Kenyans Celebrate Heroes Day by Dramatizing the Life and Times of Wangari Maathai

Nation online 19th October 2012

Wangari Maathai’s memories will always inspire Kenyans to strive for that which is good for the Kenyan communities. Her legacy and that of many unsung women who have contributed to the building of peace and harmony in Kenya and to the development of Kenya cannot be over emphasized. Long live our heroines!

Mumbi Kaigwa is commemorating the life and passing on of Kenya’s most celebrated woman, Nobel Peace Prize winner, Prof Wangari Maathai.

She has assembled an outstanding cast of Kenyan actors and secured performing rights to a Pulitzer Prize-winning script about a brilliant woman whose life and death parallels Wangari’s in surprisingly similar ways.

Ms Kaigwa is also giving a chunk of the funds she hopes to raise from staging that play to the Nairobi Hospice, which is celebrating 20 years of assisting terminally ill patients.

Under her new theatre company, the Arts Canvas, Kaigwa and her troupe will stage Margaret Edson’s Wit from Tuesday to Sunday at Braeburn Theatre.

It is directed by Nyambura Wariungi, who worked in both film and theatre in Canada for more than a decade before returning home this year to make a movie and direct the Wit.

Wit features an amazing cast as well. It not only includes Kaigwa, who is celebrating 40 years of performing on stage, television and film this year, it also embraces a whole new crop of local film, theatre and TV talent, such as Dan Aceda, Samson Psenjen, Njoki Ngumi, Mugambi Nthiga, Fridah Muhindi, Sahil Gada, Wangui Thang’a and Musa Mwaruma.

Because Wit traces the life and death of Dr Vivian Bearing in dramatic detail, one might expect the play to be painfully depressing.

On the contrary, Wit is filled with ironic humour, sarcasm and self-awareness on Bearing’s part. Stunning is also an apt term for Kaigwa’s performance as the dying don who dramatically appraises the process of her passing almost to the very end.

Being a scholar and researcher with a literary flair (like Wangari), Bearing chooses to document the gruelling eight-month process of experimental treatment that she endures at the hands of medical researchers, students and specialists who claim to hold the cure to her ovarian cancer, but in the end she (and we) find out, they don’t.

Like Bearing, Wangari was diagnosed with ovarian cancer. She also endured months of experimental treatment that eventually failed. Nonetheless, for both women, death is not the end of the story by any means. See the play to find out what I mean.

Self-discovery

One of the beautiful bits about Wit is the way John Donne’s poetry is interwoven into the script. Also inspirational is Bearing’s deep affection for language, one of the elements of the university professor’s life.

But what I found most striking about the show was the process of psychological self-discovery that seemed to parallel Bearing’s physical treatment for cancer. For while the chemotherapy wasn’t successful, the soulful insights that she gained in the process were transformative.

Bearing, like Wangari, had been uncompromising in her professional life. However, this is the point at which the two women’s lives differ. For Bearing had got so caught up in her own genius and in the genius of the 17th century poet John Donne, that she had forgotten about compassion and human kindness.

Her students had suffered as a consequence. It is only when she is awakened to her own need for comfort and kindness that she reflects on her cold-hearted treatment of everyone around her. The realisation, however painful the process, is liberating for her.

Wit is a must-see, especially as it touches on a topic that affected one who was and remains very dear to many Kenyans, the Nobel laureate, Prof Wangari Maathai.

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Create a great Kenya: Plant at least one tree per year

I always think about the praying-mantis. All the hopes of survival for the beautiful and ever playful praying-mantis will be dashed with continued de-afforestation. Eventually these wonderful organisms will wiped out. What a pitty!!!

 

Article by Akoya Ochanda

All of us should come together to and participate in populating the world with many trees. Trees are very important in our lives today and their scarcity causes a real danger to the environment and to the survival of species including the human species. This is the essence of the carbon trade campaign. If we each planted one tree per year, we could do so much good to our environment by reducing the carbon footprint. Hence please create the opportunity and plant just one tree before the end of this year and at least one tree in all the coming years.

