How Students Can Protect Rivers

Precious Wangechi
Students and Rivers in Kenya
Students and Rivers in Kenya
Photo Credit: Environmental Africa

A Swahili proverb states, "the first person to arrive at the river drinks the purest water."

Sadly, arriving at rivers first these days is no longer a guarantee of pure water. But all is not lost. We must redouble our efforts to reclaim and conserve our rivers so that the ancient Swahili proverb can ring true again.

A friend of mine complained recently of the lack of opportunity as a student to participate in river conservation efforts. I responded that students actually have more practical opportunities to conserve rivers than most people.

First and foremost, change begins at home. For some students, their schools are located near forests and rivers. One such school is Karatina University in Kenya. The nearby Ragati River provides solace to the university students, but rarely do they provide solace to the river.

It only takes one willing hand to mobilize people to protect the river. Student environmental organizations could clean and monitor portions of the river each week as part of their programs. It doesn’t take much effort. Just passion.

The purpose of studying is to gain, apply and pass on knowledge. A student can be knowledgeable of the ecological status and conservation measures of rivers. Sharing this knowledge with the local community will help in the preservation of our rivers. Advocating for preservation and protection of rivers is critically important.

Students can conceive of innovative projects and campaigns that promote healthy rivers not only in their own countries, but also around the world. For example, the ‘Rivers of Love’ Campaign by Environmental Africa encourages all high school and university students in Kenya to share their river stories with the rest of Africa and the world. The idea is to humanize Kenya’s rivers through personal and intimate accounts of rivers, thereby combining creativity and passion for river conservation. Stirring up passion for rivers will greatly aid in their protection.

Through the Rivers of Love campaign, Environmental Africa hopes to inject a double dose of fun and passion into documentation and conservation of Kenya’s rivers. Through the campaign, students will not just write creative and intimate stories about rivers, they will also take photos or make paintings of the rivers. By doing this, they will learn more about other rivers in the country and how to keep the flow of these rivers powerful and sustainable.

The rivers of Kenya are just one link in the global movement to protect our rivers. In addition to efforts like the Rivers of Love campaign, taking time to celebrate our rivers on special days such as the International Day of Action for Rivers every March 14 is a yearly reminder of the importance and value these rivers. My colleagues and I at Environmental Africa plan to involve students in the Day of Action for Rivers this year by sharing with them the importance and benefits of conserving our rivers. We'll invite guest speakers who run long-term river projects to offer some training and guidance at a gathering on the River Ragati near Karatina University. How will you celebrate your river this year on March 14?

More information: 
  • Precious Wangechi is a student in Karatina University where she is obtaining a degree in Environmental Science. She is working to protect Kenya's rivers through Environmental Africa, an initiative that employs creativity, particularly creative writing, to popularize, enhance and entrench sustainability in Africa. She is currently coordinating the Rivers of Love Campaign, aimed at university and high school students in Kenya. 
Tuesday, February 10, 2015