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Sustainability Through Collaboration

WSCSD-Kenya’s initiatives are geared towards addressing four (4) areas that are core to the achievement of our vision. These include; spreading sustainability awareness, greening Kenyan universities, modelling sustainable communities and fostering sustainable lifestyles.

The initiatives are;

  1. Adopt-an-Ecosystem

This initiative is aimed at conserving and restoring water and forest ecosystems in Kenya. This is in line with ongoing government efforts as recognized in various documents, key among them being; the Kenya Vision 2030, National Climate Change Action Plan 2013 -2017 and the Master Plan for the Conservation and Sustainable Management of Water Catchment Areas in Kenya (2012).

To actualize it, WSCSD-Kenya member universities – through WSCSD affiliate student associations – adopt a forest and/or a river ecosystem of choice and commit to undertake its conservation and restoration.

The initiative aims at addressing five (5) gaps as follows;

  1. Restoration of Kenya’s forest and river ecosystems
  2. Exploiting underutilized on-campus land resources
  3. Engaging underutilized on-campus human (student) resources
  4. Promoting entrepreneurship amongst students and student associations

The initiative has two sub-components; adopt-a-forest and adopt-a-river.

  1. Adopt-a-Forest

Forest ecosystems in Kenya rank high as the country’s natural asset and play critical ecological, social, cultural, and economic functions. According to the Kenyan Constitution and the economic development blueprint, Vision 2030, it’s a requirement that Kenya works towards achieving a forest cover of atleast 10% of its land area to ensure sustainable resource use, growth and employment creation.

Despite this, deforestation is estimated to result in loss of 50,000 hectares of forest cover annually and yearly loss to the economy of over USD 19 million. Consequently, the current forest cover falls below the constitutional requirement of 10%.

On the other hand, the number of universities, as well as their yearly enrolment is consistently rising. Further, the combined university-owned land resource amounts to thousands of hectares.

The Adopt-a-Forest Initiative is therefore aimed at engaging underutilized on-campus human (student) resources and exploiting underutilized on-campus land resources in order to push the current forest cover to the recommended 10%. This is while promoting entrepreneurship amongst students and student associations.

WSCSD – Kenya oversees establishment and maintenance of a tree nursery by its affiliate student association in each of the adopting institution’s ‘Green Zone’. The tree nurseries provide;

  1. Seedlings for periodic tree planting exercises in the adopted forest ecosystems.
  2. Seedlings for greening the institutions (WSCSD – Kenya proposes that each institution maintains atleast a 10% tree cover of its land area and commits to offsetting carbon emissions resulting from air travel by its top management).
  • Revenue to the respective student associations through sale of seedlings to their institutions and other interested individuals, groups and organizations out of campus.


  1. Adopt-a-River

The Rio +20 outcome document, “The Future We Want” noted that: “We recognize the key role that ecosystems play in maintaining water quantity and quality and support actions within respective national boundaries to protect and sustainably manage these ecosystems”. In addition, the document recognized the core role played by water in the achievement of sustainable development (paragraphs 119 – 124).

Wetlands are crucial to the maintenance of the water cycle and provision of water-related ecosystem services. They directly and indirectly, power myriad sectors including agriculture, tourism and fisheries among others. However, despite their importance, wetlands continue to be degraded and lost in some instances. This is due to the effects of irrigation, intensive agricultural production, urbanization, increased water extraction for domestic and industrial use, pollution and industrial and infrastructure development.

According to the Ramsar Convention on Wetlands, the 168 contracting parties (member states) to the convention have committed to the “conservation and wise use of all wetlands through local and national actions, and international cooperation, as a contribution towards achieving sustainable development throughout the world’

The Kenya State of the Environment Outlook Report (2010) notes that wetlands are the most undervalued ecosystems in Kenya while urban wetlands are among the most threatened. This is due to their direct conversion into built-up areas (either planned or unplanned). In this situation, irreversible damages to and/ or loss of aquatic biodiversity, altered ecosystems’ productive systems and adverse effects to human health and safety are inevitable challenges.

In response to this, the WSCSD – Kenya in partnership with the National Environment Management Authority (NEMA) and the support of various stakeholders have partnered to implement the ‘Adopt-a-River Initiative’. This is a ‘people-driven’ wetlands monitoring and restoration project that entails adoption of a nearby river by secondary school/university/college student groups, community youth groups and other interested institutions. The groups are expected to monitor the health of adopted river over time using Mini Stream Assessment Scoring System (miniSASS), a simple, user-friendly community river health bio-monitoring tool. The group will then identify possible sources of pollution and take local action towards restoration and conservation of the river.

Overall, the aim of the project is to strengthen the link between the curricula and addressing real sustainability challenges in Kenya. Specifically, it seeks to;

  1. Strengthen monitoring of rivers by local stakeholders using citizen science tools
  2. Steer restoration of polluted rivers in Kenya to make them more clean and healthy
  • Make learning of biology, especially the dichotomous key more interesting and hands-on for secondary school students
  1. Enhance knowledge on and spur interest in community led ecosystem conservation among youths.

The project is currently being piloted within Nairobi River Basin before upscaling to other parts of the country

The day to day implementation of the program can be seen here

  1. Nyakongo Sustainable Village

Nyakongo Sustainable Village Initiative (Nyakongo2030) is a youth-led, collaborative and integrated rural-ecovillage development project. It aims at mobilizing university/college students to lead other stakeholders in transforming the poor rural community of Nyakongo, Kenya, into a model sustainable village.

