Source: Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations, 2013, Jennifer Corriero and Ping Ya-Lee, TakingITGlobal, "The Youth Guide to Biodiversity" 1st Edition (Chapter 13) Youth and United Nations Global Alliance. Reproduced with permission.
Chapter 13. Sylvia Wambui Wachira, Kenya. Verbatim.
Sylvia Wambui Wachira (left) plants a tree
seedling with a student at Kabiru-ini secondary
school, Karatina, Kenya.
© Sylvia Wambui Wachira
The Mt. Kenya Youth Initiative for Ecosystem Restoration (MKYIER) is a volunteer-run community organisation, founded by urban and rural youth, to address deforestation in the Nyeri North district of Kenya.
Sylvia Wambui Wachira, MKYIER co-founder and programme manager, describes how she and her friends started the organisation and how they empowered a new generation of forest stewards, one school at a time:
“Schools in Kenya use firewood for cooking. Forests in Kenya are protected and it is illegal to cut trees on school properties. The schools buy wood from middlemen who source trees illegally from the forest reserve. In some school firewood piles, one can easily spot pieces of endangered indigenous trees.
So, with this basic information, my friends and I decided to fundraise from our own pockets and raised funds from our friends and relatives to start tree nurseries in schools. We gathered information from our grandparents on seeds that are good for farming and also consulted the forestry department.
We started tree nurseries in 30 schools – 19 primary schools and 11 secondary schools. We worked with existing institutions such as the Red Cross and the Scouts. And at schools where there were no groups, we created Farmers for the Future groups.
We encouraged the students to plant the tree seedlings from the nurseries around their schools. The remaining seedlings were given to the kids to plant at their homes.
We also established indigenous vegetable gardens in the school farms, which we introduced to the school groups as an activity.
We started the Mt. Kenya Youth Initiative for Ecosystem Restoration in 2006 and, now, the 10 000 trees we planted are already seven to ten metres tall.”
In addition to leading MKYIER, Sylvia works as the continental coordinator of the African Youth Initiative on Climate Change (AYICC). She is also a post‑graduate intern with FAO Somalia.