Kendi Juster

Kenya

While studying for her Bachelors degree in Conservation Biology, Juster was struck by the alarming extent to which her local river, the Kionde, was being depleted due to over-use by various parties in the region. Determined to prevent another ‘tragedy of the commons’, she set about mobilising community elders, the local administration and other key stakeholders to come together and work out a lasting solution to conserve the river. The initiative was successful, managing to reduce the level of water consumption by half, prevent excessive tree felling and ensuring better spring management. She then established the Kionde Catchment Conservation Group (KCCG) in 2015, which mobilised youths to plant 26,000 indigenous trees in the area, in order to further improve the health of the river, and liaised with local schools to spread their mission and establish environmental clubs.

Buoyed by her first conservation success, Juster was determined to expand the scope of her work. After graduating in 2016, she co-founded Rural Initiatives for Community Empowerment and Development (RICED), a community-based organization, which mobilises local youth and women to form community conservation groups with the aim of building the capacity of communities to conserve local biodiversity and other natural resources, ensure food security, and to support vulnerable groups such as women, youth, persons with special needs and persons living with HIV/AIDS.

Juster used the grant to undertake two consecutive internships with the Institute for Culture and Ecology (ICE) Kenya. In the first, she sought to enhance her leadership and management abilities, as well as her knowledge of environmental governance, by working with community conservation groups in Meru. She has already begun to put this new knowledge into practice by reviving the work of the KCCG and continuing its work with schools. The second internship saw her develop her knowledge of and skills in advocacy, as well as training on climate change adaptation and mitigation strategies. With this, she hopes to spearhead lobbying the local Meru government to support local river conservation initiatives, and therefore reinforce the efforts of the KCCG and RICED. In addition, upon conducting intensive research into the cooking and fuel practices of local households, she now strives to improve their fuel efficiency and energy conservation by helping community members to acquire more fuel-efficient stoves.

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