ROLE OF FAITH BASED ORGANIZATIONS IN AWAKENING ENVIRONMENTAL CONCERN AND NURTURING STEWARDSHIP
By Rudolf Makhanu
Director, Eden’s Stewards Ministry
Matters of faith and the environment are inextricably linked. Religion plays a significant role in the understanding and shaping of attitudes, opinions and behaviors including for management and use of the environment and natural resources. Terms like “Mother Earth” portray the central role the environment and natural resources play to man’s survival. In most religions caring for the environment is man’s central responsibility, which underpins stewardship. As a steward of God’s creation, man is called upon to make the earth a beautiful garden for the human family. A central part of Gods mission, for the Christian faith, is restoring all creation back to its original state, with disharmony between man and the environment, as manifested through environmental ills such as pollution and deforestation, being associated with human rebellion and sin.
The Muslim community approach to the environment is based upon the intended role for humans in this world – and that is of “stewards of the earth.” Stewardship of the earth is supported by several verses in the Quran especially in the light of the environmental degradation that unchecked greed and thoughtless exploitation of resources have brought about.
Droughts associated with climate change have fueled degradation of wetlands compromising water security and wrecking natural heritage through biodiversity loss. Environmental pollution associated with poor waste management threatens public health, and aquatic life besides rendering majority of fresh water sources unsafe for human consumption. Deforestation has stripped the land bare, accelerating desertification, flash floods and contributed to climate change. Escalated levels of environmental degradation and the growing realization of dire implications this has on human well-being has ignited an awakening within faith based organizations to adopt an active engagement in environmental conservation. In response to this concepts such as “green church” have emerged and are being adopted, as well as establishment of faith-based environmental organizations.
Eden’s Stewards Ministry, the environment wing of Nairobi Chapel Ongata Rongai is one such environmental Faith Based Organization. Registered as a CBO in May 2018 (Reg. No, KJD/N/CBO/2018/115403), its vision is a “healthy environment with a transformed and resilient society”. Its mission on the other hand is to empower, transform and help communities adapt to climate change while working towards sustainable livelihoods as they build on peace and social justice, gender equality and ethical practice. It has open membership with Kajiado County as the area of operation. Although its membership cuts across the age brackets, it has a bias towards youth. The UN Environment, under the Faith for Earth Initiative, whose main purpose is to promote active engagement of Faith Based Organizations in realization of Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), has played a lead role in formation of Eden’s Stewards. It directly contributes towards the realization of the following SDGs; 1, 6, 7, 11, 12, and 13.
Its objectives are to;
- Adopt wealth in waste concept for pollution control, improved public health and livelihood diversification.
- Promote youth empowerment through job creation and talent development.
- Tackle climate change through adoption of adaptation and mitigation strategies.
- Influence positive change through advocacy for a clean and healthy environment.
- Promote wetlands ecosystem health for enhanced biodiversity conservation.
- Promote poverty alleviation by empowering communities through capacity building and enterprise development.
Eden stewards is now a critical and trusted partner effectively mobilizing multi-stakeholder teams including government and private sector towards realizing a healthy environment with a transformed and resilient society within Kajiado County. Towards advancing the wealth in waste concept, the organization has acquired machines for recycling single use plastics into building materials. It undertakes tree planting, and under the theme “My Environment, My responsibility”, jointly with Kenya Wildlife Service, Kajiado County, Ongata Rongai business community, local universities and other partners Eden’s Stewards organizes monthly cleanups in Ongata Rongai. The main aim is to enhance public health and biodiversity conservation by cutting off pollution from entering Nairobi National Park and adjacent wetlands. While the business community donate refreshments and tools such as gloves, dust masks, bin bags and rakes in support of clean ups, KWS offers free park entry to participants after clean ups to enjoy nature. This arrangement has made monthly clean ups fun filled events worth looking forward to by families.
In conclusion, FBOs are well placed to explore the root causes of environmental problems, and to express the values that speak to the heart hence the need to take a lead role in spurring sustained engagement in environmental conservation. Further,
there is need for integration and adoption of religious and cultural values in the planning and management of the environment and natural resources to ensure inclusive green and transformative development informed by faith-based values and behaviors to achieve sustainable consumption and production.