WATER FOR LIFE

By Basil Omondi

When basic needs come to mind, you quickly think about food, shelter and clothing. Perhaps the most important and overlooked in this category is Water. As the famous adage goes ‘Water is life’ and literally it just means that. Ever imagined going for a week without water? Thirst, hygiene, foods domestic, agriculture, industrial use – water is required in every aspect of human, animal and plant life. In spite of all these, humanity faces a severe crisis if efforts are not focused to conserve water towers and promote sustainable use of water. 

Some worrying statistics from the United Nations prove that water scarcity already affects every continent. Around 1.2 billion people, or almost one-fifth of the world’s population, live in areas of physical scarcity, and 500 million people are approaching this situation. Another 1.6 billion people, or almost one quarter of the world’s population, face economic water shortage (where countries lack the necessary infrastructure to take water from rivers and aquifers).

Water scarcity is both a natural and a human-made phenomenon. There is enough freshwater on the planet for seven billion people but it is distributed unevenly and too much of it is wasted, polluted and unsustainably managed.

Did you know?

  • Only 3% of the world’s water is fresh of which, 1% is contaminated or polluted while the remaining 2% is unevenly distributed.
  • Approximately 700 million people in 43 countries suffer today from water scarcity.
  • By 2025, 1.8 billion people will be living in countries or regions with absolute water scarcity, and two-thirds of the world’s population could be living under water stressed conditions.
  • With the existing climate change scenario, almost half the world’s population will be living in areas of high water stress by 2030, including between 75 million and 250 million people in Africa. In addition, water scarcity in some arid and semi-arid places will displace between 24 million and 700 million people.
  • Sub-Saharan Africa has the largest number of water-stressed countries of any region.

In Kenya for instance, more than two thirds of the country is arid and semi arid therefore the residents of such areas have no access to water, made worse by effects of climate change. Perrenial droughts impact the lives of an increasing number of Kenyans and their livestock, through decreased livelihoods and well being. The worst part is that the drought patterns are predictable but the Government largely seems to respond only when disaster strikes. There is an urgent need for more proactive measures to help mitigate the effects of drought. Despite the obvious links between climate change and water scarcity in Kenya, the challenges seem to be politicised, a major setback in trying to achieve water sustainability for current and future generations. 

Kenya is on the world map for hosting the Seventh Wonder of the world that is the wildbeeste migration across the Mara River. Howver the Mara River is slowly but steadily drying up! It is devastating to imagine losing such an important part of the country’s heritage because of reckless environmental management. 

To curb this, everybody must be committed to playing their role. Individuals must change personal habits inorder to conserve and recycle water as much as possible. Government entities tasked to manage this important resource must be empowered to deliver on their mandate in a timely manner without interference. Industries that emmit their raw effluents into water bodies should be fined heavily and also bear the costs of cleaning their pollution, and shit down if non-compliant. 

The Kenya Organisation for Environmental Education (KOEE) is playing a key role in educating schools and communities through initiatives such as the Eco-schools programme under Education for Sustainable Development, where students in participating schools learn about environmentally sound practices. This is important in bringing up future generations that care for the environment and have the competencies to make truly sustainable development a reality in Kenya. 

Professor Wangari Maathai,’“The generation that destroys the environment is not the generation that pays the price. That is the problem.” 

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Kenya’s new Curriculum Mirrors Education for Sustainable Development

By David Wandabi – Programs Officer – Education for Sustainable Development (ESD) & Eco-schools Coordinator

There have been mixed reactions towards the new Competency Based Curriculum (CBC) designed by the Kenya Institute of Curriculum Development (KICD) and launched by the Ministry of Education in 2017. The CBC places emphasis on developing skills and knowledge and applying them to real life situations as opposed to content as it is under the 8-4-4 system.

Perhaps the biggest opponent of the CBC is the Kenya National Union of Teachers (KNUT), which has been encouraging its members to shun the new curriculum. KNUT has argued that inadequate teacher training, poor infrastructure, lack of legal framework and huge budgetary implications are the reasons that the CBC should be out rightly rejected. This discussion has been gathering momentum even as Parliament approved Kshs.2.4 billion for implementation of the new system in May 2019.

