the school to address local challenges of sustainable development.

MESPT’s partnership with the Kenya Organization for Environmental Education (KOEE) to implement the Schools Green Challenge, purposes to help transform schools into models of sustainability for communities, through the Eco Schools platform. Through imparting eco-friendly enterprise skills students are prepared for the real world by showing them how to generate green incomes and opportunities which enhance their communities’ resilience and improve their economic status.

Why work with schools? Education stands at the heart of our new development agenda – as a basic human right, as a transformational force for poverty eradication, as the engine for sustainability, and as a driver of dialogue and peace. This is embodied in the fourth Sustainable Development Goal, to “ensure inclusive and quality education for all and promote lifelong learning”. Education is our deepest source of hope – we must plant the seeds now for a better future tomorrow.

We must not only transform our economies, but also our education systems to encourage critical thinking, initiative and new competences. Only then will we manage to make production and consumption sustainable, to provide new skills for greener industries, and to orient higher education and research towards sustainable innovation. Education needs to keep up with the changing face of work and to build sustainability in the face of climate change. 

Young people are at the forefront of environmental innovations that are changing the face of development in Africa. A case in point is Leroy Mwasaru, a 16 year old student at Maseno School, who together with 4 of his classmates designed a Human Waste Bioreactor, turning human waste into energy to power gas stoves in the school. He subsequently set up Greenpact in 2015 after school, a company which produces and distributes affordable and high-quality innovative biogas digester systems to get biogas from both agricultural and human refuse. Leroy has been ranked second on the Forbes 30 under 30 list of young entrepreneurs and next generation billionaires in 2018. 

Tatro Primary School is an Eco-school in Siaya County doing integrated semi-intensive system (semi-free range system) of poultry and fish farming. Pupils are actively involved and are encouraged to replicate what they learn at home. The project has led improved local food supply, as it has enabled the establishment of a sustainable feeding programme for its approximately 500 pupils, as well as sale of chicken and fish to the local community. People visit the school farm to learn about poultry or fish farming at a small fee. 

The above examples are a mere snapshot of the immense life-changing potential our young people have, and therefore the need to involve them as capable actors, and not mere beneficiaries, of the green growth and sustainable agenda. This means green and transferable skills must be taught in schools, higher education institutions and other tertiary learning institutions to harness their abilities in the pursuit of inclusive competitive low carbon development.

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