MAB Youth sensitization Webinar on UNESCO Man and Biosphere Reserves
A sensitization webinar bringing together youth from Kenya’s six (6) Man and Biosphere Reserves (MAB) was hosted by the Kenya National Commission (KNATCOM) for UNESCO in collaboration with the Kenya Man and Biosphere Committee on Thursday 8th September 2022. The webinar brought together over 70 MAB Youth Forum members from Kenya’s unique globally recognized biosphere reserves, namely Malindi-Watamu Araujo Sokoke; Amboseli; Mount Kenya-Lewa; Mount Kulal; Mount Elgon; and Kiunga Marine Biosphere Reserves. A total of 120 youths have been identified to be part of the MAB Youth Forum for Kenya.
During the opening session, the KNATCOM Secretary General, Dr. Evangeline Njoka, underscored the role played by biosphere reserves as critical fragile ecosystems that offer essential ecosystem services such as climate change mitigation, carbon sequestration, hydrological cycle and watershed functions, soil protection, habitat for species of global conservation concern, recreation and spiritual well-being, food among others. She underpinned the need to conserve them actively as this would contribute to sustainable development at local, national, regional and global levels.
Dr. Njoka emphasized that Africa and Gender Equality Global priorities are top on the UNESCO Agenda while youth are priority groups and therefore UNESCO Man and Biosphere Programme has since 2016 prioritized youth engagement in biosphere reserves. Dr. Njoka challenged the youth to be catalysts of positive change and use this MAB Youth Forum as a platform as they engage in conservation and management discourse and decision making at local, national and global levels. She noted that youth can be champions of peace and sustainable development and pledged the Commitment of the Commission to walk with them as they embark on this journey. She called upon the youth to support in activities lined up to celebrate the MAB programme as it celebrates the Golden Jubilee after fifty years in existence and also participate in activities to mark the International Day of Biosphere Reserves on 3rd November 2022.
The Chair of the National MAB Committee, Mr. Boniface Wanyama (NACOSTI) thanked the youth for attending the session and applauded Kenya National Commission for UNESCO for coordinating and hosting the workshop. During his presentation “MAB Programme from Global to local” emphasised on the need for enhanced active participation, youth voices, and engagement is core to the management of MABs and natural resources in general as this is critical to sustainable development. He presented the evolution of the UNESCO MAB Youth Forum and the achievements made to date. He also presented the status of the MAB programme in Kenya, reiterating the Kenya MAB National Committee’s commitment to engage with youth to drive social innovation and change.
During the session, Ms. Rebecca Yego, who is the MAB Youth Spokesperson for Africa highlighted her involvement in MAB activities both locally, regionally and globally appreciating the opportunity that this has given her to be part of conservation debate at various levels. She acknowledged the support accorded to her by the Kenya National Commission for UNESCO by nominating her and giving her an opportunity to raise the voice of the youth in global forums and debates.
As part of sharing experiences across biosphere reserves, Mr. Tonderai Makoni, Director of Vhembe Biosphere Reserve and guest speaker, emphasised on the role of the youth in management and conservation of biosphere reserves. He challenged the youth to be active in policy debates, biosphere reserves awareness; participate in training programmes that help enhance skills. Sharing some of the success stories of youth engagement in South Africa, Mr Makoni committed to continue sharing lessons learnt for the betterment of the Kenya MAB Youth Forum.
Dr. Eshiamwata the Deputy Director, Natural Sciences at the Commission also emphasized the need for Kenya MAB Youth leverage on the opportunities including the UNESCO prizes and awards such as UNESCO MAB Young Scientist Awards; global policy forums such as climate summits and Conferences of Parties and commemoration of International Days to amplify youth voices and engagement. He encouraged them to document ongoing activities in their respective biosphere reserves and promote information sharing.
The excited youth thanked KNATCOM hosting this inaugural sensitization forum promising to actively engage and leverage on this opportunity to network. In conclusion the MAB Chair urged the youth to come up with a governance structure and prepare a plan with activities to be undertaken while using this as a resource mobilization tool