EDEN’S STEWARDS, AND ITS EFFORTS IN ENVIRONMENTAL CONSERVATION IN KENYA
By Rudolf Makhanu, Director, Eden’s Stewards
Email: firstname.lastname@example.org, Tel: +254 700325263
Presented in a panel discussion during the Fourth Session of UN Environment Assembly (UNEA 4), 13th March 2018, Gigiri, Nairobi, Kenya.
We all get frustrated when interacting with an abused and mismanaged environment characterized by pollution and deforestation. Jeremiah 2:7 expresses this frustration. It reads “ And I brought you into a plentiful land to enjoy its fruits and its goodness. But you came in, defiled my land and made my heritage an abomination”.
The resolve to form Eden’s Stewards by a small team of Christians that were undergoing Plug-In at Nairobi Chapel Ongata Rongai (NCOR) was triggered by a nasty encounter with a polluted urban environment. This sparked a desire to rally the community to action to address the problems.
NCOR is a ministry of Nairobi Chapel, established in 1989. Its mission is growing D.E.E.P to reach W.I.D.E, with mandate to reach the unchurched people in Rongai and its environs. Nairobi Chapel is among leading ministries in Kenya that has over 130 sister churches, with some being outside the country. Each church has an average membership of 400. This presents a critical mass of over 52,000 members.
Ongata Rongai is a densely populated town located in Kajiado County, Kenya. Its projected human population for 2017 was 58,459. It is famously referred to as the bedroom of Nairobi since majority of the residents work in Nairobi. It is dissected by two rivers; Kandisi and Mbagathi, with Ngong Hills as the main water catchment. These rivers are tributaries of Athi River that channels its water into the Indian Ocean. The town borders Nairobi National Park towards the south. Being sandwiched between Ngong Hills and Nairobi National park makes Ongata Rongai naturally a beautiful place. Silent nights are punctuated by memorable cries of an array of wildlife, from an occasional roar of a lion to a hilarious laugh by a hyena. Occasionally one could be lucky to see the majestic Grey Crowned Crane flying to or from the park towards Ngong Hills. Not long ago rivers flowing from Ngong hills had clear water fit for human consumption and supported thriving aquatic biodiversity.
These environmental goods and services that nature freely provided are under threat due to escalating environmental pollution characterized by discharge of untreated sewage into water ways, poor management of solid waste resulting to littered streets, and dusty streets due to absence of dust arrestors.
Continued discharge of raw sewage and dumping of solid waste (both organic and in organic) into rivers Kandisi and Mbagathi has made the water unsafe for consumption. This has negatively impacted on public health, with Ongata Rongai registering cases of cholera outbreak on two occasions in 2018, where three people lost life. The rivers are now dead, with negligible fish. Children no longer swim in the rivers. Poor disposal of single use plastics is another serious menace. Following heavy rains the plastics are swept into rivers, and end up being deposited in Nairobi National park, polluting wetlands and threatening tourism. The net effect is loading of the Indian Ocean with pollutants. This is consistent with Ezekiel 34:18 “Is it not enough for you to feed on the good pasture, that you must tread down with your feet the rest of your pasture; and to drink of clear water, that you must muddy the rest of the water with your feet? “
In Isaiah 58: 6 God rebukes His people for their eagerness to engage in spiritual acts like prayer and fasting and yet at the same time neglecting injustice in their own society. Environmental pollution is a social injustice that should not be tolerated.
Engagement in tackling environmental injustices by Eden’s Stewards is motivated by awareness of the constitutional right to clean and safe water in adequate quantities and the right to a clean and secure environment as enshrined in the bill of rights. The effort is also informed by the resolutions of the recently concluded Sustainable Blue Economy Conference that prioritized curbing of upstream pollution. Eden’s Stewards initiatives are also aligned towards the realization of Sustainable Development Goals, specifically no 3,6,11,12 and 13. Pollution control and promoting recycling of plastics advance elements of the Governments Big Four Agenda.
Eden’s stewards is a registered environmental ministry of NCOR (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 practices”. It closely works with UN Environment, Inter religious Council of Kenya, the Ministry of Environment and Forestry, Team Environment Kenya, Ongata Rongai business community, Kajiado County, KWS and Africa Nazarene University.
The UN Environment, under the Faith for Earth Initiative, has played a lead role in establishing and nurturing Eden’s Stewards.
Eden’s Stewards has the following 4 thematic areas;
- Waste management for wealth creation and pollution control.
- Conservation education.
- Climate change and wetlands conservation, and
- Poverty alleviation and youth empowerment.
- Undertake monthly cleanups by rallying the local community where over 15 tons of single use plastics have been collected.
- Mobilize the local community to install litter bins on the streets for improved waste collection.
- Support tree planting in churches and organizing training on tree nursery management to church members.
- Organize annual green week (1st week of June) where church sermons are dedicated to environmental conservation and outdoor events held to conserve nature.
- Support tree growing training sessions targeting religious leaders jointly with UN Environment and the Inter Religious Council of Kenya.
- Inspire and support establishment of environment ministries in churches
- Coordinate collection of plastics for recycling.
- Undertake water quality monitoring through research.
- Outreach to the local community on conservation education.
- Influence environment friendly behavior through evidence based advocacy.
- Support talent development among the youth.
- Clean streets.
- More green zones due to tree growing.
- Enlightened and environment sensitive community.
- Replication of Eden’s initiatives by others.
- Inspired the formation, and mentoring a children environment ministry called Better Environment for Children (BENCH), that undertakes monthly cleanup in Kandisi area.
- Improved service delivery (waste collection)
- Increased passion for nature conservation.
- New skills acquired among members.
- Improved team building and social networks.
- Increased access to opportunities to participate in learning and decision making processes.
- Urban planning, few spaces for green zones.
- Resistance to change, some member’s belief church is for prayer, and prayer alone.
- Restrictions on leased land. Most churches are on leased land.
- Illegal acquisition of riparian reserves.
- Inadequate financing to implement activities.
- SILO mentality.
- Inadequate guide books/resource materials on environment for ministers/pastors.
- Rigid church program, mainstreaming environmental considerations takes time
- Poor use of bins.
- Establish/strengthen networks for lesson learning among FBOs
- There is need for sound urban plans that advance nature conservation.
- Mainstream environmental perspectives in theology courses
- Establish a funding mechanism to be accessed by FBOs towards realization of SDGs.
- Faith based organizations to consider dedicating funds in support of activities related to SDGs
- Promote Faith-based values for improved governance of natural resources.
- Include a provision in the Forest Conservation and Management Act 2016 requiring urban forests to be managed based on management plans.
In conclusion Jeremiah 12:4 summarizes the call to action for environmental conservation. It reads “How long will our land be dry, and the grass in every field be withered? Animals and birds are dying because of the wickedness of our people, people who say ‘God doesn’t see what we are doing’.
 An Environmental Ministry of Nairobi Chapel Ongata Rongai
 A ten-week course that connects one to God, church, community and destiny.
 Balearica regulorum gibbericeps is an endangered wetland dependent bird.
 Its main purpose is to promote active engagement of Faith Based Organizations towards the realization of Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs),