An Environmentalist’s Activism Journey

In conversation with

#UrbanBetter Disruptor Lily Tanui is a  nature enthusiast from Kenya.

We asked her to tell us about her journey as an Environmentalist.

My passion for nature started when I was young. My father is a herbalist, Dr Shadrack Moimett of Koibatek Herbal Clinic, and as I grew up, I realised some of the trees I loved were herbal medicines. I encouraged my father to plant some of the herbs at home so that he wouldn’t have to travel long distances to harvest herbs. We also planted indigenous trees on an acre of our land. In hindsight, this need to protect indigenous herbal plants was my first introduction to environmental conservation.

In primary school, I learnt about the late Prof. Wangari Maathai, and I was motivated by her efforts of conserving and fighting for forests. Since then, she has been my role model, and I have made it my life’s mission to walk in her footsteps. In high school, I created an environmental club to educate students on the effects of climate change and how we could work together to help in its mitigation. As a result, we planted more than 2,000 trees and celebrated World Environment day. This was quite impressive as there had been no such club before at the school.

I also spearheaded environmental education within the school, which led to my election as the Environmental Captain in 2016. In the same year, I got an opportunity to attend the Yale Young Global Scholars exchange program on Sustainability Energy and Environment in Connecticut, USA. My experience of the program inspired a particular interest in renewable energy advocacy. When I came back to Kenya, I worked with Sistema Bioblosa, a biogas company that converts organic waste from farms into biogas. We particularly worked with farmers to install the biogas units, in an effort to reduce the use of wood as fuel and reduce greenhouse gas emissions that accelerate climate change. 

Throughout this journey, I’ve always sought to learn from others and expand my knowledge. I have attended several environmental conferences,  such as the Global Landscapes Forum as a youth landscapes leader and the United Nations Environment Assembly. These exposures have really enabled me to learn more about ways we can tackle climate change and have also helped to expand my network with like-minded people. The inspiration from these events motivated me to register my organisation, Tree Growers Association of Kenya. Our main objective is to mitigate against climate change through planting trees and using renewable energy. I create awareness in in-person and online gatherings as well as through social media on the importance of sustainability, mitigation of climate change and green energy. We have also set up a tree nursery with about 3000 tree seedlings to promote conservation.

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Throughout this journey, I have been inspired by several women and I would like to do the same for other girls. So I am an ambassador for Work Her Dream Organisation, an NGO that champions girl child education, and I mentor girls on the importance of education, sharing with them how it has created so many opportunities for me. Giving back to society is one of my priorities, and whenever I get the opportunity to do so, it’s always life-changing. 

In April 2019, I was nominated by DIAR AWARDS for the Environmental Champion Award and emerged as the 2nd Runners up. Later that year, I was awarded the Society for Ecological Restoration award for excellence in restoration (Africa Region). I treasure the awards, and they mean so much in my activism. However, my aspirations span far beyond what I have accomplished thus far. To make the impact of my environmental efforts ripple even further, I aspire to gain more skills to innovate ideas and technologies that will solve the current global crises such as poor waste management, water shortage, hunger and climate change. 

Read more about work by Lily and other #UrbanBetter Disruptors.

..And you can follow Lily’s journey on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram.

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