Newsletter: Updates From the Green Belt Movement

October 31, 2013

Dear Friends,

It has been a year of progress, change and tragedy in Kenya.

We are all still reeling over the loss of life following the horrific terrorist attack at the Westgate Mall in Nairobi. Thankfully, none of our dedicated staff or volunteers was caught in the melee, but we grieve for the loss of life and the shattering of the peace we all work so hard to promote. I encourage you to keep the families of all those affected by the tragedy in your thoughts in prayers.

Over the past year much change has come to the Green Belt Movement (GBM) and our sister organization, the Wangari Maathai Institute for Peace & Environmental Studies (WMI). Our reorganization efforts have marched forward, requiring some institutional downsizing and the unfortunate loss of valued London and Nairobi-based staff. But while our numbers may be smaller our mission is still clearly defined and our team on the ground is active and excited about our new programmes.

For example, GBM is working in partnership with the Ministry of Energy through the Kenya Energy and Environment Social Responsibility Programme. The objective of the programme is the rehabilitation of water catchment areas to enhance generation of hydro power -- as Kenya generates most of its electricity from hydro. GBM is working in the Sondu Miriu River catchment which is part of the Mau Forest complex in the next three years. The Mau is one of the five “water towers” in Kenya GBM has been working to protect and restore. Our goal is the rehabilitation of 155 hectares (383 acres) of degraded forest by planting and nurturing 250,000 trees.

Another partnership that we are particularly excited to be part of promotes women’s leadership in tackling the immense climate change and energy access challenges in Africa. It’s known as the Partnership on Women’s Entrepreneurship in Renewables -- “wPOWER” for short. “wPOWER” aims to empower more than 7,000 women clean energy entrepreneurs across East Africa, as well as Nigeria and India, to launch small businesses around technologies such as clean cookstoves and solar lighting.

WMI, with GBM’s expertise behind it, is excited have a central role in wPOWER as the host of a new MacArthur Foundation and U.S. Department of State funded “wPOWER Hub” that will help coordinate partners (including organizations like  Solar Sister, New Course and the UN Foundation’s Global Alliance for Clean Cookstoves), build the evidence base on the benefits of directly integrating women into the energy access value chain, raise public awareness on the transformative role women can play in building green economies, and host women’s entrepreneurship exchanges between India and Africa.

Today, in part because of GBM’s own work, we understand much more completely the linkage between deforestation and energy access, about how a lack of alternatives to wood fuel for heating or cooking can drive forest destruction and increase communities’ vulnerabilities to the effects of global warming and famine. Indeed, it was concern for women’s access to fuelwood that sparked Prof. Wangari Maathai’s pioneering environmental work among Kenyan communities.

We believe that our wPOWER partnership is an exciting opportunity to develop WMI’s experiential learning platform and foster best practices that will make a real difference on the ground by empowering rural women environmentally and economically, and training them in business, leadership, and natural resource management.

Also this year, Kenya concluded elections that saw the dawn of a decentralized government structure as the 2010 Kenya Constitution defined. To promote a peaceful transition and sustainable peace, GBM has partnered with Green Cross Sweden to enable communities to develop and strengthen civic and social structures at the county level. This renewed partnership will foster mutual working relations amongst grassroots peace building committees, women, youth, school-going children and the new county governments, thereby enabling access and equitable sharing of resources.

Wangari Maathai dedicated her last years to reorganizing and reinvigorating GBM and creating the WMI to ensure we see the challenges before us and equip future leaders with the tools to take these challenges on.  Please join us by supporting these exciting new partnerships. With your help we can make sure that Wangari Maathai’s extraordinary work continues for generations to come.


The Green Belt Movement

P.S. Here are some links to recent GBM articles and activities we thought you might be interested in!

Wanjira Mathai and Mia MacDonald, The Legacy of Wangari Maathai: Two Years On

Wanjira Mathai and Jamie Bechtel, Women as Green Agents of Change

Wanjira’s Clinton Global Initiative Plenary, Doing More with Less

Second Anniversary Memorial for Professor Wangari Muta Maathai

Kehkashan Basu, President of the Children's Board of Plant-for-the-Planet, visits GBM

ABC Home and Planet Foundation Initiative - Kenya's Coastal Region