The role of the Catholic Church in environmental conservation in Kericho County, Kenya
Bett, Geoffrey Kiptoo
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The church as a social institution and its adherents in their individual capacity as members of the society, have a social and moral responsibility to be involved in environmental conservation. Nature is a precious resource which the present generation has inherited and must therefore be preserved for future generations. The way the church cares for these natural resources is a measure of its stewardship and respect to the Creator. The study focused on the role of the Catholic Church in environmental conservation in Kericho County. The study sought to identify the causes of environmental degradation in Kericho County. The research assessed the fundamental social teachings of the Catholic Church on environmental conservation. It also evaluated the contribution of the Catholic Church in environmental conservation in Kericho County. Inspite of the Christian teachings provided by the Catholic Church in Kericho on environmental conservation, the residents of Kericho County have continued to experience environmental problems. This leads one to question the role of the church in propagating environmental issues and awareness in this County. The study was guided by liberative solidarity model. According to this model, the church must be in solidarity with the weakest part of the whole creation. The study was conducted in Kericho County by use of questionnaires and interviews. The study employed random and purposive sampling to select respondents. The study targeted a sample size of 159 respondents. Qualitative methods of data analysis were employed in the study. This involved description, classification, interpretation and synthesis of data. The primary data was then integrated with secondary data. Guided by the objectives and the premises of the study, the raw data was collated and arranged thematically. The respondents reported that the following were the main causes of environmental degradation in Kericho County: deforestation 89%, poor farming 74%, infrastructure development 33%, industrial Waste 64%, industrial smoke 64% and overgrazing at 52%. The research findings established that deforestation and poor farming methods were the major causes of environmental degradation in Kericho County. The study confirmed that an overwhelming majority of the respondents put more emphasis on seminars and workshops as an effective way of conserving the environment. Over 67% of the respondents felt that seminars and workshops can assist in providing direction; in forming new values that stress individual and joint responsibility towards the environment. Moreover, 62% responded that they were able to acquire knowledge on how to effectively conserve the environment through regular sermons from the catholic clergy. It is evident from the results that other programmes employed by the Catholic Church towards environmental conservation include publishing of literature 37%, education on environmental and government policies 60% and championing of waste collection during environmental days 48%. Environmental projects and programmes are effective when implemented at the grassroots within the Church structure right from the family, the Christian Community to National level. The Church should champion for policies to be put in place to prevail upon people to carefully use their environment. The Catholic Church has notable potential, especially viable systems for environmental conservation.