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What would you do if you found a little girl struggling to find her way through the crowd just to shake the hand of a very prominent person who happens to be her role model? Well, they say that in every smiling face lies a hidden story, 14 Years ago, I had a dream. I had always wanted to meet and shake the hand of the late Professor Wangari Maathai to an extent of always squeezing my tiny self through the crowd whenever she held political rallies. Having been born and raised in Nyeri County, Tetu constituency, the late professor Wangari Maathai was my member of parliament at a time when I was only 7 years old. I always loved and admired her love for the environment and particularly trees.

While sitting round the fire place in the evening, I loved how my grandmother would share story’s concerning Wangari Maathais’ conservation works. Little did she know that she was planting a seed in me to emulate this great conservationist. My grandmother valued education so much and I remember, she always encouraged me to study hard just like Wangari Maathai if at all I ever wanted to meet her. I heeded to her advice and my performance began improving in school because I had a driving force. I planted my first tree at the age of 7 years old when I joined the wildlife and environmental club in primary school. I was so sensitive about trees to an extent that I always got home early as I wasn’t playing around with leaves on my way home from school. Professor Wangari Maathai used her heart and hands to sow seeds for the future which we are now reaping. She was selfless and fought for the environment jealously with future generations in mind.

There is always a price attached to every positive change, but when it came to environmental conservation, Wangari Maathai stood out, she didn’t mind paying the heavy price. Some called her mad, she received all sorts of insults, risked her own life and they even jailed her but she had a vision and was confident about spreading the same message. Despite all this, her struggle and legacy stood out. She had no selfish motives, she was only fighting for a better future. She spent most of her life planting trees, empowering people, promoting peace and creating awareness on environmental conservation.

Well, the journey to my dream wasn’t so easy, but lets see if it ever came to pass. My love for the environment doubled when I got to high school because my knowledge on the same was also scaling up. I worked towards my envisioned dream and I remember reviving the Weather and Environmental club in Kangubiri Girl’s High School where I was admitted after passing my Kenya Certificate of Primary Education (KCPE). By the time I was in form two, I already knew that I wanted to become an environmentalist. Well, I sounded crazy because I was the odd one out in my class alongside; doctors, nurses, pilots, managers and engineers, but I had a dream and giving up was not an option. My geography teacher always encouraged me and the school also assigned us a portion of land where we planted and adopted trees. 25th of September 2011 was a very sad and emotional day for me when I heard of the demise of the late professor Wangari Maathai. I knew that it marked the end of my dream of ever meeting her or even shaking her hand. This meant that every effort that I had made to fulfill this dream had all gone down to the drain. At first, I lost the meaning of studying but then something in my inner spirit kept telling me that all was not lost and I immediately began walking into libraries just to check for any written material about the late professor Wangari Maathai.

I read books about her; the first one being unbowed; which I realized motivated me and inspired me to stand strong and follow in her footsteps. I may not have met her physically, but her legacy reigns on, I’m happy that I am now reaping the seeds that she sowed during her time and the only way I can give back is to follow in her conservation footsteps for the sake of my future generations. I am now more than ever before, determined to leave my mark just as the late Nobel prize winner did. She always loved quoting that “We are called to assist the earth heal her wounds and, in the process, heal our own.”

I am not only passionate about the environment but I also study a course in environment and I love exploring different ideas just to be part of the solution towards different global environmental challenges. Today is Wangari Maathai Day, a day set aside in honor of the late Nobel prize winner; professor Wangari Maathai. I decided to honor her by sharing part of my untold childhood story as she plays a major role in my journey as an environmentalist. Your legacy reigns on and you will forever remain in our memory. Let us together protect and fight for our environment jealously and never let whatever she fought for get down to the drain. Happy Wangari Maathai Day and remember to always plant trees in her honor by making tree planting your habit.

Writer,                                                                                                                                                          Elizabeth Wanjiru Wathuti – Liz Mazingira                                                                              4th Recipient of Wangari Maathai Scholarship Award.

                                                                                                                                             – 0726309533

Exemplary Lessons From Most Forested Nations Worldwide.

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Trees may not have WIFI but anytime I walk into a forest, I always feel the connection. A survey carried out in 2015 in Bhutan; one of the most forested nations, found out that 91% of the Bhutanese were either extensively or deeply happy. Environmental conservation is a global issue that ought to be prioritized. Currently, most countries in the world are either struggling to increase their forest cover, trying to maintain their high forest cover or have no forest cover at all. I bet you already know where your country lies. I am amazed by the world’s top 20 countries that are most tree-filled. Well, I decided to pick on a few.

This is heaven-Kaieteur Falls in Guyana; Among the top most forested countries (77% forest cover). Guyana is a small nation that has shown exceptional progress in conservation matters worldwide. Some may attribute this to the fact that Guyana is a small nation with a low population, but indigenous people in this nation have since history engaged in forest conservation while still reaping benefits and a living from the same forests. One of the most outstanding efforts is that it’s also a leading nation worldwide in the development of national forest Measurement, Reporting and also Verification Systems.