It is a unique service learning process incorporating global-local, north-south and multidisciplinary collaboration among students, researchers, community volunteers, government agencies and private sector to ensure that sustainable social, cultural, environmental and economic wellbeing of Nyakongo residents is attained by the year 2030.

For more information, visit: http://nyakongo2030.wscsd.org/


  1. Kenya Green Universities Network (KGUN)

There are over 48 universities in Kenya. At present, some universities are actively involved in incorporating environmental sustainability targets in their performance contracts as stipulated by National Environment Management Authority (NEMA) while others are lagging behind. Overall, the combined efforts of these tertiary academic institutions could have a huge impact on advancement of Sustainable Development in Kenya.

The Kenya Green Universities Network (KGUN) was therefore proposed in 2012, after deliberations between WSCSD-Kenya, UNEP’s Environmental Education and Training Unit (EETU), Greening Kenya Initiative (GKI), University of Nairobi (UoN), and Multimedia University of Kenya (MMU).

The network aims at developing a functional group of Higher Education Institutions (HEIs) in Kenya that incorporate environment, low carbon climate resilient development strategies and sustainability aspects in their education, training, campus operations/management and enhanced student engagement. The KGUN will also develop capacity to assist universities in their performance contract reporting requirements on the environmental targets.

The network has 4 pillars namely; Green Campus, Curricula, Community Engagement and Student Engagement. WSCSD-Kenya is the network’s focal point for the 4th pillar i.e. Student Engagement

KGUN was officially on 4-5 February 2016 at UNEP Headquarters’, Gigiri, Nairobi.

  1. Kenya RCEs Youth League

The critical role of education in achieving Sustainable Development (SD) was first recognized during the Earth Summit in 1992. However, this role was not well articulated in the strategies developed until the year 2002 during the World Summit on Sustainable Development (WSSD) in Johannesburg, South Africa. Consequently, the United Nations General Assembly adopted its resolution 57/254 in December 2002, giving birth to Education for Sustainable Development (ESD). The period between 2005 – 2014 was subsequently designated as the United Nations Decade of Education for Sustainable Development (UNDESD).

During the United Nations Conference on Sustainable Development (Rio +20) in 2012, the international community resolved to ‘promote ESD and to integrate sustainable development more actively into education beyond the UNDESD’. As a follow-up to the UNDESD, the Global Action Programme (GAP) on Education for Sustainable Development was endorsed in 2013, during the 37th session of the General Conference of UNESCO (37C/Resolution 12). Subsequently, it was launched during the World Conference on Education for Sustainable Development in November 2014. The GAP is designed as a concrete, tangible contribution to the post-2015 development and education agendas. It builds on the achievements of the UNDESD and aims to generate and scale up concrete actions in ESD. Five priority action areas were identified to support the goals of GAP. These include; Advancing Policy, Transforming Learning and Training Environments; Building Capacities of Educators and Trainers; Empowering and Mobilizing Youth; and Accelerating Solutions at the Local Level.

NEMA is the National Focal Point for ESD in Kenya. In response to the declaration of the period (2005 -2014) as the UNDESD, NEMA developed a national ESD strategy in 2008. The strategy provides a guideline for the implementation of ESD across all sectors in Kenya, including coordination of Regional Centres of Expertise (RCEs). RCEs are amongst the 7 inter-linked strategies proposed by the UNDESD implementation strategy. These are groups of institutions coming together to re-orient their practices towards SD and they include learning institutions, environmentally friendly NGOs, scientists and researchers, the private sector, volunteers, media and interested individuals. Since 2008, NEMA has coordinated the establishment of 9 RCEs, six of which are fully recognized by the United Nations University (UNU). The agency is also in the process of establishing the 10th RCE in the Lake Turkana region.

Youth participation in advancing the goals of RCEs has not been well facilitated and coordinated in Kenya. It is therefore critically important for RCEs to tap into the youths’ creativity and vigour for accelerated promotion of ESD and implementation of GAP in Kenya. The Kenya RCEs Youth League was born out of the need for coordination of youth participation and involvement in RCE activities in Kenya. It is anchored on the 10 RCEs and is aimed at providing the much-needed link between youths and high-level decision-making processes on ESD in Kenya.

The Kenya RCE Youth League was officially launched during the 2nd National RCE Conference held on 8th – 9th April 2015 at Kenyatta International Conference Centre (KICC). The WSCSD-Kenya acts as the Secretariat to the league, with NEMA being the hosting agency. Since the league is still in its formative stages, an interim Steering Committee comprising of WSCSD-Kenya and NEMA is responsible for devising policies and procedures with regard to membership, governance, management and any other operational aspects of the league.


  1. Sustainability Trainings

The Global Action Programme (GAP) on ESD gives the youth a colossal responsibility and positions them as one of the key actors in protecting the planet and in turn humankind. To realise this responsibility, the youth require knowledge, skills, attitude and motivation to ensure that economic well-being is linked to environmental protection and social responsibility. The sustainability training program therefore targets organized youths in institutions of higher learning and at the community level in Kenya. The program focusses on key national and global sustainability concerns, with special emphasis on the role of youth in addressing them. The overarching goal is to ‘create sustainability champions across the country by translating Education for Sustainable Development (ESD) into action’.

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