Protecting Oceans by Advancing the Blue Economy
Climate change continues to impact communities around the world, heightening issues such as food insecurity, water scarcity, and rising sea levels. To tackle the threat of climate change in their own countries, Mandela Washington Fellowship Alumni across Sub-Saharan Africa are working to mitigate its consequences and educate others on its effects. 2021 Fellowship Alumna Sarah Nyawira is protecting oceans through her work as an environmental policy consultant.
I want more and more people to see how science is just practical in everyday life. The sustainable future needs new thinking… without the right skills and resources, we won’t be able to transition to green economies.”Sarah Nyawira, 2021 Fellowship Alumna, Kenya
From Passion to Policy
Growing up, Sarah always had a fascination for the environment and world around her. “I spent many afternoons during my childhood trying unsuccessfully to catch the numerous doves, common quails, and common kingfishers in our area,” she said.
During college, Sarah discovered she could turn her passion into a career. She deepened her interests in environmental studies at the University of Nairobi, where she interned at the National Museum of Kenya’s Entomology lab.
“I met scientists who talked to me about their work and mentored me,” Sarah said. “Their guidance ultimately shaped her decision to pursue a career in environmental policy.
Educating Future Generations
Early in her career, Sarah noticed that, despite the work being done to protect environmental resources, most people had no idea of its significance in their day-to-day lives. This understanding shaped her passion to educate others on science and its practicality.
In 2015, Sarah joined the Nairobi Convention Secretariat where she began working directly in policy around coastal and marine resources. A memorable moment for Sarah was helping write the paper “Advancing the Sustainable Blue (Ocean-based) Economy in Africa” which shaped discussions during the annual African Ministerial Conference on the Environment. The text acknowledged the important role of Africa’s younger generations in advancing the blue economy.
“Young people are the ones to face the brunt severity of environmental challenges such as climate change, species loss, air, and water pollution and will bear the burden of taking the ambitious steps that a healthy planet requires,” Sarah says.
Promoting the Blue Economy
Today, Sarah communicates the findings of her and her team’s research in hopes of bridging the information gap with everyday citizens. “I want more and more people to see how science is just practical in everyday life,” Sarah said. “The sustainable future needs new thinking…Without the right skills and resources, we won’t be able to transition to green economies.”
During the Mandela Washington Fellowship, Sarah developed the concept for a novel spatial database of coastal dumpsites in Kenya. She hopes to use this database to aid future decision-makers in understanding the financial investments associated with reducing marine litter pollution.
Written by Daniel Ledin.
Abiola Peter Adetunji
2019 Fellowship Alumnus, Nigeria