How planting trees transformed the lives of Kenyan citizens

This year marks my tenth year in conservation. Thank you to everyone who has been part of my long journey towards a better and greener environment. According to the Kenyan Constitution, every person has “the right to a clean and healthy environment, which includes the right to have the environment protected for the benefit of present and future generations through legislative and other measures.” This makes me a proud global citizen, as I have received honors and recognition both nationally and locally for my environmental efforts. Last year was one of my most successful years. My efforts for addressing Climate Change issues were recognized. I had a chance to meet Queen Elizabeth III through Queen’s Young Leaders Program.

My passion for environmental conservation and taking care of Mother Nature has been the driving force behind my efforts. I work with young people and engage them daily on protecting and safeguarding our biodiversity. I love what I do, ranging from community service to hands-on environmental projects to inspiring to young people and transforming lives. I have become a young leader who is respected both locally and globally because I address the universal issue that affects everybody: the environment.

Coming from an arid and semi-arid region that has been adversely affected by climate change for decades, I have seen the devastating effects of global warming first-hand. These are areas with high levels of poverty, and therefore the residents will do anything in order to survive. It is here that the harsh actions of logging, tree cutting, bush fires and charcoal burning take place. The resources in these areas are quickly depleted and at much higher risk for droughts. The change in climate is going to have a stronger impact in the areas of dry land.

As a beneficiary of the future generation, I realized that as a young person, I have a big role to play in sustainably managing our environment. With the rapid population growth of Garissa County and Kenya in general, natural resources such as forests and wildlife are under threat. This is as a result of communities diminishing the amount of natural resources present. To ensure balance of nature and combating global warming, I have come up with a different approach of engaging the young people to protect these resources and utilize their potential for community development.

This has been a long journey. A journey that called for commitment, patience and hard work. I come from a background that has fallen victim to youth unemployment and radicalization. I engage young people to positively shape their future and thus become agents of change. I educate them in environmental protection, conservation, restoration and rehabilitation. I stand up for the environment and help fight for a greener and a cleaner county and country. The emerging environmental issues are extremely alarming, and therefore call for everybody’s contribution.

The amount of successful projects I have implemented and people whose lives I have transformed always gives me hope to continue my hard work, and to change even more lives. Being a young leader and a beneficiary of a future generation, my dream is to have a better society: one that can live together in harmony and a community that can sustainably utilize resources and improve their lives.

In the year 2013, I launched Garissa Million Trees Campaign; an environmental campaign that promotes planting of trees and conserving the environment. The project is located in Garissa County, Kenya. This is a semi-arid area with the population being a pastoralist society. In the recent years, there have been extreme droughts that have killed livestock, leaving most of the community members in extreme poverty because most of them depend on this livestock for a living. There are no forests in the area and the fast-growing population threatens what few trees are standing. They are destroyed through illegal logging to meet huge demands for fuel, wood, charcoal, in addition to the clearing of land for human settlement and agriculture. The campaign has so far planted 100,000 trees and engaged more than 5,000 young people. This year alone, we are raising 500,000 tree seedlings in tree nurseries. The project is also linking young people to business opportunities.

For the upcoming years, I have focused on key projects that address primary issues affecting young people. These include sustainable environmental management and a rehabilitation project, which are geared towards restoring the environment, creating opportunities for young people, and initiating alternative energy sources for refugee camps in Dadaab and Garissa town.

My last point is that young people should take the initiative here. It is the youth who will be the beneficiaries of the future generations, and so they need to really understand the past, present and the future trends of climate change and global warming. It is their passion and energy can positively contribute to national change, as well as ensuring environmental sustainability here in Kenya and worldwide.

Finally, governments, civil society organizations and even communities must come together and share the responsibility of ensuring that we sustainably manage, utilize and restore our biodiversity, and improve on the current state of environment.

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