Professor Wangari Maathai founded The Green Belt Movement in 1977 to respond to the needs of rural Kenyan women who reported that their streams were drying up, their food supply was less secure, and they had to walk further and further to get firewood for fuel and fencing. They were suffering from malnutrition and did not have clean water or firewood. GBM encouraged the women to work together to grow seedlings and plant trees to bind the soil, store rainwater, provide food and firewood, and receive a small monetary token for their work (Maathai, 2009) .
As in many other parts of the world, the basic reason for all these problems was that most of the land was now devoted to producing crops to sell to other countries. There was little forest and little land to grow food. Having no forest also meant there was no wood for cooking. The result was malnutrition. In addition, many rivers had dried up because, with no forest cover, the land had lost its ability to absorb the rain. So, clean water was becoming hard to get. When Wangari Maathai heard about the problems in her homeland, she knew—because she had studied ecology— that more trees were the solution. Trees would provide a supply of wood and then women could cook their traditional healthy foods. Trees also would provide wood for fences, and food for animals. They would provide shade and help bring back the wild animals. Finally, by protecting and improving the soil, the rain would not run off and away, but would move into slowly into it to feed the rivers.
The Green Belt Movement instituted seminars in civic and environmental education, now called Community Empowerment and Education seminars (CEE), to encourage individuals to examine why they lacked agency to change their political, economic, and environmental circumstances. Participants began to understand that for years they had been placing their trust in leaders who had betrayed them and that they were sabotaging their lives...