Joan Chepkoech Tonui

Roles at NAAEE:

30 Under 30

Executive Director
Green Towns Initiative

Bomet, Kenya
Age: 26

Joan’s community-based organization works with children and young people to promote healthier living through environmental conservation in Kenya.

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

Through Green Town Initiative’s Green Champions Programme, we carry out series of environmental activities to instill conservation knowledge among primary school children. Activities include teaching about the importance of trees for our health, how to set up a tree nursery, and how to plant and nurture a tree. As a result, kids learn to be responsible and are able to carry that knowledge to adulthood, hence changing behaviors towards environmental conservation.

Tell us about your journey to where you are today. 

Being brought up in a humble background, you would expect someone to graduate from college and look for a job to support her parents and siblings. This was not the case for me, as I had a vision to pursue. I wanted to change my community for the better, and I believed I could. In my childhood, I grew up knowing that a clean and healthy environment means healthy people. To achieve a healthy environment, we have to make sure that the air we breathe is fresh, water we drink is safe, and solid waste is disposed of in a safe manner. In 2016, I started leading solid waste management and tree planting sessions for school children, just before participating in the Miss Environment Kenya pageant with the goal of gaining a platform to expand my environmental programmes. Soon after winning the title for Bomet County Chapter that same year, I founded Green Towns Initiative. Until now, I have stayed true to my vision, promoting healthier living through environmental conservation.

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

My advice to next generation of leaders is that they should lead by example and stay positive and true to their missions. You will encounter many challenges as you rise – do not let them make you feel inadequate. Use them to move on to the next step and slowly by slowly, you will get there. 

What keeps you motivated, inspired, and/or hopeful for the future?

Watching videos of our Green Champions setting up tree nurseries, holding their trees, and explaining how trees are important to their lives motivates and inspires me to keep doing it.

If you could have one superpower, what would it be?

Bring back the state of the planet 200 years ago.