When LL.M. graduate Edna Odhiambo returned to Kenya, the climate change advocate sought solutions for the densely populated Nairobi. “I am constantly seeking spaces to drive localized climate action towards sustainability,” she said.
Edna, a Fulbright Scholar with a background in Environmental Law, traveled from Kenya to Eugene in 2015 for the sole purpose of attending the School of Law. She had enrolled in the LL.M. Program taking full advantage of not only Oregon Law, but also the innovative Sustainable Cities Initiative here at the UO.
SCI is a groundbreaking multi-disciplinary initiative focused on sustainability and the built environment. It addresses community sustainability issues through education, service, public outreach, and research. Projects connect students and community stakeholders to improve the future outlook and viability of each locale. Each community, with its unique infrastructures and legal frameworks, is a new challenge for students. During her year here at UO, Edna worked on SCI’s Redmond Project, focusing on promoting urban agriculture by concentrating on the connection between urban farming and local regulations. This adaptable model with its practical approach to learning stayed with Edna as she returned to Nairobi.
Now teaching at the University of Nairobi, Edna is implementing the Sustainable Cities model she learned in Oregon, working closely with the SCI projects leads to get it started. “The County of Nairobi is interested in creating more green spaces and pedestrianizing streets as the city experiences rapid urbanization,” Edna shared. “The timing and opportunity is right to get Sustainable Cities off the ground, here.”
Working through existing faculties at the University of Nairobi such as law, architecture, and engineering, and in partnership with the county, she will be implementing the Sustainable Cities model with enrolled students in target communities beginning this fall.
“Since 2009, we’ve seen the Sustainable Cities model extend across the country and to other continents. Edna has been both a champion and an ambassador for the program as we embark on this first project in Kenya,” stated Nico Larco, Co-Director of SCI. “She is the right person to promote this model in Nairobi, specifically, one of the most populous urban areas on the continent.”
Edna’s efforts have also produced a partnership between the University of Nairobi and the Educational Partnerships for Innovation in Communities called Walkability, Nairobi County. EPIC’s ability to adjust to different urban settings will provide functionality in Nairobi’s densely populated setting. As Edna has noted, “Nairobi is much bigger than Eugene. Students have to choose a locality instead of focusing on the city as a whole.”
The progress Edna has made since leaving the Law School has created a buzz that is difficult to contain. Kristie Gibson, LL.M. Program Director, recently said, “We couldn’t be happier for Edna and her ability to make the world a better place.”
Find out more about SCI at the UO.
This story first appeared in the ENR Year in Review.