Kenyan youth mobilizing school children to restore degraded forests

At only 25, Patricia Kombo from south-eastern Kenyan county of Makueni is shouldering the burden of recruiting learners into the efforts of protecting, managing, and restoring forest ecosystems, whose sustainability is in jeopardy thanks to human activities. Through her initiative PaTree, Kombo is on a mission to resurrect farming clubs in elementary schools, engage learners and women in nurturing vegetation and trees alongside lobbying for better environmental practices.

“PaTree was conceptualized in 2019 while I was still in university. I had volunteered to distribute food donations to a severely dry region. While there, I witnessed the sheer impact of climate change on children and their mothers. It is for this reason that my focus lies with them,” Kombo told Xinhua during a recent interview ahead of World Environment Day that is marked on Saturday.

Kombo retraces her interest in sustainable agriculture to a young age where she was involved in tree planting in both school and home. “Agricultural clubs were present and active while I was growing up, but little by little they started to disappear and so did the trees. Due to this change, children lost touch with the environment,” said Kombo.

At present, she has engaged 15 schools across the country. She started by involving primary level learners from her home county of Makueni where changing land-use practices and habitat loss worsened the vulnerability of local communities to climatic shocks. At present, Kombo provides schools with both fruitful and fruitless tree seedlings which she showcases in her nursery with the help of her immediate family and friends. “When the pandemic distanced me from learners, I constituted a tree nursery that has so far produced an impressive 10,000 seedlings. I also made my first attempt at kitchen gardening,” said Kombo.

“These two projects have become an avenue for knowledge transfer in the community,” she added. Over-exploitation of forests and unsustainable use of land are some of the factors identified as accelerating their disappearance. She said that excitement for tree planting is palpable among young learners. “Tree planting offers learners a break from classroom tutorials. Environment preservation and conservation is no longer an abstract idea to them,” said Kombo.

The communication and journalism graduate has been utilizing her academic competence to achieve success for her ambition of tackling climate change. “I use my communication skills in the course of my advocacy significantly. I even landed an internship at an organization lobbying for the recognition of waste pickers as a result of my online lobbying,” said Kombo. PaTree’s long-term goal is to nudge the government into developing a syllabus that introduces children to sustainable development. She hopes that children will be oriented into matters of the environment at a tender age.

Kombo stresses that this approach will have meaningful results in the push to bring harmony between nature and man. “We can grow about 10,000 tree seedlings and only 1,000 make it to maturity. That tells us we should nurture the trees until when they can sustain themselves,” said Kombo. For her outstanding work, Kombo was recognized by the United Nations Convention to Combat Desertification (UNCCD) as a land heroine 2020 for promoting sustainable farming practices.


Posted by on Jun 14 2021. Filed under African News. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0. You can leave a response or trackback to this entry

Leave a Reply