How Football is Changing the Way Youth Approach Conservation
"By engaging the youth, we are shaping the future." John Kinoti, Lewa's Community Development Manager.
One of Lewa's key development objectives is to engage young people from the neighbouring communities, recognising that their understanding of conservation imperatives is key in securing a future for endangered species. Additionally, Lewa is placed in a unique position to extend skills that promote unity, peace and enterprise amongst these young people whilst providing a platform for them to develop their skills and improve their livelihoods.
"Young people need an exciting platform to keep them engaged, and that is why we developed the idea of having a football tournament, dedicated to conservation and development. Football is one of Kenya's most popular sports, and therefore, was a good choice to spearhead the programme." John Kinoti explains.
John Kinoti, Lewa's Community Development Manager, engages with one of the football clubs.
For the past three years, the Community Development Team has organised this tournament for youth from the neighbouring communities, requiring them to form football clubs, and out of the members, choose the best players to form a team to participate in the annual tournament.
"The football clubs are really just way to have the young people come together, form teams, understand group dynamics and teamwork. It also provides a chance for them to interact outside of their day to day activities."
The Community Development Team is then using these football clubs and the tournament to discuss key strategies. Before every game, the teams and spectators learn the importance of conservation and how that ties in with development, and their role in protecting the flora and fauna in their landscape.
This year's event saw 12 teams from all of Lewa's neighbouring communities participate. Three years ago, only six teams attended, meaning that there is a huge appetite for the tournament.
This year's final match was played here on Lewa to a diverse audience of over 300. Spectators, teammates and the Lewa Team all joined in on a dusty hot day to enjoy a good display of football. West Stars from Lewa's northern cluster won the game, amidst fierce competition.
A jubilant West Stars Football Club from Isiolo receive their trophy from John and The Community Development Team.
"We want to change the way youth view conservation. We want conservation to be fun for them, we want them to see the 'doors' that conservation can help open for them."
Future of the Programme - Beyond Sports
Lewa is planning on evolving the football clubs to enterprise groups, facilitating the exchange of ideas and encouraging entrepreneurship to reduce unemployment in the region. With time and sufficient funding, the programme will also expand to have youth engaged via more sports such as netball and volleyball. This will help form a strong youth forum that has a voice, is well informed on key conservation issues, and is empowered with skills to enhance livelihoods.
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