Sunday, September 23, 2012

Oil find pays dividends in scholarships

Winnie Khaemba (second right) listens to proceedings at a cocktail to launch the Tullow Group Scholarship Scheme in Nairobi with fellow beneficiaries (from left to right) Andrew Kamau Ndung’u, Esterina Mambawon Dokhe, and Dennis Maili Kwena,

Winnie Khaemba (second right) listens to proceedings at a cocktail to launch the Tullow Group Scholarship Scheme in Nairobi with fellow beneficiaries (from left to right) Andrew Kamau Ndung’u, Esterina Mambawon Dokhe, and Dennis Maili Kwena. Photo | CORRESPONDENT |  NATION MEDIA GROUP

By LINET WAFULA lwafula@ke.nationmedia.com

Discovery of oil in Turkana has brought with it blessings for 10 Kenyans who have benefited from scholarships in oil related fields.

The 10 are among 93 worldwide to benefit from Tullow Group Scholarships Scheme and are beginning their postgraduate courses, technical training and vocational studies this month in British and French universities.

Kenyan beneficiaries include 25-year-old Brenda Philister Akoth Omuombo and 29-year-old Valentine Ataka, who are both going to the University of Aberdeen to pursue masters in Environmental Science and Oil and Gas Law respectively.

Dennis Maili Kwena, 27, Starlon Lokidor Ikaal, 25 and Winnie Khaemba will pursue masters in law and environmental science at the University of Nottingham.

Three others are joining Robert Gordon University — 33-year-old Matthew Waita Mwenga, 28-year-old Andrew Kamau Ndung’u and 33-year-old Clement Okello Migai.

They will study Oil and gas engineering, drilling engineering, and international commercial law respectively.

Others are Chris Ekai Lokipi, 28, who will be studying Business Administration at the University of Portsmouth, and Esterina Mambawon Dokhe, 36, who is heading to the University of Birmingham to study Business Administration.

As they leave, the Kenyans are full of ambitious plans after their return. For Ms Khaemba, environment is more than a hobby; it is her life. She sees an environmental angle to everything.

Like her role model, Nobel winner, Prof Wangari Maathai, the environment is a passion. “Prof Wangari Maathai is an inspiration to me. I met her several times and always thought that she was really brave,” Ms Khaemba recalls.

Ms Khaemba hopes to make her own contribution towards environmental sustainability in the country. “I am trying to be the Hummingbird — doing the best I can”. This is in reference to a story popularised by Prof Maathai.

"In the story, she challenged everyone to try and do something about the environment however small, like the folklore Hummingbird that fetched water in its beak to put out a fire in the forest as the rest of the animals watched.

Over the years, Ms Khaemba has had her gaze on the international stage on matters related to the environment. This has seen her watch developments in international treaties and conventions keenly.

One of the main areas that has had the attention of the budding environmentalist is the nascent oil and gas industry in the region.

In March, Tullow announced the first major oil discovery in Kenya at Ngamia-1 well located in Block 10BB in Turkana County. (READ: We have found oil, says Kibaki)

“Environmental degradation, climate change and global warming are as a result of major industrial activity such as extraction of fossil fuels,” Ms Khaemba says.

Ms Khaemba traces her fascination with the environment to her childhood, growing up in Kitale in Trans Nzoia County, surrounded by lush maize fields and forests that have unfortunately declined over the years.

While studying at Lugulu High School, she took part in an essay writing competition run by African Fund for Endangered Wildlife (AFEW) and Giraffe Centre in which she emerged as runners-up.

This interest would peak when she joined Kenyatta University for her undergraduate studies in environment. In addition to the inspiration from lecture halls, she also joined the university environment club, which she would later lead.

“I have always been interested in policy issues in the international arena. I have been closely following conventions such as the Rio Convention,” Ms Khaemba told the Nation.

Tullow Kenya is a subsidiary of independent oil and gas exploration and production group that is quoted on the London, Ghana and Irish stock exchanges.

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