Have a look at how hotels in Bhutan are constructed – commonly referred to as forest villas. (86% forest cover). Well, in Bhutan, Co -existing with trees is not just a term. Clearing of land and cutting down of trees for development is not common in this country. 86% of the entire country is forested. Did you know that Bhutan is the only carbon negative country in the world producing more oxygen than it consumes? Bhutan’s forest cover success story is attributed to good governance. Their fourth king was a visionary leader who; passed laws permitting all households to extract firewood, banned timber export, declared 30% of the forests as protected, encouraged community forestry and also offered alternatives such as free electricity to farmers to reduce their demand for firewood. Currently, Bhutan has plans to maintain its green cover, go zero waste, 100% organic and its government is now pushing for electric cars.

Mystic forest of Yakushima Island in Japan. Japan stands at 69% forest cover. Most countries have blamed deforestation on population density issues, but did you know that Japan is the 10th most populated country worldwide with a population of 127 million and has still managed a 69% forest cover? However, it has not been a walk in the park for Japan. Three hundred years ago, Japan was undergoing a greedy form of deforestation that almost turned the nation’s scenery into a wasteland. As a solution, Japan completely and successfully switched from unsustainable forest exploitation to sustainable forestry. Another outstanding lesson from Japan was the use of Community management of village forests and silviculture which kept spreading from one village to another and eventually helped save Japans’ forests.

A Slow drift into a rural village in Zambia (Aerial view) – Zambia has a 66 % forest cover. Zambia is located within the southern African region and has a 66% forest cover. The local and urban communities do benefit from the forests by utilizing the wood and non-wood forest products. However, unsustainable levels of forest utilization as a result of weak institutions, high poverty levels, demand for fuel-wood and unpopular conservation laws led to a great loss of this forest cover, between 2000 and 2014. Zambia is currently trying to recover the lost forest land by encouraging the use of alternative sources of domestic energy, sustainable techniques of charcoal production and ensuring that timber extraction and all forests actions proceed within the provisions of the 2015 forests act.

Kenya’s forests are rapidly declining as a result of pressure from increased population, logging, the shamba system, clearing of natural forests for developments and plantations, fires, forest excisions, human settlements and illegal exploitation by different stakeholders. The dwindling of this forest cover has had severe effect on the climate, streams, wildlife and also the human population. There are several lessons that we can learn from different forested nations which include; strict implementation of all legal mechanisms, community forest conservation, sustainable forest management, alternatives to most exploited forest products among many others. The road to increase the countries forest cover as a nation is not easy but it’s something we really need now and in future and everyone needs to rise up to the challenge and get on board. Rising up to the challenge means dealing with everything that is dwindling our forest cover. “It is the little things that we citizens do that make a difference”, I quote my mentor the late Professor Wangari Maathai. What is your little thing towards helping Kenya achieve the targeted 10% forest cover? Are you part of the solution or the problem?

Elizabeth Wanjiru Wathuti – Liz Mazingira.
4th recipient of Wangari Maathai Scholarship award.


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It is true that we never know the worth of water till the well runs dry. Despite the fact that water is one of the most fundamental requirements for life, our rivers and the most important sources of water are now facing a grave crisis. One may argue that two-thirds of our planet is water, but did you know that despite this fact we still face an acute water shortage?

It takes a lot of blue to stay green. Mt Kenya’s ecosystem; a leading water catchment area in Kenya that provides water directly to over two million people has most of its rivers currently running dry. The ecosystem not only serves as a catchment for Ewaso Ngiro North, but also for river Tana; the largest river in Kenya.  All rivers flowing from Mt Kenya form tributaries of both Tana and Ewaso Ngiro rivers.

Well, every drop of water counts. As we speak, we are in a swim or sink situation and even as we get deeper to the real issues on the ground, there is too much blame game and the big question is ‘who is responsible?’.Despite the fact that large-scale farmers are being blamed for draining the rivers, the small-scale farmers aren’t clean either, this is because they also pump water directly from the rivers to irrigate their farms. Mt. Kenya region is very rich in agricultural production and irrigation has really boosted the farmer’s agricultural produce. So, is farming the major problem? Well, the problem is definitely worse than this.

“Nature is very unforgiving and if you destroy nature, it will destroy you,” powerful words from the late Professor Wangari Maathai.  Let’s get a true picture of the current situation of a few of the many rivers flowing from Mt Kenya and Aberdares that are drying up. Gura River, famously known for being the fastest river in Africa is running dry. In fact, some residents refer to it as “Usain Bolt” river. Whenever the water levels are high, the river is known to form the swiftest fall in Kenya that cascades 300 M into an impenetrable canyon.

