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The Green Belt Movement is a grassroots non-governmental organization based in Kenya that takes an holistic approach to development by focusing on environmental conservation, community development and capacity building. Professor Wangari Maathai established the organization in 1977, under the auspices of the Maendeleo Ya Wanawake (National Council of Women of Kenya).

The Green Belt Movement organizes poor rural women in Kenya to plant trees, combating deforestation, restoring their main source of fuel for cooking, and stopping soil erosion. Maathai has incorporated advocacy and empowerment for women, eco-tourism, and just economic development into the Green Belt Movement.

Since Maathai started the movement in 1977, over 30 million trees have been planted. Over 30,000 women trained in forestry, food processing, bee-keeping, and other trades that help them earn income while preserving their lands and resources. Communities in Kenya have been motivated and organized to both prevent environmental destruction and restore that which was damaged.

Wangari Maathai received the 2004 Nobel Peace Prize, in part, for her work with the Green Belt Movement. Her book, The Green Belt Movement is published by Lantern Books.

The movement Edit

Structure Edit

There are two divisions of the Green Belt Movement: Green Belt Movement Kenya (GBM Kenya) and the Green Belt Movement International (GBMI).

Key focus areas of GBM Kenya Edit

The Green Belt Movement works in six principal areas, known as "core programs":

  • Advocacy & Networking
  • Civic & Environmental Education
  • Environmental Conservation/Tree Planting
  • Green Belt Safaris (GBS)
  • Pan African Training Workshops; and
  • Women for Change (capacity building)

Each of these programs is aimed at improving the lives of local inhabitants by mobilizing their own abilities to improve their livelihoods and protect their local environment, economy and culture.

Projects Edit

  • 1980s: Establishment of over 600 tree nurseries achieved (2,500 - 3,000 women assisting)
  • 1980s: Establishment of approximately 2,000 public green belts carrying 1,000 tree seedlings on each green belt
  • mid-1980s: Pan-African Green Belt Network developed (since adopted in Tanzania, Uganda, Lesotho, Malawi, Zimbabwe etc.)
  • 1988: Struggle against construction of Africa's tallest skyscraper in Uhuru Park Nairobi (see "Activism Against the Odds" below)
  • 2007: Support of the Billion Tree Campaign

Activism Edit

In 1989 the Movement took on the powerful business associates of President Daniel arap Moi. A sustained, and often lonely protest, against the construction of a 60-story business complex in the heart of Uhuru Park in Nairobi was launched and won.

In 1991 a similar protest was launched that saved Jeevanjee Gardens from the fate of being turned into a multi-story parking lot.

In 1998, the Movement led a crusade against the illegal allocation of parts of the 2,000 acre Karura Forest, a vital water catchment area in the outskirts of Nairobi. The struggle was finally won in 2003 when leaders of the newly elected NARC government affirmed their commitment to the forest by planting trees in the area.

This activism has come at a high cost to both Maathai in person and to the Movement. The Kenyan government closed Greenbelt offices, has twice jailed Maathai and she was subject in 1992 to a severe beating by police while leading a peaceful protest against the imprisonment of several environmental and political activists. Whilst these have served as impediments to the Greenbelt Movement, they have not stifled it and it continues as a world-renowned and respected Movement.

In 2007, the Green Belt Movement endorsed the Forests Now Declaration, calling for new market based mechanisms to protect tropical forests.

Future prospects Edit

In the early 21st century, the Movement is now vibrant and has succeeded in achieving many of the goals it set out to meet. Environmental protection has been achieved through tree planting, including soil conservation, sustainable management of the local environment and economy and the protection and boosting of local livelihoods. In addition to helping local women to generate their own incomes through such ventures as seed sales, the Movement has succeeded in educating thousands of low-income women about forestry and has created about 3,000 part-time jobs.

Village cinema Edit


External links

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