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Two Nairobi students have been selected as Young Environmental Envoys for Kenya by the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) and Bayer, a global innovator enterprise with core competencies in the fields of health care, nutrition and high-tech materials.
Michael Sam Muli, 18, from Nairobi and Ruth Cherono Sego, 23, from Eldoret, will travel to Germany in October to join other envoys from 18 countries for a week-long environmental study tour featuring business leaders, environmental organisations and celebrities.
The two envoys were unveiled during a ceremony held at the United Nations compound, Gigiri.
Young people from across Kenya were asked to submit a proposal for a community-based environment project as part of the selection process for the competition.
Michael Muli, a student in Environmental and Bio-systems Engineering at the University of Nairobi, put forward a green energy project that aims to replace firewood and charcoal used as cooking fuel in households with briquettes made from dried foliage and waste paper. The project seeks to reduce carbon emissions from the burning of fossil fuels and to create jobs and income for local residents through the production and sale of the cleaner fuel briquettes.
Ruth Sego, an Environmental Health student at Kenyatta University, Nairobi, put forward a proposal focusing on the sustainable production of castor oil as a biofuel. The project explored how the castor oil plant, which is indigenous to East Africa, could be sustainably cultivated to help meet the fuel needs of communities in Kenya, but in a way that did not adversely affect food production. The proposed project also recommended using by-products of castor oil to manufacture soap, candle wax and ornamental beads through community-based micro-enterprise schemes.
"The projects put forward by Michael and Ruth address many of the crucial environmental issues at stake today both in Kenya and beyond", said Theodore Oben, Chief of Outreach at UNEP's Division of Communications and Public Information.
"Both projects contain important economic aspects, demonstrating how sustainable, community-based initiatives have a key role to play in the transition towards a low-carbon, resource efficient Green Economy. We congratulate Michael and Ruth on their achievement and hope their participation in the UNEP-Bayer Young Environmental Envoy programme will be an enriching and rewarding experience."
The envoys' visit to Bayer headquarters and other sites in Germany in October will have a strong focus on environment and industry. Through a series of interactive workshops, talks and site visits, the young people will experience first-hand examples of how sustainable development principles can be integrated into product development, manufacturing, waste disposal and other industrial procedures.
Launched in 1998, the UNEP-Bayer Young Environment Envoy Programme aims to improve knowledge of environmental issues among young people and support them in developing and implementing projects on sustainable development, conservation and other aspects of the environment in their own communities.
Originally conceived as a local project in Thailand, the programme has since grown to cover 17 other countries: Argentina, Brazil, Chile, China, Colombia, Ecuador, India, Indonesia, Kenya, Malaysia, Peru, the Philippines, Singapore, South Africa, South Korea, Venezuela and Vietnam.
After completing their year as Young Environmental Envoys, young people then become members of an alumni network that brings together past envoys from all participating countries. The network acts as a support group for envoys implementing their own environmental projects and as a forum where young people can share experiences on environmental issues.
The Young Environmental Envoys event in Germany will come just two weeks after the TUNZA International Children and Youth Conference on the Environment in Bandung, Indonesia. Organised by UNEP, the event will bring together over 1400 young people from 100 countries under the theme 'Reshaping our future through a Green Economy and sustainable lifestyles'.
The event is set to be the largest environmental gathering for young people in the run-up to the UN Conference on Sustainable Development (also known as Rio+20), which will take place in Brazil in June 2012. Participants at the TUNZA conference in Bandung will put together regional action plans on promoting sustainable lifestyles and issue a youth statement on Rio+20, with which they hope to influence decisions taken by world leaders on sustainable development in Brazil next year.