Wednesday, July 30, 2008

The Green Belt Movement by Wangari Maathai

Jo Hunter Adams

The 2004 winner of the Nobel Peace Prize, Wangari Maathai talks about the Green Belt Movement, started in 1977.

Since 1977, over 30 million trees have been planted by the movement, and thousands of women provided with opportunities to build livelihoods.

The story is full of hope and possibility, as well as strong leadership. The movement was a simple, deeply rooted response to a problem.

Simplicity: The movement has an extremely clear goal. The steps involved in promoting tree planting is simple enough that each step towards planting trees can be replicated to prevent trees being wasted or the program being exploited.

Deep Roots: Derived from a structure that was grounded in the reality of the communities involved. Communities seem to make the choice to be a part of the movement, so the way that the movement grew was intensely organic and as result, much stronger.

Incentives: Even given the relative scarcity of resources, the Green Belt Movement sought to show respect for those choosing to join in and plant trees. As such, planting trees meant simultaneously building livelihoods.

Democratic Leadership: Maathai states that any organization—even a grassroots non-profit—needs to be democratically led from day 1. I thought of how true this likely is. For a movement to have longevity, it has to have a depth of vision and a breadth of power that makes it more than just the extension of our individual selves.

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