How I got into environmental activism;
Having grown up in one of the most forested regions in Kenya and in a village where planting trees and drinking from clean streams was a norm, my first act as a climate activist was planting my first tree when I was 7 years old inspired by the late Nobel Laureate Professor Wangari Maathai.
I have known and loved nature as my home since childhood. Nature has been my greatest teacher. I spend time with her, listening to her, understanding her, and learning from her.
It always broke my heart when I saw and read about how the world’s forests were being burned down and cleared at alarming rates, I couldn’t stand watching natures destruction, our water ways being polluted and people treating our planet as if they had another one to move to.
All these environmental injustices greatly disturbed me and I knew that I needed to rise up and do something about it. That is why I decided to get into environmental activism and that is why today, I am co-creating with nature, crying for her destruction, recognizing her rights,fighting for her life,so we can all again feel her joy of abundance.
All I want is for everyone to have a livable world and a safe future including all generations yet to come and I will keep fighting.
How I founded Green Generation Initiative (GGI) and what GGI does;
Growing up, I often used to think to myself ‘Why not nurture and raise more young people to be conscious of the environment so that their collective action will help to address global environmental challenges?’. After all, there is a saying: “Train up a child in the way he should go and when he is old, he will not depart from it.”
I started out making baby steps – drafting a plan of what I really wanted to do, the people I wanted to reach out to, the resources I would need, and how I would ensure that I stayed true to my objectives. My passion was my driving force and I started without funds. My first event was in a primary school where I used my own money to buy tree seedlings that would facilitate the tree planting and wider environmental education that day. It was a great success and later on through the Wangari Maathai Scholarship award, I established my own tree nursery at home so that it would be easier for me to source future tree seedlings at a minimal or no cost.
GGI focuses on nurturing young environmental enthusiasts through promoting a nature first culture, love for nature and environmental consciousness. Our main programs include practical environmental education, greening schools, inculcating a tree growing culture among people for forest cover increment through adopt a tree campaign and establishing food forests where we incorporate fruit trees growing for food security.
I know that I have what it takes to be a change maker today and if I don’t step up as a young person to address the challenges we are facing today, then nobody else will. Growing up I thought I might have been too young to make a huge impact. But now I know that it is the little things we do that matter the most, and they eventually make a huge difference. Even so, I would not be where I am today without the support and inspiration of a few very important people.
Firstly, my mum.
A single mother, she shares my passions and helps me a lot. In fact, I have a tree nursery at home which she helps take care of in spite of her many commitments. I can’t thank her enough. When I told her that I wanted to become an environmentalist and pursue a course in the environmental field at University, she believed in me and has supported me every step of the way in my journey.
The late professor Wangari Maathai has also been a huge source of inspiration.
A Nobel Peace Prize Laureate, she used her hands and heart to sow seeds for a greener and more community-minded Africa.
She spent her lifetime planting trees and forming movements to make people aware of how important it is to take care of the planet, and the role of their own communities in this. Since childhood, I had a dream of meeting her and planting a tree with her. I still remember my grandmother insisted that I should study hard just as Wangari Maathai did if I ever wanted to meet her. So I took my education seriously in order to realize this dream.
I was not yet half way through my secondary education when I received the news that Professor Wangari Maathai had passed on. This broke my heart and made me feel as though my dreams were shuttered. I had not met her yet. I decided not to give up, I read books about her, the first one titled ‘unbowed’, which motivated and inspired me to stand strong and follow in her footsteps. I am now more than ever before, determined to leave my mark just as Wangari Maathai did.
Finally, the members and volunteers that I work with on Green Generation Initiative have consistently inspired me in my journey so far.
As the late professor Wangari Maathai said: “I am very conscious of the fact that you can’t do it alone. It’s teamwork. When you do it alone you run the risk that when you are no longer there nobody else will do it”. My team consists of over 30 volunteers who are all passionate environmentalists and are very committed and dedicated to our work. It is through their efforts that we have been able to have a greater impact. Young people have immense potential to contribute to environmental conservation and my team has demonstrated this through their passion and dedication towards the initiative.
Some Highlights of what I have done so far;
In 2016, I founded Green Generation Initiative, www.greengenerationinitiative.org to nurture more young people to love nature and be conscious of the environment at a young age. We have been giving children and young people a learning by doing experience through environmental education, greening schools, establishing food forests in schools for food security and inculcating a tree growing culture among people for forest cover increment through ‘adopt a tree campaign’.
So far, we have trained and nurtured over 20,000 children in different schools across Kenya to love nature and be conscious of the environment at a young age and their role in addressing the ongoing climate crisis.
My first act as a climate activist was planting my first tree when I was 7, I have now planted over 30,000 tree seedlings and I do this through schools and through a campaign that I dubbed ‘adopt a tree campaign’.
The adopt a tree campaign has helped me inculcate a tree growing culture among people and all the trees I have planted so far have now had a 99% survival rate.
I have also been striking for the climate every Friday in Kenya joining the millions of Fridays for future young climate activists to demand for climate justice and action from world leaders. I have been telling the African story about the climate crisis impacts that we are currently facing hoping that our leaders and the world will act faster before the situation gets worse.
Through my work I have received various recognition, awards and accolades as follows,
- Due to my outstanding passion, leadership and personal commitment to environmental conservation and societal issues, I received the Wangari Maathai Scholarship Award from The Greenbelt Movement, Kenya Community Development Foundation and the Rockefeller Foundation https://www.greenbeltmovement.org/node/805and got nominated by the board to be a full member of The Greenbelt Movement.
- I have been honored internationally with The Diana Award 2019 https://diana-award.org.uk/roll-of-honour-2019/ for going above and beyond in my daily life to create and sustain positive change.
- My environmental conservation efforts were also recently recognized by the Duke and Duchess of Sussex https://www.tuko.co.ke/312761-kenyan-woman-recognised-by-prince-harry-meghan-markle-environment-conservation-efforts.html
- I was also one of the regional finalists for Africa for the UN Young Champions of the Earth 2019 https://web.unep.org/youngchampions/bio/africa/elizabeth-wathuti
- Being recognized among top 100 most influential young Africans in 2019.
- I received the Youth climate champion award 2019 from the Green Climate Fund (GCF).
- I have also been invited to speak in international forums such as the World Youth Forum 2019 in Egypt, COP 25 in Madrid Spain, 12th International seminar on sustainable regions which took place in Gran Canaria Spain, the UNFCCC Resilience Frontiers forum that took place in Songdo, South Korea, UNDP African presidential dialogue that happened in Ghana earlier this year.