The 45-year-old Green Belt Movement that started to change how we think about the intersections of gender and climate justice. What began with seven seedlings on World Environment Day 1977 has grown into the world's biggest afforestation movement.
- Overcoming the MonsterRags to Riches
Last updated: June 13, 2023
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“Hummingbirds” – they may feel insignificant but understand that any change they make can contribute to a bigger impact. Indigenous communities, particularly women. The network consist of over 4,000 community groups in Kenya, who volunteer to protect their natural environment and practice day to day liberation for women. Children gain exposure through Green Belt projects at their schools. Small farmers learn to appreciate the connections between forestry, soil conservation and their own needs for wood.
Deteriorating environments in rural regions permitted by those in power, impacting women’s social mobility: Dry streams, insecure food supply etc. Gender inequality is a major obstacle to socio-economic and political development.
Since 1977, the Green Belt Movement has planted over 51 million trees in Kenya. Supporting quality of life for the women and families in Kenya – by educating thousands of low-income women about forestry and creating about 3,000 jobs. The Green Belt Movement improves the livelihoods of the communities involved and creates a greener, cleaner world.
Disempowerment, disenfranchisement, and lack of agency to change political, economic, and environmental circumstances. For years, women, families and communities had been placing their trust in leaders who had betrayed them – working against common good and failing to use their natural resources wisely.
Call to Adventure
“When we plant trees, we plant the seeds of peace and hope.” Wangari Maathai Be a hummingbird. Hope that change can happen, seeing other women and communities empowered and thriving.
Crossing the Threshold
Tree planting initiatives, community advocacy programmes, and campaigning. Working together to grow seedlings and plant “belts” of trees and receive compensation for their work.
Three difficult but confidence-building hurdles to be overcome
- Conserve the environment and build climate resilience, through tree planting and water harvesting communities help to conserve biodiversity, restore ecosystems, and reduce the impact of climate change.
- Improved, sustainable and inclusive livelihoods. Over 30,000 women have been trained in forestry, food processing, bee-keeping, and other trades that help them earn income while preserving their lands and resources.
- Empowering communities especially women and girls to foster democratic space and advocate for more accountability from national leaders. Mobilized over 5,000 community members through Civic and Environmental Education. Past campaigns include Uhuru Park, Karura Forest, and Mottainai.
Allies and Gifts
The National Council of Women of Kenya - Maathai joining the council enabled international attention. Funders: World Resources Institute, Global Environmental Facility, The Nature Conservancy etc.
Mentors and Gifts
Professor Wangari Maathai, scholar, environmental activist and political leader. The work of Maathai and the Green Belt Movement stands as a testament to the power of grassroots organising, proof that one person’s simple idea can make a difference. Her legacy lives on through the Movement. “Disobedient at a time when disobedience was not tolerated.” The Green Belt Movement works at grassroots, national, and international levels to promote environmental conservation; to build climate resilience and empower communities, especially women and girls; to foster democratic space and sustainable livelihoods, using tree-planting as an entry point.
Abuse of Power
Lack of Agency
Seeds of Hope
Disobedient Founder and Scholar
Thriving Community and Environment
Call to adventure.
Crossing the threshold.
Mentor, allies and gifts.
The Green Belt Movement has mobilised support and action by tapping into a communal mindset to unite their heroes and by telling stories at personal, tribal and world levels. As ‘hummingbirds’ they can feel insignificant but see that any change they make will contribute to significant personal empowerment, community resilience, and worldwide environmental change.