Wangari Maathai Institute opens amid rife in the environmental sector

She spoke during the official opening of the Wangari Maathai Institute for Peace and Environmental Studies at the University of Nairobi's Upper Kabete Campus. The Institute, whose construction commenced in 2016, was established by the Government to advance the legacy of the 2004 Kenyan Nobel Laureate Prof Wangari Maathai. The institute was handed over to the University of Nairobi in May 2019.

Tuya emphasized the ongoing challenges in environmental governance, echoing the issues that Prof. Maathai tirelessly addressed during her lifetime.

"The obstacles of governance in the environment sector are still rife, as it was during her time. We have seen illegal logging spiral in the forestry sector, forest fires, pollution, and failure in the waste management sector amongst others," CS Tuya outlined.

To combat these issues, she announced that her Ministry had taken proactive measures, including the recruitment of 2,700 rangers and the deployment of modern forest fire management technologies.

During her address, CS Tuya expressed gratitude to the various partners who supported the construction of the institute, including the African Union, the African Development Bank, the Clinton Global Initiative and Danida.

"I am informed that the institute aims to carry forward Prof Maathai's legacy by promoting research, education, and community engagement in the field of environmental governance, cultures of peace, climate adaptation, sustainable development, and conservation," she added.

CS Tuya also highlighted the need for research into the nexus of environment, conflict, and peace, citing the increasing evidence that environmental and climate factors are becoming critical drivers of insecurity, particularly in Africa.

She provided insights into ongoing climate action programs in her Ministry, including a 15 billion national tree planting and ecosystem restoration initiative, sustainable waste management efforts, and the forthcoming inaugural Africa Climate Summit in Nairobi.

"The late Professor Wangari Maathai led Kenyans and the world to plant trees and to build strong nature-based livelihoods, especially for women and youth at the community and grassroots level," CS Tuya said. "In this coming short rain period between September and December 2023, we are planning to lead the country in planting and growing 500 million seedlings, and we would like to welcome each and every Kenyan to join us in this program."

Environment Cabinet Secretary Soipan Tuya, during the opening of Wangari Mathaai institute at UON. [Mactilda Mbenywe, Standard]

The Africa Climate Summit, scheduled for next week, was also a point of discussion. CS Tuya emphasized that this event would provide a platform for Africa to showcase its climate change adaptation, resilience, and mitigation potential.

Other speakers at the launch included Dr. Vijoo Rattansi, acting Vice Chancellor Prof. Julius Ogengo, and Chair of Council Prof. Amukowa Anangwe. Dr. Rattansi acknowledged Prof. Maathai's pioneering efforts in climate action long before it became a global priority.

"The late Prof Wangari Maathai holds a special place in our hearts; first and foremost, as our member and secondly, and perhaps more importantly, for the obstacles that she overcame, whether personally or politically, to secure her place in our nation's history as an agent of change," Dr. Rattansi said.

Prof Ogengo expressed gratitude to the government and partners for their support in establishing the institute. He noted that the Wangari Maathai Institute would not only institutionalize the legacy of the departed Nobel Laureate but also serve as a center of excellence in advanced environmental education.

"The University of Nairobi is grateful for the Government's commitment to institutionalize the legacy of Prof Wangari Mathaai and foster the positive ethics, values, and practices that defined her life," Prof Ogengo said.

The opening of the Wangari Maathai Institute signifies a significant step towards addressing Kenya's environmental challenges and honoring the enduring legacy of a remarkable environmentalist and Nobel laureate.