Quotes from TEDx Nairobi: The City Rebooted


Professor Virgilio Viana at TEDx Nairobi

The TEDxNairobi event on the theme ‘The City Rebooted” surpassed expectations. A stellar cast of speakers, each provocative and with memorable quotes and moving stories, left audiences inspired and enlightened. World Agroforestry Centre (ICRAF) hosted the event on 30 October 2013 at its Nairobi Headquarters.

We produce here a small selection of memorable quotes from the event. The full presentations will be curated at TED.com in the coming weeks.

Raphael Obonyo, convener of The Youth Congress in Kenya recounted his own and his friends’ and protégées’ journey from deprivation to success, through determination and support for one another.

“Urbanization, like globalization, is unstoppable,”

“People don’t want to be inspired by the high levels of poverty you have faced, but by how you have been able to overcome them.”

“To succeed, be resilient.”

Peter Lee, Executive Director of Global Forest Watch Canada, spoke about a powerful new remote sensing tool that is supporting conservation by providing free and easily accessible, near-real time deforestation alerts. The talk was dedicated to Lee’s “most favourite forest watchers,” his three granddaughters.

“It is difficult to put into words how important forests are.”

“One of the reasons we have unsustainable forest logging is that we have severe data challenges.”

Njoki Ngumi, a medical doctor, coordinator at The NEST, and ardent advocate for better healthcare in Kenya for many years, spoke about art, healthcare and socially inclusive development.

“Everyone gains agency when their true story gets into the public domain. Gain agency for yourself by creating.”

“Everyone wants the same things, and we need to have an awareness that ‘the other’ is not so ‘other’.”

Martha Isabel (Pati) Ruiz Corzo, Champion of the Earth 2013 and director of the Grupo Ecologico Sierra Gorda in Central Mexico, captivated the audience with her energy and passion for nature. Through her work and advocacy, a third of the State of Querétaro is now protected as a Biosphere Reserve engaging more than 34,000 people in community environmental education programs, solid waste management, soil restoration, productive diversification, and conservation. Pati, a trained musician, ended her talk with a stirring song to mother nature.

‘I am devoted to the wisdom and beauty of nature and the miracle that happens every second in our lives.”

“It is fair to teach the little ones to live with little and to know where we belong.”


Moderators Sheila Ochugboju and Juliana Rotich at TEDx Nairobi, 30 October 2013

Aghan Odero Agan, director of the Kenya Cultural Centre and well-known storyteller, started by recounting the folk tale of ‘Nyamgodho Son of Ombare’, leaving his audiences on a cliffhanger. He used this story this to explore the role of folklore in the modern environment.

“Art has moved from the privacy of homes and auditoriums into the public space.”

“What is the position of African folklore within a context where people are grappling with issues of identity and rootedness?”

Samuel Makome of Kenya Commercial Bank spoke on Africa’s Demographic Dividend—the growing youth population—and the how social investments in young people, especially in education and social investment programs, can help countries here gain more effectively.

 “With Africa facing a ‘youthquake’ – a bourgeoning young population –we cannot afford not to make the change [to sustainability].”

“Maintaining things is one of the secrets of sustainability. If you cut down a tree, plant another.”

Alex Awiti of Aga Khan University explored new ideas based on principles of resilience for the food, water, transportation and innovation sectors, and on citizenship in new cities.  Dr Awiti worked as a landscape ecologist at the World Agroforestry Centre (ICRAF) earlier in his career.

 “Life in the city happens on foot. We [pedestrians] have to repossess the street.”

“It is the warmth of human connectedness that inspires the imagination.”

Prof. Virgilio Viana, CEO Fundação Amazonas Sustentável, Brazil, took the audience deep into the Brazilian Amazon, where the concept of paying for keeping nature’s services flowing has been rolled out across a large area, with startling results.

“Everybody love the shade of a tree, but nobody takes care of it. This applies to nature as a whole.”

“Let us not fall into illusion that we can live without nature – we cannot.”

“If we all make small changes in our lifestyle to protect nature, this will be the beginning of a revolution.”

“Nature is a source of happiness; it is a source of love.”

Achim Steiner, UNEP Executive Director and Under-Secretary-General of the UN spoke about the transition towards a green economy.

“We live in an age where transformation is not only a necessity, but also an obligation. We all are a part of this journey.”

Kenyan afro-pop band Sauti Sol enraptured the audiences with three of their hits songs, including ‘Nairobi’, a performance that was followed by the ‘gift bag’ presentation by one of Kenya’s preeminent bloggers and tweeters, Bankelele.

At the evening reception that followed the highly successful event, ICRAF Director General Tony Simons pointed to the unsustainability of current trends of development and urbanization.

“Growing cities need adjacent land for growing crops, and most agricultural land was once forest; Every human birth recorded today corresponds to the loss of approximately 250 trees. Obviously, that is not sustainable.”


Sauti Sol on stage at TEDx Nairobi

The TEDx Nairobi event was coordinated and moderated by TED Fellows Sheila Ochugboju, Juliana Rotich, and Joshua Wanyama. TED Videos by Nobel Peace Prize Winner Leymah Gbowee, and Juan Enriquez were also part of the event’s offerings.

Some great photos from the event: http://www.flickr.com/groups/tedxnairobi/




Daisy Ouya

Daisy Ouya is a science writer and communications specialist with the World Agroforestry Centre (ICRAF). Over the past 15 years she has been packaging and disseminating scientific knowledge in the fields of entomology, agriculture, health, HIV/AIDS research, and marine science. Daisy is a Board-certified Editor in the Life Sciences (bels.org) and has a Masters’ degree in chemistry from the University of Connecticut, USA. Her BSc is from the University of Nairobi in her native Kenya. She has worked as a journal editor, science writer, publisher, and communications strategist with various organizations. She joined ICRAF in July 2012. Twitter: @daisyouya

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