However, some reports have indicated that the real reason behind KNUT’s hard stance is that the giant teachers’ union fears the CBC will dilute the role of teachers in teaching and learning processes. KNUT also argues that CBC reforms fit into the global education reforms movement modelled around huge business interests that are increasingly facing rejection worldwide. The union officials argue that by reducing teachers to mere facilitators of learning, children will be allowed to learn on their own, creating ‘artificial intelligence’ in education. 

But maybe we should take some time to reflect on the reason that necessitated the curriculum reforms as we try to interrogate claims that the CBC will put teachers at the periphery of teaching and learning process. 

The current 8-4-4 system of education was introduced in 1985 based on a guiding philosophy of “education for self-reliance‟. There have been recurring complaints that the education system has been producing graduates who are ill-prepared to fit into the world of work. Evaluations of the 8-4-4 system have revealed an overloaded curriculum, poorly equipped workshops to facilitate learning of practical skills, and poorly trained teachers. Therefore the graduates at secondary school level have not been acquiring adequate entrepreneurial skills for self-reliance. Apart from the high unemployment arising from this phenomenon, there has also been the increase in social vices such crime, drug abuse and antisocial behaviour.

These were driving factors that led stakeholders in the education sector to call for the introduction of a curriculum that would provide flexible education pathways for identifying and nurturing the talents and interests of learners early enough to prepare them for the world of work, career progression and sustainable development.

The CBC focuses on competencies as opposed to content under the 8-4-4 system. The system is flexible with opportunities for specialisation through various pathways and it balances between formative and summative assessments. Teachers will play a critical role in learning by students, with teacher training being an ongoing process rather than an event.

Therefore CBC provides an opportunity to nurture every learner’s potential through quality education. As a result, they will be enabled to contribute more meaningfully to the world around them – economically, culturally, socially and politically.

This is the ultimate goal of Education for Sustainable Development. Despite the widely understood role of education as a catalyst for building a better, more sustainable future for all, our basic education curriculum has been faulted of not fully preparing learners to meet a wide range of sustainable development challenges, whether we are talking about climate change, the loss of biodiversity and cultural diversity, or persistent poverty and social inequality.  

Sustainable development cannot be achieved by political agreements, financial incentives or technological solutions alone. It requires a wholesale change in the way we think and act – a rethink of how we relate to one another and how we interact with the ecosystems that support our lives and livelihoods. To create a world that is more just, more peaceful, and more sustainable, all individuals and societies must be equipped and empowered by knowledge, skills and values as well as heightened awareness to drive such change.  This is where education has a critical role to play. The design of the CBC is perfectly suited to ensure this is achieved. Just like the goal of Education for Sustainable Development, the CBC seeks to empower learners to take informed decisions and responsible actions for environmental integrity, economic viability and a just society for present and future generations, while respecting cultural diversity. Therefore there is need for KNUT and other stakeholders in the education sector to come to embrace the curriculum’s new direction, and work together to address key concerns, for the sake of our children and their future. 

BEATING AIR POLLUTION – WORLD ENVIRONMENT DAY 2019

By Ojuka Vincent Ochieng

Department of Education for Sustainable Development (ESD) – KOEE

Introduction

As the global community gathers today in different regions, countries and continents to mark World Environment Day under the “#beatairpollution” theme, it is noble to reflect what awaits humanity as a result of environmental pollution, particularly emanating from gaseous particles – air pollution – which is one of the biggest environmental threats. Scientific research has generated the following facts about this unfortunate and mind-blowing environmental crime: 

  • One in eight deaths in the world is caused by air pollution,
  • 92 percent of the world’s population lives in areas with poor air quality
  • Annually, indoor air pollution claims about 4.3 million lives globally

Air pollution comes from mobile sources (car, bus, train combustions), stationary sources (power plants, industries), area sources (agricultural area, wood burning fireplaces) and natural sources (wind blowing dust, wildfires and volcanoes). The impacts of the pollution include but are not limited to respiratory and health problems, global warming, acid rain, eutrophication, depletion of the ozone layer among others. 

