Last week was a momentous week for Kenyans, hosting Pope Francis’ first visit to Africa. My colleague, Joseph Wagurah and I were part of the huge crowd of people, from Kenya and across Africa, who queued in the rain to celebrate mass with him in Nairobi.
I was also privileged to be part of the audience at the UN in Nairobi, where Pope Francis’ words on climate change resonated strongly with me. He was clear that any solution to climate change needs to incorporate a social perspective that takes into account the fundamental rights of the poor and the underprivileged and that this cannot take place without a substantial commitment to education and training. We have been developing training programmes and materials for smallholder farmers to build resilience to climate change and I have seen first-hand the difference this has made to vulnerable families, so was delighted to hear the pope’s messages broadcast across the world. Key to our approach was educating respected community leaders, such as church pastors, school teachers, and government officials, enabling them to spread information on adaptation solutions such as diversification, rainwater harvesting, and irrigation to people within their communities.
The Pope also called on world leaders to sign a strong climate change agreement during the COP 21 negotiations suggesting that we should develop a new energy system that minimises fossil fuel use, drives energy efficiency, and makes use of energy sources with little or no carbon content. I’m hoping that the pioneering work on energy efficiency we are delivering in partnership with the Kenyan Tea Development Agency, which has already resulted in amazing fuelwood and cost savings, can set an example to other Kenyan industries as well as the tea sector in other countries to help push this agenda forward.
Over recent years ETP has been working to improve opportunities for women and reduce harassment and discrimination in the work place and I was delighted when the Pope condemned violence against women during his visit. Through our gender work we have improved the relationship of men and women not just at the workplace but in the surrounding communities as well, which makes me very proud. As Christianity is very important in Kenya (30% of the population are Catholic) I am grateful I got to hear the pope’s words, as they will be hugely helpful in changing attitudes on these important issues. Ultimately this will make our work easier and more impactful.