Author: Victoria Wangui
We are a part of nature and are indebted to take care of her. I started an environmental blog called Nyika Silika in 2012 while still in university to inform my family members and friends on my travels and the importance of wildlife conservation. In the beginning, it was also linked to my studies at the university since I was sharing some facts on what I was learning. After a short hiatus, I started blogging again, putting all my efforts into this project in 2016 with a more open mindset and a new goal, to share the good, the bad, the ugly, and the fun things about nature, wildlife, conservation. For a while, I just wrote, knowing that at least a family will read it and two, someone out there will be inspired by the stories I shared. Blogging became a form of storytelling, a chance to share my opinions on matters of environmental conservation.
Over time, Nyika Silika has become a fearless, opinionated, and educative platform that reminds people that if we destroy nature, we destroy ourselves. This project has morphed into something that I believe is bigger than me; Biophilic Conversations, an organization inspiring the youth to be actively involved in the conservation community in Africa. My target audience has grown from my family to people I often meet in the conservation world, whom I don’t know but know Nyika Silika. It’s not a surprise that people call me Nyika instead of my name. This in itself has motivated me to keep writing and growing knowing that this platform has changed people’s opinions or has inspired them to take care of our natural world and be a voice of not only reason but action as well.
Significant changes I have seen from the time I started my conservation journey
I believe that if I can convince just one person to see that, for example, plastic straws are damaging our ecosystem, I can cause a ripple effect. With these, I also see the need to educate people on the alternatives and inspire someone to be innovative and develop sustainable products. My most significant impact has been, being approached by organizations and even people to share conservation stories on my platform. When I started, I thought the stories would end, but there is always something to share every day. I’m also very intrigued by the growth of environmental content creators in the country.
Conservation involves many aspects
Young people may not know what the conservation world is about and how to go about it. For some, they believe its luck or knowing people. Others may think they don’t belong in the conservation realm, or there is no money in conservation and a waste of time.
My goal is to showcase the different ways young people can be part of conservation, not just working in this field but also advocating for the environment and taking action. It can be as simple as growing trees in your neighbourhood or educating children about the importance of protecting the environment. It can be through sustainable travel and showing people the hidden gems in our country, even without spending a lot of money that could be as close as home; in your neighbourhood. This can, in turn, connect people to nature and in the end spark the urge to protect national parks, forests, and our water bodies from harm such as encroachment and/or pollution. It can be as simple as growing or buying food that is organically grown and educating people on how pesticides affect our long-term health. It can also be as easy as saying no to single-use plastics and supporting sustainable products.
Challenges experienced while undertaking my conservation activities
Conservation comes with its own set of challenges. You wake up one day, and the trending news is the encroachment of a national park or human-wildlife conflict. How do we find a balance between the needs of people and those of wildlife? How do we educate the local ‘mwananchi’ to understand that wildlife is as important as their livestock or their farm that was just destroyed by a herd of elephants? When you look at these challenges, you can choose to see opportunities or see disaster in the making. For me, I see an opportunity in innovation, advocacy, and increased education and awareness. We cannot afford to watch and wait for disasters to happen, we must be the voice of the voiceless.
“We cannot tire or give up. We owe it to the present and future generations of all species to rise up and walk!” – Wangari Maathai
Being a woman in conservation…
… means being bold for change. It is knowing that sometimes you will face setbacks, and you may not be taken seriously.
Just like Prof. Wangari Maathai until she won a Nobel Peace Prize. Just like women in conservation today face setbacks from people who would rather look at their gender and not their qualifications or sound thought but still choose to stand for what is right.
It is knowing that our emotions are nurturing. They are not destructive. It is always knowing we make mistakes, and we should be our own biggest supporters, especially in the fight for protecting our wild spaces and mitigating the effects of climate change.
At the end of the day, when you come across women in the rural areas who fetch water or collect firewood in wildlife prone areas where a wild animal may attack them, they are at risk, and these are the kind of issues we need to be talking about. Women face the biggest impact when it comes to climate change and habitat destruction.
“At first they will ask you why you are doing it. Later, they will ask you how.”
My biggest lesson so far is that you cannot do it alone. The growth of Nyika Silika has been because of guest writers and people who are willing to share ideas and even take me on their trips so that I could share their stories. Being a co-founder of Biophilic Conversations with Anthony Ochieng, who runs Tony Wild, a photo-led platform for sharing stories that enable relevant knowledge sharing of everything nature and wildlife, has also shown me the importance of collaboration. Since we started the platform in late 2018 with the first talk being in 2019, we have involved many people who have been part of its growth no matter how small. To this, I am entirely grateful.
“To the young women finding their feet in life’s journey, I say, never give up! Follow your dreams.”
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