Hope for the Nairobi River - Waterkeeper

Hope for the Nairobi River

By: Ellen Simon

Waterkeepers from 16 countries and four continents gathered in Nairobi in November to learn from each other and presenters including the acting director of the law division for the United Nations’ Environment Programme.

Waterkeepers traveled from Australia, Belize, Bahamas, Democratic Republic of Congo, Israel, Iraq, Jordan, Kenya, Mexico, Mali, Nigeria, Senegal, Sweden, Togo, Uganda, and the United Kingdom. They were joined by Waterkeeper Alliance Executive Director Marc Yaggi, Organizing Director Pete Nichols, Training Director Katherine Luscher, Global Advocacy Manager Chris Wilke, and Advocacy Writer Ellen Simon. 

“I’m privileged to be here today, to meet all these international people,” said Sounkalo Dembele, executive director of Bamako Niger River Guardians in Mali. “How many people from Mali can do that?”

Giulia Giordano and Abdel Rahman Sultan of EcoPeace Middle East, an organization that brings together Israelis, Jordanians, and Palestinians to work on water issues, led a training on environmental peacebuilding to pursue water security, which included lively role-playing scenarios about cross-border cooperation. 

When it was over, Tijuana Waterkeeper Margarita Diaz of Mexico said, “The first thing I’m going to do when I get home is call San Diego Coastkeeper.” 

“Your visit inspired hope to the youth who are working tirelessly to see to it that River Nairobi is restored,” said Sam Dindi of Komb Green Solutions.

Hann Baykeeper Mbacke Seck of Senegal said, “Oil was recently discovered on the border of Senegal and Mauritania. This has made me think differently about how we should handle it.”  

The host Waterkeeper, Leo Akwany of Kenya Lake Victoria Waterkeeper, arranged for the group to join in a river cleanup with Komb Green Solutions, a two-year-old group comprised of former sex workers and gang members in Korogocho, a Nairobi shantytown, which AllAfrica and The East African described in their coverage of the cleanup as “a maze of narrow alleys through iron sheet shacks, vegetable plots and a playground built by Komb Green Solution that stretches to a well-tended green park, aptly named Korogocho People’s Park.”

In a space where criminals used to go to hide out before mugging people, the community now hosts birthday parties and meetings.

No government representative has ever come to visit their stretch of the river, according to Komb Green Solutions. We were the first outside group to both visit and help with restoration work.

“Your visit inspired hope to the youth who are working tirelessly to see to it that River Nairobi is restored,” said Sam Dindi of Komb Green Solutions.

Waterkeeper Alliance donated the gumboots and jumpsuits it had bought for the cleanup to Komb Green Solutions, a reminder that we must always do what we can to help the water defenders whose paths we cross.  

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