Cinzia Torriani: The budding environmental activist | Aga Khan Academies

Cinzia Torriani: The budding environmental activist

Growing up on Funzi Island, a settlement in Kenya, Cinzia Torriani, a Diploma Programme 1 student at the Aga Khan Academy Mombasa, has seen the impact climate change can have on the environment and the people within it. 

“I saw the aquatic life in the bay that surrounded a part of the island deteriorate over time,” Cinzia said. “Fish disappeared from the easy view of the waters, dolphins, which would appear annually, stopped appearing, and I would even hear stories of animals that were once habitants of the bay as now a distant memory. Contrary to this, the number of fishermen stayed the same, and at some point, every small fish in the ocean was being caught to feed a fisherman’s family. I realised that a majority of the motives put in place on the island for helping the environment served little purpose towards establishing a feasible way forward to ensure locals, who depend on the ocean, would remain economically stable.” 

By seeing this and her parents’ personal initiatives toward the environment, Cinzia channeled her energy into becoming an environmental activist, focusing on ways to better her environment while also keeping in mind the local community. 

“My goal is to ensure sustainable economic and ecological development to consider both my love for my surroundings, but also the community,” Cinizia said. 

Taking action 

One of the first initiatives Cinzia made in relation to her goal happened a year ago during her Year 10 personal project, which allows students to collaborate with individuals in their local community to address an issue or challenge. Cinzia created an integrated farming system combining a fish farm, chicken farm and maize farm in a self-sufficient cycle. Through this system, human efficiency would be maximised; the harvest timeline would be effectively eradicated; and locals would be provided with an alternative and more productive way to get fish from the ocean.

“I was able to build this system and present it to the locals in my community while also further spreading the word about my personal project,” Cinzia said. 

Following the completion of her personal project, Cinzia was able to further spread her message about the environment by speaking at the 2019 TEDxYouth event held at the Academy. In her talk, Cinzia spoke about the importance of fighting complacency in order for action to be taken toward the environment, while also discussing her personal project as a way of implementing a new agricultural system. 

“This was one of the most thrilling and greatest memories I hold,” Cinzia said. “I was able to use my voice as a way to spread my opinions and ideas on what mattered to me to a group of people who were interested in listening. From this, my story was published in one of the nation’s newspapers, Business Daily, about my project, my TEDx talk and my future goals. This provided me with the opportunity to convey my message about environmental sustainability to a larger audience.”

During this academic year, Cinzia has taken steps to further her goal and spread awareness about the environment. This was seen during the Academy’s annual Peace Summit, which is a two-day event bringing together students from the Academy and around Mombasa to discuss peace and conflict resolution. The theme for this year’s Summit was “Climate Action for Peace” with Cinzia being selected as the female student lead for the event. 

“The aim of the Summit was to take students through several thought-provoking and interactive activities to question their stand as activists for peace, linking this directly to the environment’s state,” Cinzia said. “From discussions on the dangers of rising sea levels, to water scarcity, to the impacts of desertification and drought, the students promoted the value of being environmentally conscious and reflecting on the actions of mankind.” 

Another way Cinzia was able to spread awareness about the environment was through community service. As part of the International Baccalaureate, Diploma Programme students have to create a community service group or be a part of an existing one. For Cinzia, she saw this as an opportunity to reconnect with the local community and spread awareness. 

“My friend and I created a community service project at the Academy called iSEAyou,” Cinzia said. “Our current goals include making use of polluted materials to create purchasable furniture and art, as well as promoting sustainable environmental development without any implications on the economic standards of members of society through creating and building projects, such as those I proposed in my personal project.” 

Looking forward

As Cinzia continues to decide what she wants to study when she goes to university, she said she will always be an environmental activist wherever she goes. and is forever grateful for those who have guided her to get to where she is. 

“I feel that no matter what career path I go into, it has become a hobby and a joy to raise awareness on the environment and work towards more environmentally-friendly systems in society,” Cinzia said. 

For Cinzia, being an environmental activist doesn’t mean dedicating your entire life to the environment. She said anyone can be an advocate for the environment through various, simple ways. 

“Personally I feel that simply having the strive to make a difference completely changes the path for society in order to reach end goals,” Cinzia said. “I feel that students at the Academy should work towards becoming more environmentally-conscious throughout their day-to-day lives to take little actions that make a great difference. Involvement in different initiatives taking place at the Academy also helps grow one’s character, and I feel that this is a prospect that should not be missed. I would actively encourage students to join these different teams and groups and work towards the betterment of the planet.”

Reflecting on the time she has spent so far at the Academy, Cinzia said she appreciates the supportive and nurturing environment at the Academy, which has opened many doors of opportunity for her. She said she is also grateful for her friends and family who have guided her and stood by her side throughout this all. 

“The Aga Khan Academy Mombasa has instilled lifelong ethical values in me,” Cinzia said. “Through this education, I have gained a great awareness on the importance of continuously considering my environment and my community in decision-making. The values of giving back to your community and the opportunities provided by the Academy to do so are endless and truly incredible. My teachers at the Academy were one of my anchors of support as they continuously encouraged me to reach my goals and push harder. I cannot give enough gratitude to Mrs. Susan Abuto who, as the head of the Individuals and Societies department, has guided me throughout this journey, especially in spearheading this academic year’s Peace Summit. I also would not have been able to reach many of my goals without the support of my friends, family and special people in my life who stood by my side throughout this long process.”