Bottom Up: A Film by Jonas Steiner

posted in: Africa, Film, Kenya, Reviews, Travel | 0

“Bottom up” tells the story of Dr. Wanja Nyingi bridging the gap between science and local knowledge in Kenya.

Bottom Up: The Project

Last year, fellow fly fisherman and enthusiastic filmmaker Jonas Steiner travelled to Kenya. There, he documented the efforts by Dr. Wanja Nyingi to bridge the gap between science and local knowledge. As a freshwater ecologist, she works with the Kenweb team. Frequently, she found herself detached from having a direct impact on conservation on the spot.

Dr. Wanja Nyingi tells the story of Bottom Up
Dr. Wanja Nyingi tells the story of Bottom Up

The realisation that scientists talk mainly among themselves and the knowledge gained rarely leads to change, made her rethink how conservation should be practiced. Therefore, she looked for ways to incorporate the local knowledge into the scientific discourse. Hence, she adopted a community-oriented conservation approach. Looking at the ecosystem in a holistic way, she integrated indigenous knowledge and local communities to conserve wetlands together with them. The results are twofold: On the one hand, the scientific findings were better received and more willingly implemented by the local communities. On the other hand, scientists gained access to knowledge beyond their studies.


“For me, it became increasingly frustrating to discover all these things about […] the environment and not being able to impact change.” Dr. Wanja Nyingi

Bottom Up: The Film

The shortfilm begins with stunning footage of wildlife and the Kenyan landscape. The viewer cannot help but be immersed into the pristine nature of this place. This stereotypical notion of an African safari is very short-lived, because Dr. Wanja Nyingi immediately dives into the issues at stake. The film follows her journey and illustrates not only visually, but highlights also with sound design and colour grading the mood perfectly. Moreover, this makes a very strong and understandable argument. Dr. Wanja Nyingi advocates for true bottom up, community driven conservation. As a result, scientists can benefit from local indigenous knowledge and in return empower communities.


“Working together is always the best step […]. In places where communities feel ownership, […] they take care of it […] because conservation is by the people.” Dr. Wanja Nyingi



This short documentary captures in a concise manner the plea for change in the way conservation projects are currently conducted in Kenya. For many scientists, this issue of being detached might be very relatable – not only in Kenya.

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