Boots on the ground with communities in Kenya

Meet Timothy Ranja, Programme Analyst at UNDP Kenya

Timothy handing over drought-resistant goats to community members in Kyuso, Kenya.

In one sentence, what do you do at UNDP?

As an officer for UNDP’s “Boots on the Ground” programme, I manage and provide technical support to Energy and Climate Change Projects in UNDP Kenya.

How does your specific project change the lives of people in the developing world?

Boots on the Ground is about supporting a projects that help address the challenges of climate change, and working with government to build policies that help manage and fight it. One project I work on in Kenya focuses on addressing the problems associated with using kerosene and wood fuel in the home. We distribute solar-charged LED lanterns and better cooking stoves in areas where electricity is limited or non-existent, to reduce greenhouse emissions.

This project ensures communities can exercise their right to a clean and healthy environment. It’s also about promoting the use of clean and sustainable energy in households, reducing the greenhouse emissions, and improving learning activities of primary school students. With the access to clean energy, women feel more empowered, too.

Tell us about a community member you’ve met who has benefited from this project.

Timothy visits a women’s group initiative that makes improved cook stoves in Kitui county.

I visited one project in an area that experienced recurrent droughts. One of the biggest challenges in communities like this is access to water. Women and kids spend valuable time trekking long distances, searching and fetching water to use in the home and for livestock. This means less time for other activities like farming, trading, education, and play.

We worked with the community to construct a dam with a capacity of approximately 18,000M3. The dam has considerably reduced trekking distances from an average of 7km to 2km for most of the community. It serves five villages with an average of 300 households per village, and a population of about 1500 people. People can now spend their time doing more productive activities like farming. Livestock are more productive and healthy as more energy is being channeled towards meat and milk production. One farmer said he’d tripled his herd of goats, and he can now pay school fees with ease. Also, his children are healthier because of milk from more goats.

If you were president of a climate-vulnerable country in your region, what’s one thing you would do to minimize the threat of climate change?

Women, children and indigenous people are the most vulnerable to the impacts of climate change. I’d empower these groups to fight climate change, encouraging their participation in activities relating to drought-resistant crops and water harvesting, as well as making clean energy more accessible and affordable.

School students receive solar lights in Isiolo and Samburu, where inadequate access to electricity is a severe problem. Photo: Inger Haugsgjerd

As a child, what did you want to be when you ‘grew up’?

I wanted to be a movie actor or a news anchor!

What was your first-ever job? How did you end up working in climate change?

My first job was an intern for an energy research institution which had a big programme on climate change. I prepared papers and databases on energy, and also attended workshops on climate change which inspired me find innovative technologies aimed at reducing poverty in Africa.

What’s one action that people can take in their everyday lives to minimize the risk of climate change?

Reduce your consumption of energy and use it more efficiently. Use public transport or bicycles instead of driving a big guzzler vehicle with only one passenger. Switch off lights, computers and other household electrical items when not in use.

My colleagues would describe me as…

…calm and composed. I have a smile in all circumstances.

By 2030, I want to live in a world that…

…is just, inclusive, has sustainable production and consumption, and recognizes vulnerable groups such as peasant farmers, women, children and indigenous people.