Kenya Environmental Action Network (KEAN)
Restoring Degraded Landscapes
Japheth Orieny has seen firsthand how a top-down approach to land restoration can keep community members from being fully committed to conservation. An assistant director of communications for the Kenya Environmental Action Network, Orieny enrolled in the Tropical Forest Landscapes online certificate program to learn new ways to encourage stakeholder engagement and enhance fundraising efforts to get more community buy-in to climate action initiatives.
In Kenya, climate change has led to more frequent droughts and decreased yields of the most important staple crops, such as maize and beans. Rising food prices and demand are pushing people to farm along riverbanks in search of fertile land and water. This pattern has led to a rapid degradation of land that puts conservation efforts at risk, says Japheth Orieny, who works for KEAN, a national youth-oriented network of environmental and climate activists. In his own community of Seme in western Kenya, he says residents have faced water scarcity and increased conflict over resources.
One of KEAN’s flagship climate change mitigation programs is the Bustani Gardens project, which helps schools set up and maintain vegetable gardens. So far, KEAN has built five gardens in schools across the country. The goal is to scale up to more than 40 gardens, and to reach it, KEAN plans to spur participation by working more closely with local leaders and community members.
“Most projects impose an approach onto a community without consulting what the community members need or the resources and assets they have, and they overwhelm the local people,” says Orieny.
Orieny enrolled in the Tropical Forest Landscape online certificate program, he says, to help him devise ways to meaningfully engage all community stakeholders in the planning, implementation, monitoring, and evaluation process of the Bustani Gardens project and other conservation projects.
“Climate change is arguably the defining issue of our time,” he says. “What restoration means to community members may differ from what it means to project implementors.”