Love is in the air, being Valentine’s Day. And as some are delivered bouquets of rose flower, 24-year old Faith Arroisa is challenging lovebirds to instead grow flower gardens by gifting each other seedlings.
The graduate of Environmental Resource Management is on a mission to change Kenyans’ mindsets around celebrations – birthdays and weddings among others. Through the ‘Trees for Birthdays Initiative’ she founded late last year, she’s already began that journey, alongside her friends.
For instance, over and above marking birthdays with cake-cutting and parties, friends could add tree-planting and estate clean-ups to their to-do lists, as Arroisa has already done along Kirichwa River in Nairobi.
And how about newlyweds symbolically planting trees to demonstrate the beginning of a new life together?
“We use birthdays to celebrate with youths and children from informal settlements who are not able to afford celebrity birthdays. As we celebrate the birthdays, we use that opportunity to do environmental conservation, including environmental awareness, cleanup activities, tree planting, cake cutting and games,” Arroisa said in an interview.
“We believe such initiatives alongside others will collectively help Kenya achieve the 10 percent forest cover and Sustainable Development Goal 13 – Climate Action,” she added.
Besides Kirichwa River, the group in conjunction with the Nairobi City County has marked birthdays by planting trees at Muslim Primary School and Gatina Primary school.
Recently, she says, one of her friends held a ‘green wedding’ in which the couple planted trees on their wedding day, marking the highlight of their environmental drive.
The young environmentalist believes her campaign would go a long way in instilling a sense of responsibility especially among Kenyan youths and lower their individual carbon footprints.
Having been inspired by her father, an environmental evangelist, Arroisa has never missed a chance to influence her circle of friends into planting trees on their birthdays, over and above having fun.
Being only five months old in the conservation journey, her green campaign has celebrated four birthdays, each every month.
“These celebrations, coupled with environmental education, regular cleanups and tree planting are of significant value to our ecosystem which has recently risked being thrown out of whack,” she said.
Knowing she can’t do much by herself, she’s quick to acknowledge the supportive role of her friends.
“Teamwork is the roadmap to our success. Human and material resources are really hard to find when implementing projects, but with a great team, things run more smoothly. Our partners have been very instrumental as well,” she pointed out.
However, it has not been all smooth for the team.
Challenges encountered, she says, range from lack of funds to inadequate seedlings to ignorance among local communities on environmental conservation efforts.
“There should be a paradigm shift in mindsets among the wider public towards environment conservation. It should start at the individual level upwards. It’s for this reason that we are engaging young children in their early stages of development to build a conservation mindset in them,” said Arroisa.
“The government should also make environmental education compulsory as they have done in the primary level as Competency Based Curriculum (CBC) all the way up to High schools and tertiary institutions. Units like Climate Change should be a compulsory.”
“The environment never fails to reward us when well protected and conserved. Never be comfortable in an unsustainable environment. Act and impact in your own small way.” Arroisa concludes.