Young nature lover making big impact in conservation
At only nine years, Karen Wanjiru Kimani is a familiar name in the conservation and environment sector. Surprisingly, even her mother, Anne Njeri, never thought her daughter would become famous at that tender age.
However, what started as a simple modelling class assignment has become her favourite engagement. Njeri shares how her daughter’s love for a clean environment birthed the environmentalist she is today.
“When Karen was five years old, her father, Henry Kimani Ng’anga and I enrolled her in a modeling class. By then, we thought she wanted to be on the runway. Things took a different turn when her modelling teacher gave her an assignment,” she says
The children were asked to work on diverse projects, ranging from culture, music, poetry, environment and many more. Karen chose to work on an environment project. Her argument was that everything revolves around the environment. So she focused mainly on reducing, reusing and recycling plastics.
After choosing her niche area, the modelling school also came up with a competition to find out which child was more creative with their chosen project.
For the competition, she designed a dress made of recycled plastics and drinking straws and that caught the judges’ eyes. This made her eco-project to be declared the winning assignment.
That win gave Karen an opportunity to represent Kenya globally in Ternarife, Spain, in 2018 where 40 countries were participating. In Spain, she recited a moving monologue on how plastic pollution was killing people and marine lives. This won her the Silver International Trophy.
“On return to Kenya, Karen had learned a lot in terms of waste management and environmental conservation. Her passion for conserving the environment had also grown. She even established her 3Rs club that collects plastics together for recycling in her school and her neighbourhood,” Njeri reveals.
Small efforts, great achievements
Apart from establishing the club, she also established collection cages in school where all plastics are put together before being collected for recycling. In 2020 when Covid-19 hit the country, she decided to use her time to focus more on conservation projects since schools were closed.
She engaged in tree planting with various charities and non-governmental organisations including Team Environment Kenya. Together with others, she managed to plant over 30,000 trees across counties in Kenya including Kisumu, Muranga, Nandi, and Taita Taveta among others.
“Because of her sense of commitment and her international exposure, she was honoured by Team Environment Kenya as their international brand ambassador in 2020. A position she is highly proud of,” he mother reveals.
She is the founder, Karyne Forte Limited, which Karyne Forte Environmental Conservation operates from. The aim and mission of this organisation is to help increase forest cover. To achieve this, the organisation has a tree seedling growing project. Her tree nursery has over 30,000 seedlings with over 15 different species of trees. She has a full-time worker and two casual labourers.
“The idea of coming up with this organisation was born as a result of her experience during the time she was planting trees across the country. Sometimes they would run short of tree seedlings and she vowed to ensure that no organisation or individual runs out of tree seedlings while on tree planting missions,” Njeri explains.
And have all these engagements affected her education? Her mother says that despite all those engagements, her academic performance has continued to improve. The reason is, that her conservation work rhymes well with her academics. The Competency Based Curriculum (CBC) has also made her work easier because much of what is being taught is what she has been doing in one way or another.
Karen has also been elected as the youngest Cabinet Secretary, environment in her school. This again is a recognition of her efforts. Her school is supportive of her work, which gives her the confidence that she is doing the right thing.
She is also the youngest finalist of the Bristol, United Kingdom-based MTM environmental category award. This is an international award given to an outstanding person in the community worldwide for their commitment and efforts in environmental conservation. Just like in Spain in 2018, Karen is hopeful that she will emerge the winner in this forthcoming auspicious occasion in November 2022.
“Karen is also an upcoming climate activist. She uses her platforms to sensitise the public on the dangers of neglecting our environment. In the future, she would like to become a doctor. She believes that a safer and cleaner environment is good for our well-being. Fresh air with less pollution will make her work as a doctor in the future easier as fewer people will be falling ill,” Njeri says.
She plans to have more and more children emulate her work. She believes that children will live on this planet the longest — hence the need for children to be on the frontline in environmental conservation. She believes and says we do not inherit the earth from our ancestors, but we borrow it from our children.