GLF Youth Ambassador Application #24: Wairore John Ndung’u (Kenya)

1 Dec 2017

Peek Inside a local Bonn Challenge – 30 years ago

The Bonn Challenge commitment includes an ambitious target; the world can learn so much from a small village in Kenya where a local edition of the Bonn challenge started 30-years ago.

I count myself lucky – the student of a local community that was willing to share everything they knew. But this spectacular journey is even longer and more fulfilling with current developments. The Bonn Challenge has captured the world’s attention, and I can’t help imagine how much the world could learn from this “selfless village” and from what we have had the opportunity to learn and document.

It all started in 2013, as a curious attempt to understand how a local community achieved large-scale landscape restoration through individual small-scale farms. Here, we learnt how individual motivations and desires engrained in shared and collective visions at the community level led to the rehabilitation of a degraded semi-arid rangeland in private enclosures.

For a pastoral community, these results were not only exciting but also held much potential for Kenyan rangelands, if only they could be scaled up. However, advocacy to scale-up enclosures for rangeland landscape restoration demanded more empirical research. At the end 2015, I had more questions than answers. Although Spicer argues that ‘scaling-up is a craft not a science,’ we were simply not ready to leave!

Perhaps, if we exhausted all logical question regarding this remarkable transformation, we would not only help the community sustainably intensify but also ratify (from a scientific perspective) what we still hold as an extraordinary achievement. I could also be bold, shout from the rooftops that a local community has cracked the code – of land restoration in pastoral rangelands! Or perhaps, I finally found my calling!

Dave Isay once said that people don’t just “find their calling,” they fight for it. But in my case, am not sure:

You see, I always thought nature and I had something special going. But mother nature by its very nature is ‘very generous but very unforgiving,’ said Wangari Maathai. I count myself lucky that nature was generous to grant me a calling, a passionate fight for nature I treasure.

Over the past year, we have been piecing together the last pieces of the puzzle on enclosures. On the one hand, reducing land degradation concurrently with increasing income demands understanding feedbacks between the social and ecological systems. On the other hand, the effects of climate change coupled with non-climatic stressors in pastoral rangelands presents unforeseeable challenges in the future. As a young scientist, I model probable outcomes under different scenarios as part of my international climate protection fellowship.

Social networking and online media services have not eluded me. Although am not as active as I used to be, I regularly keep abreast social media particularly, Facebook and Twitter. In their place, Linkedin and ResearchGate and other science-sharing sites are increasingly vital.

The world is already changing for the better! And we have sustainable development goals to prove that this encouraging change is already underway. Amidst these developments, my dreams and motivations are deeply rooted in our most vulnerable and marginalized groups, particularly those inhabiting harsh and unpredictable dryland environments. Assisting these resilient communities to gain better recognition is one step towards a just and moral world.

I can’t think of a better opportunity to achieve these aspirations than through the Global Landscape Forum (GLF) Youth Ambassador Program. I have been lucky to witness first-hand, how local communities with minimal resources can initiate and sustain grassroots land restoration campaigns with amazing outcomes. Greening Africa through the AFR100 can immensely benefit from such experiences. Furthermore, rangeland restoration is at the core of what I do.

Simply, “I understand the core of the narrative.”

Name, nationality and age: Wairore John Ndung’u, Kenyan, 28
Email address: jwairore(at)
Gender: Male
Country of residence: Germany
Organization/ university: Guest researcher at the University of Cologne
Native language: Kikuyu, Kiswahili
Other languages: English and German [basic user]

This blogpost is an online application for the GLF Youth Ambassador Program. This application will be rated on the amount of comments and views it gets.
Have a look at all the other applications too!

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