Air Pollution and Sustainable Development

The 17 Sustainable Development Goals aim to end extreme poverty and create a healthy, sustainable world by the year 2030. The center focus is on the health and well-being of people and our planet, which means air pollution – the deaths, and disabilities it causes and its close links to climate change – is a huge threat to delivering on the vision of a better world. Sustainability calls for inter and intra relationship among the economic, social and the environmental aspects of the goals.Air pollution takes its toll on the economy in several ways: it costs human lives, it reduces people’s ability to work, it affects vital products like food, it damages cultural and historical monuments, it reduces the ability of ecosystems to perform functions societies need and it costs money in remediation or restoration. Socially it is notable that there are indiscriminate impacts of air pollution to the female gender as they tend to suffer more; the children and the elderly the most vulnerable to the bad effects of the pollution.Regrattably most developing countries are facing environmental challenges caused by the industrialization in developed nations causing a mythical gap that need to be addressed. Environmental quality is also dependent on the amount of gaseous materials that are released into the atmosphere. These particles are always associated to environmental impacts like climate change and its associated effects.

Way Forward

As in the 17thSustainable development goal, there needs to be a concerted effort and partnerships for beating air pollution and its impact on humanity and nature.Nations,continents and the global community needs to come together in addressing this dragon that has claimed lives of people across the world. Policies that are directed towards addressing this pollution needs to be well framed in targeting key polluters and  in as much as pollution get the required political well and good governance in their implementations. We cannot afford to give the future generations a compromised environment that is polluted and degraded thus we must all stand firm to help in beating air pollution.

WORLD ENVIRONMENT DAY 2019

By Lorraine Dixon

World Environment Day is the biggest annual event for positive environmental action and takes place every 5thof June. The theme for this year is “AirPollution“.

What is Air Pollution?

Air pollution occurs when gases, dust particles, fumes (or smoke) or odour are introduced into the atmosphere in a way that makes it harmful to humans, animals and plant.This is because the air becomes dirty (contaminated or unclean). 

Where does it come from?

Air pollution can result from both human and natural actions. Natural events that pollute the air include forest fires, volcanic eruptions, wind erosion, pollen dispersal, evaporation of organic compounds and natural radioactivity. Human actions that pollute the air include Household combustion devices like jikos (cook stoves), motor vehicles, industrial facilities and forest fires are common sources of air pollution.

What are the Effects of Air Pollution?

The 2017 Kenya Economic Survey estimated that 19.9 million Kenyans suffer from respiratory ailments that are made worse by poor air quality. Over 5 million Kenyans living in major cities and towns are directly exposed to toxic emissions mainly from motor vehicles, industries, use of traditional fuels and kerosene used for cooking and heating. Indiscriminate burning of solid waste also causes air pollution. Air pollution causes death and increased illnesses such as respiratory ailments, heart conditions, brain damage and cancers. It is estimated that 14,300 Kenyans die annually due to conditions attributed to air pollution (Ministry of Environment, 2018). Pollution also affects plants and agricultural yields.

What is Kenya doing about it?

Kenya gazetted Air Quality Regulations in 2014 that specify air quality standards, as well as steps to be taken for “prevention, control and abatement” of air pollution in recognition of the terrible toll it takes on the health of Kenyans’ health.. However, there have been challenges with enforcing the regulations due to a lack of high-quality air quality monitoring data. 


What can I do about it?

  • Conserve energy – remember to turn off lights, computers, and electric appliances when not in use
  • Use energy efficient light bulbsand appliancessuch as energy saving jikos
  • Limit driving by carpooling, using public transportation, biking and walkingwhenever possible
  • Compost organic food items and recycle non-organic trash
  • Choose environmentally friendly cleaners
  • Use water-based or solvent free paints whenever possible and buy products that say “low VOC”
  • Seal containers of household cleaners, workshop chemicals and solvents, and garden chemicals to prevent volatile organic compounds from evaporating into the air

The focus of this year’s World Environment Day is to urge governments, industry, communities, and individuals to come together to explore renewable energy and green technologies, and improve air quality in cities and regions across the world. 