This is river Thegu which hails from Mt. Kenya. It was previously famous for its booming trout population, breathtaking scenery, ice cold water as well as a home for both flora and fauna. What is left now? Sadly neglected scenery full of pebbles. Have a look.With the two just being samples, many more rivers including Sagana, Ontulili, Thuci, and Rupingazi are on the verge of disappearing. This is definitely a question of ecosystem degradation which is human-induced on an upper hand. We cannot ignore or suspend other natural factors that may have led to this, but sometimes we blame nature too much when we human beings are the leading causes of the environmental challenges being faced by the human race. Climate change is now affecting everyone.

A naked truth is that logging is going on in Mt Kenya. It’s so sad that the rising demand for wood has led to the exploitation of indigenous trees even on spots well-known to be natural water sources such as streams. Earlier on, tree harvesting was mostly allowed for trees that had fallen as a result of old age and there was licensing for the same. What changed? This may definitely mean that the people who have been entrusted to protect our natural resources are either sleeping in their line of duty or are now in cahoots with illegal and unknown merchants who access our forests to cut down live trees for poles or timber.

This is a sad situation and an urgent call for action from all stakeholders; citizens, the government, environmentalists, county governments, private sectors and all conservation consortiums. We all need to be responsible. It’s the higher time we unite and shift our policies in favor of integrated water resource management, re-afforestation practices, capacity building and environmental education on the importance of biodiversity conservation and water harvesting, strict guarding and patrols of our gazetted forests, electrifying forest fences, policy implementation and most importantly being honest with ourselves.


Who will wipe away her painful tears?

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We’re facing the biggest environmental challenge of our time and no matter what we’re passionate about, something we care about will be affected by climate change. It is only when the last tree has died and the last river has been poisoned and the last fish been caught will we realize that we cannot eat money. Indeed, there is danger in thinking that the environment is less important than development or the economy. Isn’t it evident that mother earth is in tears? but now, who is going to wipe her tears?

Why are we living in this planet as if we have another one to go to once planet earth is messed up? As if the scientists have just discovered that planet Jupiter and Pluto can now support life? Don’t you be misled, if we continue messing up planet earth then we will have no other option but to live in our own mess. “We are the first generation to be able to end poverty, and the last generation that can take steps to avoid the worst impacts of climate change. Future generations will judge us harshly if we fail to uphold our moral and historical responsibilities.” I conquer with the united Nations secretary General Ban Ki-Moon on this statement.

At the moment, the greatest risk to Africa’ growth and economy is climate change. Think about the effects of climate change for instance. I will take you all the way to China where the kids of Beijing are forced to wear pollution masks just to go to school all because the air in China is so polluted. Is this what you want for your kids? Your own son or daughter? Your grandchildren? Your great grandchildren? The answer lies in your hands. We must achieve sustainable development Goal number 13 by taking Action against climate change through mitigation and adaptation measures. Other climate change effects include food insecurity, deforestation, droughts, flooding, melting glaciers, species extinction, poverty, skin diseases due to ozone layer depletion among others.

I think we are running the most dangerous experiment in history, which is trying to see how much carbon dioxide the atmosphere can handle before there is an environmental catastrophe. You know, with the increasing number of industries, transport systems leading to congestion of vehicles in towns, clearing forests by cutting down of our carbon sinks (the trees), poor waste disposal methods and particularly burning plastic wastes, too many constructions and development projects at the expense of even the gazetted forests and our wild animals among other activities that are leading to climate change.

Such are the times when we ought to start thinking of engaging in climate mitigation and adaptation practices. This may include; practicing climate smart agriculture, use of energy efficient appliances, planting of trees, use of sustainable innovations and ideas especially from young people. We also ought to major and invest in climate change and gender. I’m a very happy person today because the issue on gender and climate change was well discussed during the conference of parties 21 in Paris, France. Gender happens to be sustainable development goal number 5. Women represent the biggest percentage of the worlds poor, hence, its important to put them on the front line when trying to get solutions to climate change. Women are the most affected in terms of climate change. Maybe someone would ask me why women? Others would wonder if the floods that come as a result of climate change only sweep away settlements that belong to women and leave those that belong to men standing still. Anyway, that’s a joke for another day. Did you know that women produce almost 60% of the food that we eat? and the agriculture sector being the most affected by climate change contributes a huge percentage of the gross domestic product (GDP) especially in African countries.

If you are a leader, be a leader with a difference, if you care about the future generations, be different by conserving planet earth in all your movements, actions, dealings and activities. Don’t struggle looking for a shade where you can pack your Mercedes Benz and you know very well deep down in your heart that you are so afraid of getting your hands dirty planting trees. Planet earths needs real people who will love her with true love and not pretense. The earth has got enough resources, but it only has enough to satisfy mans needs but not mans greed.

Time to act on climate change is either now or never and its important to note that the greatest threat in this planet is the believe that someone else will save it. You had better taken up your positions since no one else will save planet earth. We only have one single mission left, to protect and hand on a clean, green and healthy planet to the next generation. My parting short is definitely from my mentor, the late professor Wangari Maathai, “Until you dig a hole, you plant a tree, you water it and nurture it, you are not doing a thing you are just talking.”

More Than Just Passion For Conservation

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