Sustainable Waste Management and Environmental Education

Using waste to empower youth and promote environmental conservation.

Kevin Oduor Lunzalu

Age 25, Kenya

PROJECT: Using waste to empower youth and promote environmental conservation.

Get in touch with Kevin Oduor Lunzalu by emailing wildworldexpeditions@gmail.com

Tell us about the work you are doing to create a wilder world.
Wild World Expeditions is a youth-led initiative that seeks to discover the underlying beauty of the Kenyan wilderness through community participation and sustainable environmental conservation. Our project employs a unique approach of seeing the beauty in regions and materials that are considered to be unaesthetic and converting them into tourist attraction zones. For example, we encourage and help communities to preserve landscapes, river lines, and caves that occur in their land for socioeconomic purposes. One of the ways we achieve this is by converting raw waste materials especially from busy towns into attractive and reusable products that are put in curio shops for sale and some are sold overseas. Through community participation and empowerment, we realize that there is power that can transform depleted and polluted lands into wilderness zones. To us, land reclamation is one of the best initiatives through which wilderness (flora and fauna) can be expanded. So far, we have planted over 50,000 trees in different parts of the country since 2014 including dry areas in Eldoret. Currently, we are working on converting Busia town into a green town and conserving its fast-drying water catchment areas by educating farmers on better farming methods that do not deplete or interfere with water catchment zones.

 

What are five (5) of your short term goals to accomplish in the next 1-2 years?
1. Transform Busia, a busy and polluted border town, into a clean and green municipality.
2. Empower rural farmers on practices that are in harmony with the natural resources such as water-catchment zones
3. Economically empower the youth through waste recycling and production of products that can be sold.
4. Market some parts of Busia county, such as the Bunyala swamp, as a one-stop tourist destination in western Kenya
5. Increase the total acreage of land under forests of indigenous species by encouraging rural farmers who have large tracts of land to spare some for natural forests due to related benefits such as ecosystem engineering, carbon sequestration, and rain attraction.

 

What are five (5) of your long term goals to accomplish in the next 5-10 years?
1. Ensure that all the water-catchment areas in the vast Busia county are protected
2. Lobby and advocate for gazetting of natural wilderness areas in Busia county such as the Bunyala swamp for increased economic output and conservation purposes.
3. Establish a waste-recycling plant at the border town of Busia to increase the efficiency of separation of waste and number of useful products that can be sold or exported.
4. Establish a fully-functional foundation whose services can be outsourced to other counties within Kenya and abroad to spread the concept and increase wilderness and tourism.
5. Establish a proper working framework and partnerships through which the organization can obtain human, financial, legal, and community support.

 

How can others help you accomplish these goals?
To successfully achieve the desired goals and objectives, we require adequate skilled and experience human resources, finances, and community good will. For example, we need to convince rural farmers who put all their tracts of land on agricultural activities to spare at least 2% of it to trees or integrate forestry in their farming ventures. Besides, funds are needed to facilitate garbage collection and separation, movement from one place to another, coordination, and acquisition of required office space and facilities. Currently, the project is funded by Safaricom Limited, the leading telecommunication network provider in Kenya. However, the funds are not sufficient to achieve all the objectives as the contract is only to cover the environmental education bit of the project.

 

How can the public get involved with your project/work?
The community is the most integral pillar of this project. Everything from consultation to implementation and success of the project is solely dependent on the good will of the people we work with. Luckily, we have so far received the best support from the people of Lelekwe village where we have worked since January 2016.

For example, some farmers have collected natural tree seedlings and, through our help, planted in sections of their lands. In some sections, water catchments such as along Lelekwe river have been left to remain natural for conservation of the river on which most villagers depend. This river is also home to vervet and sykes monkeys, fish, and has reeds that host an abundant variety of bird species. For these reasons, we engage the public at every stage of our project. Some of our visitors to this villagers have been impressed on the progress we are making.

 

What have been some successes you have had?
This project made me personally recognized as the environmentalist of the year 2015 under the Environment 254 Awards. Besides, the concept secured financial support last year from Safaricom Limited to cover its environment education objective.

Also, we have been able to visit over 12 schools to educate children and teachers on environmental education, have launched wildlife clubs in 4 schools, and convinced Lelekwe farmers to spare land lying adjacent to Lelekwe river for water catchment and animal and bird species protection. We have also mapped out all the natural resources found in Bunyala swamp including birds, plants, and animals that can be protected for tourist and environmental purposes. Currently we are mapping out waste disposal areas in Busia town for future conversion into reusable products.

 

What are some lessons you have learned/what would you have done differently?
We have discovered that communities deplete the environment as the last resort when they do not have alternative livelihood sources. Given proper income-generating knowledge such as arable farming and waste recycling, natural wilderness areas can be conserved in perpetuity. Also, education on usefulness of wild components is essential as some communities do not see the need for some resources until they are totally depleted. For example, farming along river lines could be beneficial in short run but after the rivers dry out, fishermen lack food while the very farmers lack water for irrigation. Besides, households lack water in such cases and desertification, hunger, and inter-communal conflicts arise over the limited resources left. We have also learned that our project requires passion, hard work, collaboration, and a good understanding of the communities we work with. Having been born and raised in Busia, I have witnessed the depletion of natural forests into vast sugar cane plantations, and drying of streams and wells due to deforestation.

 

Any words of advice or wisdom? Anything else you want to tell the world?
Wilderness conservation is a give and take. With increased land value and importance, creative economic incentives is the only way through which wilderness areas can be increase. To achieve this, there is a need for collaboration, critical thinking, and providing solutions to things that lead to wilderness deterioration. In the words of Mahatma Ganthi, “The earth provides enough to satisfy our needs, not our greed”.

Our project employs a unique approach of seeing the beauty in regions and materials that are considered to be unaesthetic and converting them into tourist attraction zones.

In some sections, water catchments such as along Lelekwe river have been left to remain natural for conservation of the river on which most villagers depend.

This project made me personally recognized as the environmentalist of the year 2015 under the Environment 254 Awards.

We have discovered that communities deplete the environment as the last resort when they do not have alternative livelihood sources. Given proper income-generating knowledge such as arable farming and waste recycling, natural wilderness areas can be conserved in perpetuity.