FLEAT member feature: Celestine Otieno

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Ms Celestine Otieno was one of the participants in our Faith Leader’ Environmental Advocacy Training (FLEAT) in Kenya in 2018. Celestine was referred to the training by the Catholic Youth Network for Environmental Sustainability in Africa (CYNESA) where she worked as an intern.

Her story:

“The Green Youth Mentorship (GYM) Program, under the Umbrella of Kenya Interfaith Network for Environmental Action (KINEA) and Coordinated by Miss Celestine Otieno, is one of the proactive faith-based environmental conservation group in Homabay County, Kenya. It was established after a constructive Faith Leaders Environmental Advocacy Training (FLEAT) and follow up guidelines by the Southern Africa Faith Community Environmental Institute (SAFCEI). Implementation began at Nyalieng’a Parish, Homabay County in March 2019 after establishing an action framework of faith-based advocacy and action plan for degraded land restoration. The catchment areas were the church institutions and schools. Target beneficiaries from the first phase of the program were mainly women and youth. The project targeted 20% of the population in the county” writes Celestine.

On 18th May 2019, KINEA Director, Fr. Charles Odira conducted a two-day workshop on the Encyclical of Pope Francis, Laudato Si.  He empirically focused on Formation and Change of attitude towards the environment and use of natural resources. He said, “If every person develops a habit of planting at least two forest trees and two fruit trees and keep wild shrubs around his or her home, place of work, church or institution the whole county will turn greener and we shall make a beautiful home for every creature.”  He helped the youth understand that farming is not an outdated and hard job as it is perceived in the rural areas, running to the cities does not make life easier instead it exposes us the terrible social, economic injustices coupled will bad health from the highly polluted city environments. Many members of the GYM Program agreed to these facts and committed to working on dedicated enterprising on environmental conservation opportunities.

The workshop was consequently followed by the launch of the GYM Program during World Environmental Day at Nyalieng’a Parish courtesy of KINAE and Kenya Forest Service (KFS). The Ecosystem Conservator of Homabay County, Mathews Ogutu was the chief guest. He educated the GYM members on the Importance of forest cover, protected ecological areas as well as diverse business opportunities in Agroforestry. A partnership was established and one week later a tree nursery was developed in the Parish.

“A couple of months after members pledged to take action, I visited working sites of two volunteering GYM team leaders Paul Oduor, David Odhiambo, and Abraham Owuor. We established an action plan going forward. Following an invitation, we trained women and youth from a community at Rongo, Kamagambo on garden designing, food forestry, making energy-efficient Jiko, poultry farm designs, herbal trees, and their benefits as well as Grafting. In such training platforms we managed to promote and market products of GYM members like tree seedlings, tree and vegetable seeds and services the GYM members could provide like garden designing, grafting and poultry farm designing which are sources of livelihood for some members” says Celestine.

“For people to support our cause for advocacy we need to instill a sense of responsibility to the youth within the local church institutions, establish an understanding of the concern, institute proper strategic plan with regard to measurable value systems, integrate religious and environmental challenges, and select the sustainable resolution to solve the problem in context. Religious institutions should establish a systematic framework for developing positive ethics among youth as well as establish sustainable value systems for economic growth” she adds.

Celestine has inspired us with her passion for earthkeeping. She is a young dynamic woman who has taken on the responsibly of uplifting her own community.