Join the campaign and help us create more awareness by participating in the #BeatAirPollution challenge. For more information please visit https://www.worldenvironmentday.global/get-involved/world-environment-day-mask-challenge

Tourism and Climate Change

By Danson Imbwaga Matekwa

“The time is past when humankind thought it would selfishly draw on exhaustible resources. We know now that the world is not a commodity.”  Francoise Hollande, Former President of the French Republic.

Climate is a key resource for tourism and the sector is highly sensitive to the impacts of climate change and global warming, many elements of which are already being felt.  Tourism is estimated to be responsible for 5% of global CO2emissions. Threats for the sector are diverse, including direct and indirect impacts such as more extreme weather events, increasing insurance costs and safety concerns, water shortages, biodiversity loss and damage to assets and attractions at destinations, among others.Globally – all major coral reefs are expected to be severely degraded by 2050 and 32% risk die-off by 2050.

Photo credit: Africa Wildlife Foundation

Tourism development has grabbed the attention of policy makers and politicians in Africa in the quest to achieve greater economic development through employment creation and catalyzing other related industries such as agriculture. With tourism growth as an almost certainty, its share of environmental pollution will increase. Climate change remains a threat towards sustainability of the tourism sector in the continent. Particular issues of concern include negative environmental impacts on destinations that affect the quality of life for the host community.

Climate-change impacts that affect tourism in African countries include: beach erosion, saline intrusion, droughts, flash floods and landslides, coral-reef bleaching, less productive fisheries and agricultural systems, changes in the preferences of tourists, etc. Today, new tourist centers and cities are planned to make them more environmentally friendly and sustainable.

Kenya is facing climate change induced challenges, such as variation in weather patterns, unpredictable water levels in lakes and rivers, frequent and prolonged droughts and flash floods. 

Women fetch water from depleted Mara River Photo credit:Kiplagat, Standar

The country’s wild life and other tourist attractions, which are major contributors to the nation’s economy, are vulnerable to the impacts of climate change. For example, flash floods associated with El Niño rains and their impact on infrastructure especially in Maasai Mara and Lake Nakuru; prolonged droughts in major national parks; the shifts in wildebeest migration in response to rain fall patterns; and melting of snow caps on Mount Kenya due to increases in temperature. 

With tourism contributing to 9.7% of GDP and 9% of total employment in the country in 2018, it is imperative for swift and tangible action to address the climate change challenge to avoid major losses. For the sustenance and further development of tourism, it is important that climate change is address holistically through favorable policies for mitigation and adaptation action on the ground. 

Tourism for Sustainable Development

By Danson Imbwaga Matekwa

“With more than one billion international tourists now traveling the world each year, tourism has become a powerful and transformative force that is making a genuine difference in the lives of millions of people. The potential of tourism for sustainable development is considerable.  As one of the world’s leading employment sectors, tourism provides important livelihood opportunities, helping to alleviate poverty and drive inclusive development.”

 Ban Ki-moon, Former United Nations Secretary-General

Kenya is one of the leading destinations in Sub-Saharan Africa mainly known as the home of the original Safari and iconic world marathon champions. For decades, millions of visitors have taken Safaris, meaning a journey to various wildlife habitats to experience nature, witness the wildlife spectacles, open wilderness, and interact with the indigenous communities. Kenya’s tourism is over 80% nature-based with the revenues generated going back to protect its base resources. 

The hotel industry in Kenya has significantly grown in the last 5 years, with hotels from Hilton, Radisson Blu, Pullman, Best Western and Mӧvenpick opening establishments in the country. Kenya’s 2018 tourist arrivals grew by 37.33 % from the previous year to cross the two million mark for the first time, posting a significant growth in earnings to USD 1.5 billion. The total contribution of Travel and Tourism to GDP was USD 7.9 million, 9.7% of GDP in 2018.In 2018, the total contribution of Travel & Tourism to employment, including jobs indirectly supported by the industry was 9.0% of total employment – 1,172,247 jobs (WTTC, 2018). It is against this vibrant growth that there is need to emphasise the importance of the industry’s adoption of more environmentally sustainable practices. 

