Art for mountain conservation in Kenya
Albertina is a ten-year old primary school girl from a village near Mt. Kilimanjaro the highest mountain in Africa. Like any other pupil she is aware of the importance of the mountain to her family, her village and to the rest of the country. According to her, Kilimanjaro is important because it is a source of water through the springs and rivers that many depend on for their farm and household needs. What Albertina does not know is that the glaciers at the top of the mountain have been shrinking; posing a great threat to this mighty mountain that is a source of livelihood for millions. Different studies have shown that this reduction of the remaining glacial ice is a blend of effects caused by climate change and human activity.
Adapting to the effects of climate change requires efforts and support from all stakeholders and this support will only be possible if the issues surrounding climate change are understood. How then can young people like Albertina be involved as stakeholders in adapting to climate change? How can a generation that understands climate change be created? The causes and effects of climate change and better still how to adapt to the already evident effects?
The Climate Change Impacts on Ecosystem Services and Food Security in Eastern Africa (CHIESA) project uses art to spark interest and create awareness on climate change among primary and secondary school children in the project research areas of Taita Hills, Kenya; Kilimanjaro, Tanzania and Jimma highlands, Ethiopia. Art provides the opportunity to think about the issue, learn new facts and make associations between human activity and climate change. These activities aim to support environmental education in schools and enhance young people’s understanding and awareness of the importance of mountain ecosystems and fresh water for life.
To celebrate World Water Day on 22 March 2015, the project featured an environmental art exhibition and auction at the Duduville campus in Nairobi of the International Center of Insect Physiology and Ecology (ICIPE), where CHIESA is hosted The week-long exhibition attracted many visitors from within the campus and guests from other international organizations.
The drawings on exhibit were from two prior art competitions organized and coordinated by CHIESA to celebrate the important role that mountains and highlands play in water supply in November 2013 and February 2014. Selected schools from the three research areas were provided with drawing materials and invited to submit drawings on the themes ‘My Mountain, My Home’ and ‘Water for Life’.
The drawings were auctioned after the exhibition, raising 12 300 Kenyan shilling (approximately USD 131). The proceeds will be used to buy indigenous tree saplings for the participating schools. If one tree seedling costs approximately 25 Kenyan shilling (less than USD 30 cents), then 492 indigenous trees will be planted in participating schools. Planting the indigenous trees with the students in the school grounds will come full circle as they used board paper (a wood pulp product) for making the drawings. This is also in line with the objectives of the CHIESA project to increase knowledge on climate change mitigation and to increase the climate change adaptation capacity of the local communities.
CHIESA envisions that with this type of activity, the decision makers of the future will grow up with knowledge and understanding of climate change.