Eva Makandi

Roles at NAAEE:

30 Under 30

Founder & Programs Coordinator
Light On A Hill (LOAH) Organization

Kenya

Kandi (she/her) is a passionate community organizer facilitating sustainable development and ecological restoration through mentorship and environmental education.

How are you using education to build more sustainable and equitable communities?

Only One Earth: World Environmental Day 2022 Kiirua community clean up activity. Photo Credit: Sheila Makandi Through my organization, Light On A Hill (LOAH) Kenya, I have worked closely with one local school in my community, with mainly children aged 5–13 years, for the past two years advocating for environmental conservation and restoration. I use a basic approach focused on storytelling, art, experience sharing, and practical learning. Through storytelling, I share stories from my childhood, about the environment I grew up knowing and how different it has become today. I also invite older community members to join us, most notably one man we partner with who is 93 years old. He shares how he has seen the environment, seasons, and biodiversity change over the decades. He also shares from his perspective the importance of conserving nature and the negative effects that come along if we don’t. I also encourage the kids to participate in essay writing competitions, from which some have won awards, and involve the kids in communal activities such as community clean ups, educating their community about the effects of plastic pollution. We also organize tree planting and growing initiatives in our local communities. Over the months, through this holistic involvement of kids, we have seen changes in behavior where now they are more cautious and loving towards the planet. I have partnered so far with approximately 200 kids, conducted six community clean ups, participated in two essay writing competitions where three of our kids won, conducted more than 50 learning sessions, established two tree nurseries that have housed 1,700 tree seedlings, and planted 434 tree seedlings.

Tell us about your journey to where you are today.

Collective ownership and nurturing of our organic vegetable garden. Photo Credit: Ryan Muthuri I was raised by my grandmother, who was an educator. She was very keen on education, to the extent that she founded a community school with the aim of transforming her community through education. My childhood was simply beautiful, with an evergreen environment that hosted diverse crops, trees, fruit trees, birds, wild animals, rivers, and insects. Coming from an agricultural community, food was so plentiful then. However, over the years, seasons began to change. Sometimes rains would fail to arrive and other times they would exceed the normal levels. Over time, agriculture began to fail, poverty increased, and the tree cover declined at an alarming rate. In September 2020, I was certain I wanted to be the change I sought to for my community. This was my greatest motivation to founding LOAH, aimed at being a light to a very dark season most of us were in, especially during to the COVID-19 pandemic. My first interactions with the community related to conservation matters revealed a huge knowledge gap, and with this I revised my activities to primarily focus on environmental education to harness understanding. The journey has been beautiful, especially seeing the behavioral changes over the months and a yearning for more. However, along with that have been many challenges, including being undermined as a young woman trying to take up leadership roles in a patriarchal society, being limited by funding, receiving minimal support from the community, and failed rains leading to the death of our tree seedlings. Despite it all, I am happy and look forward to the future, as my resilience has grown and my efforts have not been futile as I have been nominated for awards such as EE 30 Under 30 and GLF Restoration Stewards program as a 2022 Forest Restoration Steward.

A LITTLE MORE ABOUT ME

What advice would you give to the next generation of leaders?

Start now; start today. Tomorrow is not assured. You are the greatest resource and asset you’ve got. Do not discount small beginnings.

What are you happiest doing?

I am happiest serving others and helping transform a situation that might otherwise seem hopeless. I aim to inspire hope for a brighter future.

What is your superpower?

Kindness. I have seen situations where a simple and very random act of love and kindness changed a family’s view of life. Hope was sparked and still lives on.