The Green Belt Movement (GBM) is an environmental organization that was founded in 1977 by Nobel laureate Professor Wangari Maathai, as an offshoot of the National Council of Women of Kenya (NCWK). The organization works with communities to particularly conserve the environment, empower women and improve livelihoods. The Green Belt Movement envisions a society driven by values which consciously works for the continued improvement of livelihoods and a greener, cleaner world. The organization also strives for better environmental management and community empowerment through tree planting—the entry point. Focused on four main points of action; tree planting and water harvesting, climate change, mainstream advocacy besides gender, and livelihood advocacy. The movement ensures that each point of action builds on and informs the other.
Tree planting and water harvesting facilitated by the organization enable communities to conserve biodiversity and restore ecosystems, helping to reduce impacts of climate change. The environmental organization also has a climate change program that seeks to strengthen the capacity and understanding of rural communities to adopt practices that mitigate climate change. This is achieved through raising national awareness regarding the role which local communities and forests play in mitigating against climate change.
Focusing on advocacy, the Green Belt Movement combines grassroots approach with international advocacy. At the grassroots level, the goal is to create climate-resilient communities through restoration and protection of forest watersheds, and the creation of sustainable livelihoods for communities in Kenya and across Africa. This approach empowers communities to take action against climate change. The impacts of these interventions are already being witnessed across Africa through food security and water harvesting activities. At the international level, the organization advocates for environmental policy that ensures the protection of natural forests and community rights, especially communities living close to and in forest ecosystems in sub-Saharan Africa and the Congo Basin Rainforest Ecosystem.
Professor Wangari Maathai, the first woman in East and Central Africa to earn a doctorate degree was an internationally reputed environmental activist. Her work, passion, and devotion towards environmental conservation led to her to be awarded the 2004 Nobel Peace Prize. Through a partnership with the Norwegian Forestry society, she worked for the Green Belt Movement as a partner and coordinator. Her devotion to the cause of saving the forests in Kenya led to death threats, whipping and beating. While forming the environmental organization, her aim was to plant trees to prevent environmental and social conditions from deteriorating and damaging the lives of impoverished people especially women.
Wangari Maathai Day
In January 2012, the African Union adopted a resolution calling for the joint celebrations of the African Environment Day and Wangari Maathai Day in recognition of the work and life of the late Wangari Maathai who died in September 25th, 2011. The celebration of the Wangari Maathai Day is in recognition of the work and life of the late environmentalist who dedicated her life to promoting environmental conservation and sustainable development in Africa. To date, the green belt movement has planted over 51 million trees in Kenya. The 2014 commemoration of the African Environment and Wangari Maathai Day was celebrated in Lesotho while the 2017 celebrations were held in Mauritania. The 2018 celebrations took place in Niamey, Niger.