The Kenya Green University Network (KGUN) project was launched in Nairobi last month (5 February).
Achim Steiner, executive director, United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP), which helped launch the project, tells SciDev.Net that KGUN will provide a platform for Kenyan higher education institutions to network and play a part in global environmental processes, including devising low-carbon strategies and mainstreaming environmental sustainability across their curriculums.
“Many universities have already recognised sustainability demands and have responded in ways that are worth sharing. They are investing in greener campuses, greener curriculums and engaging staff, students and communities.”
Achim Steiner, United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP)
“Many universities have already recognised sustainability demands and have responded in ways that are worth sharing. They are investing in greener campuses, greener curriculums and engaging staff, students and communities,” Steiner says.
Kenya’s Commission for University Education (CUE) and the National Environmental Management Agency (NEMA) are the other partners of the project.
David Some, the secretary of CUE, says there is a great potential to promote sustainability both through education and practice, urging universities to come up with innovative ways to harness their students’ energy and local community resources.
“Once the network is implemented it will be a lifetime project running on daily basis,” he says, adding Kenyan all universities are expected to join the network.
“While selected universities have put in place innovative sustainability projects, these have remained small and isolated islands that are not speaking to each other. Universities should think big and conceive projects that will transform the country,” Some adds.
According Some, Kenya-based Strathmore University, “has installed solar panels with the capacity to produce 0.6 megawatts annually that is climate-friendly and proven economically viable, with the university selling 0.25 megawatts to Kenya Power at 12 US cents per kilowatt-hour”.
“The Kenyan higher education institutions … will serve as a hub for innovation and knowledge of best practices in Kenya,” notes Some, adding that the hub will also have the capacity to assist universities meet and report on their sustainability targets.
NEMA director-general Geoffrey Wahungu says the agency works with universities through various initiatives to harness synergy and mobilise resources for capacity building to enhance environmental sustainability.
“KGUN will promote enhanced student engagement and assist universities with performance contracting requirements reports,” says Wahungu, noting that student engagement will enhance collaboration among universities locally and internationally on sustainability challenges and solutions and community outreach.
“NEMA has allocated US$30,000 to initiate and launch this network and a further US$ 30,000 to support the rollout of the project,” explains Wahungu. During the launch of the project, participants became aware that the partners are yet to make their contributions to support the network, and are seeking funding.
Nickson Otieno, a lecturer at the Technical University of Kenya, says that the benefits of embracing environmental sustainability include a positive attitudinal change towards the environment, increased compliance to environment laws and standards, and cost reductions through efficient use of resources.
Otieno, who has expertise in environmental sciences, and is president of Kenya-based World Student Community for Sustainable Development — a multidisciplinary organisation of students and young professionals — calls upon all Kenyan universities to review their policies, programmes and engage communities to help sustain the environment.
This piece was produced by SciDev.Net’s Sub-Saharan Africa English desk.