I first came across the term sustainability in first year of my undergraduate studies inMoi University, Eldoret, a concept and a way of life that seeks to meet the needs and aspirations of the current and future generations. At the time, the tourism’s role as a panacea for development was being challenged leading to the realization that tourism is indeed a double edged sword that must be wielded carefully to safeguard the environment, the economy and the communities.
I participated in a research undertaken by Professor John Akama in the impacts of tourism at the Kenya Coast which confirmed the above. My grasp of the concept and how sustainability can create sustainable value for individuals, organizations and societies was greatly shaped by Dr. Elena Cavagnaro of Stenden University.
I began to read more to understand how the industry was responding to these issues and I came across notable initiatives in Kenya such as the Severin Sea Lodge at the Kenya North Coast who were among the first hotels in Kenya to recycle waste water at their premises.
The lodge employed an environmental officer who was part of the management team & was assigned the role of implementing environmental programmes at the lodge which included educating staff and guests; & separation of wastes to enable proper disposal. The hotel has won several local and international awards for their efforts.
Other similar organizations I came across were Porini Camps who have partnered with communities in Maasai Mara, Amboseli and Laikipia to set up conservancies, a unique conservation model in the continent.
My curiosity led me to other great initiatives undertaken by individuals and organizations to make a difference in communities and to safeguard Mother Earth.
The late Prof. Wangari Maathai, the first African Woman Nobel peace laureate with her Humming Bird legacy; Richard Turere, the maasai boy who came with the famed lion lights to save his father’s cattle from roaring lions in Kitengela area in Kajiado County, Kenya at 13 years of age and Dr. Paula Kahumbu who has mobilized various stakeholders locally and internationally to fight poaching and save the African elephants through the #HandsoffourElephants Campaign among many others.
I was inspired and realized the power of 1, i.e. the impact of an individual to drive change and fight for the rights of others, be it communities, wildlife, environment etc. What about organizations and governments? What if a billion individuals took a stand? Will we be able to reverse the damage caused to Mother Earth and return the world back on a sustainable path?
Following on the humming bird story of the late Prof. Maathai, my journey towards sustainability officially began, to make a contribution to the sustainability agenda by sharing knowledge, educating and equipping individuals and SMEs on how they can play their part in pushing the sustainability agenda forward.
7 billion people. One earth. Consume with care. – World Environment day, 2015
Impacts of climate change are becoming a reality in our generation with frequent floods and droughts, population pressures on the finite resources, habitats are disappearing while green spaces in the cities and towns are being replaced by concrete jungle where profits are prioritized above quality of life for residents and environment capacity.
The 2nd scramble for Africa underscores the fact that Africa is still rich in natural resources where others are almost exhausting their own resources and are looking into Africa to sustain their economies and feed their citizens. Africa is awakened, the previously considered a dark & impoverished continent is now rising with hope and vast opportunities.
African people are a key asset due to the culture, human capacity and being the youngest continent in the world at an average age of 19 years. Taking lessons from other continents, Africa can take the sustainable path, to enrich the lives of Africans and to prosper while safeguarding its natural & cultural heritage.
Finally, it is important to decide on WHAT to sustain and for WHO.
Join us in the next edition of Sustainability360 where we will explore the underlying principles of Sustainability and their application in the tourism industry.