The Green Belt Movement (GBM) of Kenya was put to motion in 1977 by the late Nobel Peace Prize winning Professor Wangari Maathai and the National Council of Women of Kenya (NCWK). Their mission of reforestation provides defense against environmental degradation as well as empowerment for rural women. As Professor Maathai states, “the planting of trees is the planting of ideas. By starting with the simple act of planting a tree, we give hope to ourselves and to future generations.”
The links between poverty and environmental decline have been well documented (About 16,800,000 Google results). However, it boils down to this: if you are worried about starving then little else will concern you. You will misuse resources in the pursuit of food without thought to sustainability or renewing resources. This in turns leads to a vicious cycle as Professor Maathai states,
“The more you degrade or mismanage your environment the more likely you are to dig yourself deeper into poverty.”
To combat this, the Green Belt Movement promotes reforestation which improves the quality of life by absorbing pollution from the air, allowing the ecosystem to heal, thereby lessening the effects of global warming. In addition, GBM trains their participants to grow trees and in exchange for successfully growing seedlings they are given a small stipend with which they are encouraged to “invest in income generating activities” such as buying a goat. The goat then becomes a moneymaker through the selling of its milk.
Having already planted 40 million trees across Africa, The Green Belt Movement provides vital planetary self-defense for our too-often abused Earth. As GBM’s website states their mission is: “to mobilize community consciousness- using tree planting as an entry point- for self-determination, equity, improved livelihoods and security, and environmental conservation.” The interdependent nature of our relationship to each other and to our Earth can only be ignored at our peril. Yet, the simple acts of working together and planting trees can make all our tomorrows brighter.