AWARD fellow, Mary Njenga attends Environmental Leadership Program

8 09 2009

AWARD fellow, Mary Njenga shares her experiences at the Beahrs Environmental Leadership Program (ELP) held from 26 June to 18 July 2009 at the College of Natural Resources, Center for Sustainable Resource Development, University of California, Berkeley, USA. 

Mary Njenga is a research officer with Urban Harvest-CIP and a PhD student at the Department of Land Resource Management and Agricultural Technology, University of Nairobi under the lead supervision of Prof. Nancy Karanja.  Mary’s PhD research is also affiliated to World Agroforestry Centre (ICRAF) under the supervision of Dr. Ramni Jamnadass. 

The Environmental Leadership Program (ELP) offers a summer certificate course in Sustainable Environmental Management, co-directed by Dr. Robin Marsh and Dr. David Zilberman.  Others in the team were Don Lauro, Elna Brunckhorst, Jade Sasser, Joy Harewood and Aaron Wilson. This year’s course had 34 students from 25 countries.  ELP 2009 curriculum covered ecological footprint and sustainability, population, poverty and the environment, and a special open-to-the-public conference on bioeconomy: energy, food and the environment.  Based on her work, Mary was among three ELP students invited to make presentations and be a panelist during the Perspectives on Biodiversity: Agriculture and food security session.

Mary’s presentation was on urban agriculture and urban ecosystem services.  She highlighted the role of urban agriculture ensuring food security, income and urban resource re-use.  In her presentation, she demonstrated how urban agriculture benefits women and youth groups.    

Mary making a presentation at the ELP event

Mary making a presentation at the ELP event

This was a timely presentation, since urban agriculture was receiving attention as a productive sector of USA urban food security.  On 8 July the Mayor of San Francisco asked all departments to conduct an audit of land under their jurisdiction to create an inventory of land suitable for gardening.

Other topics in the course include environmental policy services and marketing, leadership for collaborative change, climate change science and policy and water and sanitation management and governance. The course was very interactive through lecturers, guided crop and livestock field visits, practical work and demonstrations, as well as social events.

Participants receive partial scholarships from ELP, which itself receives support from institutions and individual friends of the program.  An event took place during the course where participants joined the program coordinating team for dinner with ELP friends and donors at Sandy and Bernie Magnussen’s home. Dick Beahrs, a key supporter of ELP and a former Board Member of ICRAF was also present at the event.  Mary was among the two ELP participants selected to give speeches during this event. She highlighted key lessons learnt that she was taking home, which were:

(i)  the importance and approaches on how to integrate and balance social, economic and environmental issues in research and development work

(ii)  skills on effective leadership for collaborative change and

(iii)  a network of environmental leaders and friends around the world speaking the same language for a sustainable future.

 The course coordinating team and lecturers were very warm and the participation of some of them throughout all sessions created a chance for feedback and revisions as the course progressed.  Participants had a chance to interact with Robert J. Birgeneau, Chancellor of the University of California, Berkeley.

 Mary received a full scholarship from ELP, while her travel and living expenses were met by Doyle Foundation, Scotland to whom she is very grateful.  ELP participants were invited to apply for a small competitive grant for initiatives to be implemented in collaboration with UC Berkeley in 2010. Mary had a very special homecoming upon learning that she was one of the winners of African Women in Agricultural Research and Development (AWARD) fellowship 2009, offered by Gender and Diversity, a CGIAR program that supports scientific capacity, provides mentorship, leadership and management training. At the same time she won the International Development Research Centre (IDRC) ECOPOLIS graduate fellowship 2009 which will go a long way in supporting her PhD study.  To all who contributed to a very productive and exciting one month, Mary says THANK YOU.

* Mary heard about the Beahrs Environmental Leadership program through an announcement distributed through the Gender & Diversity database for women scientists and professionals which was forwarded to her by Dr. Jan Low, the CIP SSA regional leader.  To join the database, go to:



3 responses

9 09 2009
Kim Kieser

Thank you for sending me this wonderful article Mary.
Congratulations on your successes, you are certainly deserving of the accolades.
It was a pleasure to meet and enjoy the friendship of a woman of your caliber during the UCLA Berkeley Environmental Leadership Program.
I look forward to collaborating with you in the future on WET-Africa and in providing a platform for the replication of your innovations.

Friends Forever
Kim Kieser RSA

8 12 2009
Courses and Science Awards opportunities « AWARD News & Views

[…]  AWARD Fellow, Mary Njenga, attended the Beahrs Environmental Leadership Program in 2009. Read more… […]

14 01 2010
Kadiri Fausat, Ajoke

Mary is indeed a great woman, i am proud of you. We need more of Mary in the world. I want to be one.

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