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East Africa / Horn of Africa - Green Belt Movement

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Wangari Maathai, founder of Green Belt Movement (Kenya) was appointed Assistant Minister for Environment, Natural Resources & Wildlife after the democratic elections in 2003.

September 18, 2008
One of the Heinrich Böll Foundation’s long-time partner organisations in its "Democratisation of Society and Sustainable Development in the Horn of Africa" program is the "Green Belt Movement" (GBM). This Kenyan NGO was founded in 1977 from the "National Council of Women of Kenya" (NCWK); even today, most of GBM’s members are women.

Various programs have meanwhile developed out of the initial idea, which was to raise environmental consciousness and contribute to combating increasing soil degradation by tree-planting actions. Planting local tree varieties on public property and at seriously degraded locations (to form "green belts") continue to be one of the NGO’s major activities. In order to improve the food supply situation and living conditions of the population, the organisation also works to educate local households about ecological cultivation methods, biodiversity and food security. GBM’s agenda also includes environmental education and consciousness-raising among the population.

By using major protest events and campaigns to publicise bad governance and mismanagement in the area of the environment, as well as educating people about environmental protection and their own rights, GBM hopes to strengthen public commitment to a healthy environment. This process is fostered by establishing networks on the local, national and international levels ("Pan African Green Belt Workshops").

With the support of the Heinrich Böll Foundation, the "Green Belt Movement" has been organising public discussion forums since July 2002; their goal is to develop a "Society of Greens for Sustainable Development in Kenya." By co-operating and networking with other Green movements world-wide, they aim to raise the consciousness of the participants about a common "Green movement" The forums discuss current issues from an environmental perspective, for example the WSSD or constitutional reform in Kenya. The "Society of Greens" project also formulates and submits concrete suggestions on environmental policy to responsible state authorities.

The work of the "Green Belt Movement" illuminates the importance of the connection between project work on the grassroots level (e.g., planting trees with local communities) and direct influence on the political level. Only by creating a consciousness for the connection between environmental problems and resulting social problems at all decision-making levels of human coexistence will it be possible to learn to use the environment in a healthy and sustainable manner.