Nairobi, Kenya, 19 February 2019 - Prince Hussain Aga Khan, officially inaugurated his exhibition of marine photography last week at the historic Khoja Mosque in Nairobi.
The collection of some 100 photographs of oceanic ecosystems in various parts of the world depicts the beauty, fragility and diversity of marine life and brings to attention the necessity and urgency to protect, conserve and manage our oceanic heritage and resources.
Prince Hussain Aga Khan, the second son of His Highness the Aga Khan, accompanied Chief Guest Mr. Keriako Tobiko, Cabinet Secretary, Ministry of Environment and Forestry for a special viewing of the exhibition.
In his remarks, Cabinet Secretary Keriako noted that Kenya has 500 kilometres of coastline that is vital to the country’s ecosystem. “Marine ecosystems are an important life-support system for our country as they contribute to tourism, community livelihoods, fishing, and transport, which help to sustain our economy.” He underscored the many initiatives the Kenyan government has undertaken to support healthy marine ecosystems and emphasised the need for each of us “to go to the most humanly possible depths in our conservation efforts...so that future generations can witness the images in the (Fragile Beauty) photographs firsthand.” He further commended Prince Hussain for “a true display of exceptional passion for marine ecosystems” and for using photography to inform and educate audiences about the diversity that exists in our seas and oceans. He applauded the work of the Aga Khan Development Network (AKDN) in the sectors of health, education and conservation, and made special mention of its support to Kenya’s commitment to 10% tree cover by 2022, by planting more than 10 million trees since 2014.
In welcoming diplomats and senior government officials, Dr. Azim Lakhani, Diplomatic Representative, Aga Khan Development Network in Kenya, spoke about the multi-input approach of the AKDN, and explained that aspects such as poverty alleviation, improvements in quality of life, and addressing climate change require a multitude of coordinated interventions. “The AKDN has many integrated programmes that involve several agencies working together, and the collective impact of AKDN initiatives in the country support, educate, and lead conservation work,” he said. He went on to speak about the AKDN’s and the Ismaili Community’s contribution to Kenya’s development, noting that the venue – the 97 year-old Town Jamatkhana (Khoja Mosque), was a demonstration of their longstanding and permanent presence in the country.
The exhibition was followed by a panel discussion on the preservation of natural assets, entitled “Fragile Beauty: How do we preserve our natural assets while building the economy?” and included conservation experts Dr. David Obura, Founding Director of Coastal Oceans Research and Development – Indian Ocean (CORDIO) East Africa; Dr. Cyrille-Lazare Siewe, Head, Kenya Country Programme, Africa Office, United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP); and Doreen Robinson, Chief of Wildlife, UNEP. The panel discussion was moderated by Dr. Alex Awiti, Vice Provost of the Aga Khan University.
The panel deliberated on how the development and conservation of marine and coastal resources could be achieved, while concurrently mitigating the harm to marine ecosystems from negligent human practices and the effects of climate change. The panel was emphatic about the need to take immediate action to protect and conserve resources from the effects of exploitation, pollution and habitat destruction.
Dr. Awiti, aptly summed up the impact of the collection of photographs saying, “As academics, we debate the marine ecosystem and can write a thousand papers on it, but just one of these photographs tells the entire story.”
Prince Hussain Aga Khan was on a private tour in Kenya with his fiancée Miss Elizabeth Hoag. While in the country, they also visited a number of AKDN projects in Nairobi, including Aga Khan High School, Aga Khan University, Aga Khan University Hospital, Frigoken, and Serena properties.
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Aga Khan Development Network (Kenya)
Founded and guided by His Highness the Aga Khan, Imam (spiritual leader of the Shia Ismaili Muslims), the Aga Khan Development Network (AKDN) brings together a number of social, economic and cultural development agencies, institutions and programmes that work primarily in Africa and Asia to help those in need achieve a level of self-reliance and improve the quality of life. The AKDN, which operates in over 30 countries, has been present in Kenya for over 100 years, where it has the largest number of agencies operating in a single country.
The AKDN employs over 16,000 staff (99% Kenyan) across all counties in Kenya, and reaches over 7 million Kenyans directly, and many more millions indirectly, every year. All surpluses generated by the economic development agencies are reinvested for further development. Conservation of the natural environment, the protection of natural resources and empowering local communities through the preservation of culture and heritage are a part of the AKDN’s ethical framework and mandate.