DP: Seeds of Life


I hope everyone had a wonderful and merry Christmas over the weekend with family and friends. It’s a cold Monday night in Madrid, but warm thoughts of my family and tropical paradise located on the other side of the globe are helping me get through this winter season. 🙂

I was taking time to do some additional research on the group project that I am currently working on. My teammates and I were tasked to research and analyse on the Green Belt Movement (GBM), which was founded by the late Prof. Wangari Muta Maathai – an inspirational leader, role model, women’s rights activist, and 2004 Nobel Peace Prize Laureate from Kenya who recently passed away this year after a long battle with cancer.

Wangari Muta Maathai (1940-2011)

The more I read of Prof. Maathai and listen to her speak in videos of past interviews on the importance of protecting the environment, conserving resources, and learning about the causes and symptoms of environmental degradation, the more amazed I am with the vision and pure determination that someone like her possessed.

Who would have thought that the simplest act of planting a small seed could lead to a better standard of living? It lead me to believe, more than ever, that environmental protection and sustainability is indeed essential to us as it is directly linked to our livelihoods as human beings. Simply put, when our environment is in bad condition, our lives will be in bad condition as well. Thomas Berry states, “the natural world is the larger sacred community to which we belong. To be alienated from this community is to become destitute in all that makes us human. To damage this community is to diminish our own existence.”

Prof. Maathai’s wisdom has reminded us that if we were to plant and nurture a fruit tree, it bears fruit that can be fed to children and sold in the market, it provides a cool shade, prevents soil erosion, conserves rainwater, and absorbs CO2. If more trees are planted, the benefits will surely multiply.

Through its efforts to restore ecosystems and increase national forest cover, the GBM claims that it has planted over 45 million trees in Kenya. Planting trees has also helped to increase household income, and has become a source of strength and self-determination to many women who participated in the programme, thus empowering women and promoting gender equality. The significant amount of change and development on the environment and community that GBM has helped to achieve, has gained my profound interest and admiration for the works of the late Prof. Maathai who had sought to provide benefits and opportunities for her people and country.

My readings and online research has taught me so much about the significance of planting a tree. Today, the GBM has grown to become more international, with more programmes that range from crop diversification, to environmental education in schools, to capacity building, and more. It also collaborates with the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) and other organisations on global campaigns such as the “Billion Tree” campaign.

Billion Tree Campaign

In my opinion, a complicated problem doesn’t necessarily need to be solved with complicated solutions. When our environment worsens and pulls us further away from our dreams of a better life, why not start with planting a tree?

It will take time, patience, and perseverance but as Prof. Maathai once said, “The planting of trees is the planting of ideas. By starting with the simple step of digging a hole and planting a tree, we plant hope for ourselves and for future generations.”

"The planting of trees is the planting of ideas" - Wangari Maathai


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