The Green Belt Movement: Sharing the Approach and the Experience

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Lantern Books, 2003 - Nature - 136 pages
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Wangari Muta Maathai was born in Nyeri, Kenya in 1940. In 1960, she won a Kennedy scholarship to study in America and earned a master's degree in biology from the University of Pittsburgh and became the first woman in East Africa to earn a Ph.D.

Returning to Kenya in 1966, Wangari Maathai was shocked at the degradation of the forests and the farmland caused by deforestation. Heavy rains had washed away much of the topsoil, silt was clogging the rivers, and fertilizers were depriving the soil of nutrients. Wangari decided to solve the problem by planting trees.

Under the auspices of the National Council of Women of Kenya, of which she was chairwoman from 1981 to 1987, she introduced the idea of planting trees through citizen foresters in 1976, and called this new organization the Green Belt Movement (GBM). She continued to develop GBM into broad-based, grassroots organization whose focus was women's groups planting of trees in order to conserve the environment and improve their quality of life. Through the Green Belt Movement, Wangari Maathai has assisted women in planting more than 20 million trees on their farms and on schools and church compounds in Kenya and all over East Africa.

In Africa, as in many parts of the world, women are responsible for meals and collecting firewood. Increasing deforestation has not only meant increasing desertification, but it has also meant that women have had to travel further and further afield in order to collect the firewood. This in turn has led to women spending less time around the home, tending to crops, and looking after their children. By staying closer to home, earning income from sustainably harvesting the fruit and timber from trees, women not only can be more productive, they can provide stability in the home. They can also create time for education opportunities--whether for themselves or their children.

This virtuous circle of empowerment through conservation is serving as a model throughout the world, where women both individually and collectively are entrusted with money and material to invest it in ways that make a difference to their daily lives. Wangari Maathai's Green Belt Movement is a great example of how one person can turn around the lives of thousands, if not millions of others, by empowering others to change their situation.

Wangari's road to success was by no means easy. During the 1970s and 1980s, she came under increasing scrutiny from the government of Daniel arap Moi. She was frequently the target of vilification from the government, as well as subject to outright attacks and imprisonment. She refused to compromise her belief that the people were best trusted to look after their natural resources, as opposed to the corrupt cronies of the government, who were given whole swathes of public land, which they then despoiled.

In December 2002, Wangari Maathai was elected by an overwhelming margin to Parliament, where she is the Assistant Secretary for Environnment, Wildlife, and Natural Resources in the democratically elected Kibaki government. Even though she is now being protected by the very same soldiers who once arrested her, her voice on behalf of the environment is still strong and determined.

In October 2004, she capped a lifetime of incredible achievements when she was awarded the 2004 Nobel Peace Prize.

In The Green Belt Movement, founder Wangari Maathai tells its story: why it started, how it operates, and where it is going. She includes the philosophy behind it, its challenges and objectives, and the specific steps involved in starting a similar grassroots environmental and social justice organization. The Green Belt Movement is the inspiring story of people working at the grassroots level to improve their environment and their country. Their story offers ideas about a new and hopeful future for Africa and the rest of the world.

 

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The Green Belt Movement: Sharing the Approach and the Experience

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In October 2004, environmental activist Maathai became the first African woman to win the Nobel Peace Prize, an honor that has sparked the publication of this expanded edition of her slim treatise ... Read full review

Contents

THE HISTORY OF THE GREEN BELT MOVEMENT
6
THE OVERALL GOAL VALUES AND PROJECTS
33
THE ORGANIZATIONS STRUCTURE
55
FUNDING
59
ACHIEVEMENTS
63
CONSTRAINTS
75
LESSONS LEARNED
80
WHY BOTHER?
89
HOW TO ESTABLISH AND RUN A GREEN BELT TREEPLANTING CAMPAIGN THE TENSTEP PROCEDURE
93
THE REPLICATION OF THE GREEN BELT MOVEMENT
102
THE WAY FORWARD
111
AN INTERVIEW WITH WANGARI MAATHAI
125
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Page ix - Peace on earth depends on our ability to secure our living environment. Maathai stands at the front of the fight to promote ecologically viable social, economic and cultural development in Kenya and in Africa. She has taken a holistic approach to sustainable development that embraces democracy, human rights and women's rights in particular. She thinks globally and acts locally.
Page xii - I want to express my profound appreciation for this honour, which will serve to encourage women in Kenya, in Africa, and around the world to raise their voices and not to be deterred. When we plant trees, we plant the seeds of peace and seeds of hope. We also secure the future for our children. One of the first things I did yesterday when I got the extraordinary news about this prize was to plant a Nandi flame tree. . . . So, on this wonderful occasion, I call on Kenyans and those around the world...
Page xii - I say that many wars are fought over resources, which are becoming increasingly scarce across the earth. If we did a better job of managing our resources sustainably, conflicts over them would be reduced. So, protecting the global environment is directly related to securing peace.
Page xi - Kenya over the past 30 years are a testament to individuals' ability to change the course of environmental history. Working together, we have proven that sustainable development is possible; that reforestation of degraded land is possible; and that exemplary governance is possible when ordinary citizens are informed, sensitized, mobilized and involved in direct action for their environment.
Page ix - Maathai combines science, social commitment and active politics. More than simply protecting the existing environment, her strategy is to secure and strengthen the very basis for ecologically sustainable development.
Page 8 - Considering the recommendations of the United Nations Conference on Human Environment, held in Stockholm in...
Page x - Maathai is a strong voice speaking for the best forces in Africa to promote peace and good living conditions on that continent.

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About the author (2003)

Wangari Maathai is the founder of the Green Belt Movement and the first woman to earn a doctorate in biology in East Africa. A recipient of numerous awards for her work on environmental and social issues, in 2004, she was honored with the Nobel Peace Prize. In 2006, she published her memoir, Unbowed. She is also the author of Challenge for Africa and Replenishing the Earth. She lives in Nairobi, Kenya. To learn more about Wangari Maathai and her work, visit the Green Belt Movement website. See a video of Wangari here.

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