Fostering children’s connection with nature through environmental education

By David Odhiambo

Every year, the Kakamega Environmental Education Programme (KEEP) – the Site Support Group (SSG) for Kakamega Forest Key Biodiversity Area (KBA) – engages schoolchildren in various greening activities. These include the establishment of tree nurseries in schools, kitchen gardening, tree planting and environmental awareness. Through these activities, children get to appreciate the value of nature by actively participating in its conservation.

Since January, KEEP has run a school environmental programme that has seen them visit 19 schools (12 primary and 7 secondary). Through this programme, the SSG has reached out to over 13,000 pupils and students. As a result, they have also supported the planting of 2,600 trees in the schools.

“When we visit schools, we show children environmental conservation videos for them to learn. We also plant trees with them and teach them the importance of forests and trees. These activities bring children closer to nature and make them environmental stewards,” says Dominic Shilabila, a member of KEEP.

Dominic adds that through their engagements, children have become more conscious and appreciative of their surroundings. “We have noted a change in the children’s mindset. They are now more aware of birds, insects, snakes and trees found here and how to live with them,” he says.

Kakamega Forest, located in Kakamega County, is the only remnant in Kenya of the great tropical rainforest that once stretched across Central Africa. The forest is designated a Key Biodiversity Area and is home to various mammals and birds, including Black-and-White Colobus and De Brazza’s monkeys, Great Blue Turaco, Grey Parrot, Turner’s Eremomela and others. The forest also hosts several unique insect, reptile, amphibian and plant species.