Kenya’s Vision 2030, the national economic blueprint, recognizes tourism as one of the lead sectors with potential to contribute to 10% GDP growth. This has resulted in the repositioning of tourism through development of resort cities in the Kenyan Coast and Isiolo; and revamping of under-utilized parks; diversification to include new high value niche products and value addition to business-visitor offering. The Tourism Act, 2011 provides for the development, management, marketing and regulation of sustainable tourism and tourism related activities and services, and for connected purposes. To this effect, Kenya launched the National Tourism Blueprint 2030 and National Wildlife Strategy 2030 in June 2018, demonstrating the country’s commitment to developing these sectors. 

It is against this backdrop that the concept of Sustainable Tourism presents a significant opportunity to drive the country’s development agenda forward. According to the World Tourism Organization, sustainable tourism is “Tourism that takes full account of its current and future economic, social and environmental impacts, addressing the needs of visitors, the industry, the environment, and host communities”.

Therefore, sustainable tourism should:

1) Make optimal use of environmental resources that constitute a key element in tourism development, maintaining essential ecological processes and helping to conserve natural heritage and biodiversity.

2) Respect the socio-cultural authenticity of host communities, conserve their built and living cultural heritage and traditional values, and contribute to inter-cultural understanding and tolerance.

3) Ensure viable, long-term economic operations, providing socio-economic benefits to all stakeholders that are fairly distributed, including stable employment and income-earning opportunities and social services to host communities, and contributing to poverty alleviation. 

The Kenyan journey towards sustainability continues and the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) provide a good framework for prioritizing areas for sustainability initiatives for individuals, organizations and destinations in Kenya. The tourism industry, both private and public sectors, have a key role to play.  With global adoption of these goals, creating job opportunities, promoting local cultures, products and experiences, and developing & implementing tools to monitor the sustainable development impacts of tourism will be an ongoing focus for the Kenya tourism industry (KTB, 2016). Sustainable tourism is explicitly mentioned in three of the goals:

  • Goal 8: Promote sustained, inclusive and sustainable economic growth, full and productive employment and decent work for all.
  • Goal 12: Ensure sustainable consumption and productive patterns
  • Goal 14:  Conserve and sustainably use the oceans, seas, and marine resources for sustainable development.

Source: UNWTO

Going forward, the challenge for the tourism industry in Kenya and the world over is to make sustainable tourism mainstream rather than niche as well as making an impactful contribution towards achievement of the sustainable development goals as indicated above given the multiplier effect brought about by the vertical and horizontal linkages between tourism and other sectors of the economy.

LAUNCH OF ECO-SCHOOLS AND WORLD WATER DAY CELEBRATIONS IN KITUI COUNTY

The Kenya Organization for Environmental Education (KOEE), in conjunction with the Industrial and Commercial Development Corporation (ICDC), organized an event to launch the Eco schools Programme in Kitui County and celebrate World Water Day at Migwani Secondary School in Mwingi West Constituency on 23rd March 2019.

Check out the full report below.

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.

CLIMATE CHANGE REPORTING

The Kenya Organization for Environmental Education (KOEE), with funding support from Act, Change, Transform (Act!), is implementing a project that aims at enhancing public awareness on existing climate change response strategies and policies and with an objective of training journalists on climate change reporting and developing booklets with guidelines on climate change reporting. The project will be implemented in Garissa, Wajir, Mandera, Kilifi, Mombasa, Kwale, Laikipia, Baringo and Turkana Counties.

Kenya’s state of environmental journalism has seen some improvement compared to previous years. However, much is needed to instill appropriate knowledge, attitudes, and practices of environmental journalism, especially in climate change reporting. While most journalists depict some knowledge in climate change, they require further specialized training in climate change reporting to enhance their content and reporting practice. The lack of proper linkage and communication between journalists and climate change experts is among the major challenges facing science reporters in Kenya. Also, inadequate training, limited resources and uncooperative editorials were cited as major challenges for climate change reporters. These challenges could be addressed through initiatives such as organizing training on climate change reporting, and capacity building for environmental and other journalists.

We promote sustainable development through national and regional programmes