Partner Spotlight: Green Belt Movement

Every year nearly 3 million hectares of forests are lost in Africa to deforestation and degradation. 65 percent of land in Africa is affected by degradation, and 3 percent of GDP is lost annually from soil and nutrient depletion on cropland.

The Green Belt Movement (GBM), one of the most prominent environmental organizations based in Kenya, empowers communities, particularly women to conserve the environment and improve livelihoods. Founded by Professor Wangari Maathai in 1977, GBM has been playing a critical role in bringing issues relating to forest conservation to the attention of the public. In doing so, GBM has encouraged women to work together to grow seedlings and plant trees to bind the soil, store rainwater, provide food and firewood for cooking.

The Green Belt Movement has four main areas of operation— Tree Planting and Water Harvesting, Climate Change and Corporate Partnerships, Mainstream Advocacy, Gender Livelihood and Advocacy. Women are trained at the grassroots level to plant trees and cultivate seedlings, which are then sold in the market, offering them an additional  source of income. In addition, this offers an opportunity for them to manage the production of wood fuel for cooking in their homes.

Some of the over 4,000 registered members of the Green Belt Movement tree nursery groups, tending to their seedlings

In the Chania watershed on the eastern side of the Aberdare forest in central Kenya, Grace Wanjiru waters a seedling in the Githakwa PLWAS (People Living with AIDS) Needy Guardian Self Help Group nursery. Her simple act of planting trees with the Green Belt Movement is having an enormous impact on the degraded ecosystem, the water supply for bustling Nairobi, and the place of women in the community.

“Every one of us can make a contribution. And quite often we are looking for the big things and forget that, wherever we are, we can make a contribution. Sometimes I tell myself, I may only be planting a tree here, but just imagine what’s happening if there are billions of people out there doing something. Just imagine the power of what we can do.”  – Hon. Prof. Wangari Maathai

Together with the Partnership on Women’s Entrepreneurship in Renewables (wPOWER), GBM has trained over 300 women in seven counties in Kenya, on Sustainable Clean Energy Entrepreneurship – a training course that targets community leaders, especially women involved in sustainable clean energy. The Movement also provided training to over 200 rural women and community-based organizations, which has cascaded into them training over 20,000 members of their communities in natural resource management.

To date, more than 51 million trees have been planted across Kenya to protect critical watersheds, restore thousands of acres of indigenous forests, and empower thousands of women and their families.