Friday, 11 December 2009

Wangari Maathai and the Green Belt Movement/ Samwell Naikada and the Maasai Herders

'As long as we think that the other forms of life are here for us
we cannot give them the respect they deserve'
-Nobel Peace Prize winner Wangari Maathai

Just returing to the busy IFOAM Booth (H-017F for anyone who is around) after an inspiring but packed side event with Nobel Peace Prize winner Wangari Maathai, Brighter Green , Nobel Womens Innitiative and a young Maasai herder.

Wangari Mathai has started the Green Belt Movement in 1977 in response to serious soil and water resource losses in her region. It all started when Maatthai decided that the way forward was for the women of her village to plant trees, she found some foresters to teach them how to do it and has since invigorated the land and helped her people through the many benefits of reforestation. Maatthai has since started the Pan African Greenbelt Workshops to encourage and support other communities around Africa to reforest and regenerate natural places in their countries. Maathai then asked for the help of the Kenyan army for reforesting the country. 'While you are protecting the country the country is disapearing' she told them 'To protect the country give it complete protection'. Her requests got the attention of the commander of the Kenyan army who has since had his troops plant many trees. 'They come in uniform' she said. 'Even the UN Blue Helmets should be involved in tree planting.'

Samwell Naikada is a Maasai herder who told us about the changes his people are experiencing in Kenya. The Maasai people (Maasai Association) have about 500 hectares of forest left. This loss of forests is being suddenly felt by the people there. There are now wild grassland animals grazing in the forests and orangutan coming from forests to feed on young goats and sheep in the fields. These are things the Maasai have never seen before. Naikada runs a small organization to try and encourage people to raise fewer animals and stop cutting the trees in Kenya. He says that when he tells the Maasai herders that the animals are part of the problem they tell him he is lying. 'You are not speaking the truth' they say.'When you are a man you need to have cattle' he told us 'not just a few cattle you need many of them. In my family we have five men' he said 'and we will need to have 500 cattle.'

Ultimately it was a packed event with a load of information about the benefits of community involvement, of a sensible agricultural policy, of good governance and of the necessity for giving access to carbon funds to communities, especially communities of women, and small scale community forests.

That is it for now from Hopenhagen.

Mor Useful Links:

Maasai Women Development Organization (MWDO)
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