Every living organism depends on trees for survival. Trees and plants provide shelter and livelihood to a many of these organisms like birds, butterflies, bees, praying mantis to name just a few.  Wild animals depend on trees for their hideouts. If  deafforestation continues  imagine the danger caused to the survival of these important species. They will be  scattered all over, they will also be very insecure and not to add on the inconviniences they might cause.

Trees prevents soil erosion to our environment. They act as ground covers. They prevent rain water to carry away the top soil hence holding the upper fertile soil therefore making sure that our soils are ever fertile thus high yield.

Most of the industries depends on tree products to produce their goods. Fruits are processed to produce juices that are enjoyed by everyone while other tree parts are processed into papers and many other things. This also means that trees contribute directly to job creation and betterment of human lives.

Not everything is mentioned here but i encourage you guys who might happen to read this, should find more articles and see why we should put much consideration in tree planting. My advice: we should value trees very much if we value our lives tomorrow.

KENYA: Tree Planting Campaign Launched

NAIROBI, September 25, 2012 (CISA ) –The Mother Earth Network tree planting campaign was started on Saturday September 22 at the sprawling Mukuru Kwa Reuben slums in east of Nairobi. Kwa Reuben is one of the 12 villages that form Mukuru slum.

It was done in collaboration with the Reuben Youth Foundation. “We deal with environment matters, HIV and AIDS, drugs among the youths and sports. We want to create a good environment in our slums and all the villages in Mukuru: we want it to be an example to others.

Environment depends on us and we should take care of it for our benefit and that of future generations and strive to make where we live habitable,” says Timothy Kilaka an official at the foundation.

The campaign started at Word Wide Hope Centre then proceeded to all the schools in the village, in several worship centres and at the local police post. In the coming days the campaign will move to the remaining villages before going national.

The exercise involved the slum dwellers led by school going children from schools located in the slum. Over 400 trees were planted. Others present were Mr Aggrey Kere in charge of mobilization at Sustainable National Environmental Programme, Prosper Karagizi from Tangaza College, the Reuben Youth Foundation and Utalii college students.

The patron of Mother Earth Network  Hermann Borg thanked all those who participated  in the exercise and urged then to take care of the trees that they planted by watering them and protecting them from animals especially goats that roam the streets freely.

“This is just the beginning, we hope to plant as many trees as possible and improve the environment tremendously. Everyone should be involved for all stand to benefit if we have a good environment,” said  Borg.
Mother Earth Network is a faith based organization concentrating on the environment.

 

Pay a tribute to Prof. Wangari Maathai by planting a tree

In memory of Wangari Maathai

 

Mike Mungai

A tree; A plant beneficial in many ways but most are the times that only a few of us bother to think of the particular benefits. Prof Wangari once remarked, “It’s really amazing. You plant a seed; it germinates and looking so fragile, and within a very short time it becomes a huge tree. It gives you shade and if it’s a fruit tree it gives you fruit.” In times that we travel to “ushago” many see the avocados and mangoes and actually forget to look at the tree, only noticing it’s absence and of course that of fruits, only when it has long been cut down. The more trees are cut down either for firewood or simply because we want to expand our houses or initiate a poultry project, that is another source of fruit terminated. Next time you go to the market and find that the prices of these fruits are high or experience scarcity of particular fruits, do not complain since you played a role in the price hike.

As above stated, apart from providing fruits there are nitrogen fixing trees, trees that improve the fertility. Nitrogen is an element so necessary for the proper growth and development of crops. As such, some trees are natural fertilizers, which could be of great economic importance in areas where soils have lost their fertility. Trees also act as wind barriers; they reduce the impact of strong winds on crops and buildings. Felling down of trees not only keeps crops and buildings exposed to strong elements of weather which may in the long run lead to retarded crop growth and weak buildings. Apart from increased soil fertility, the amounts that would have been used to purchase fertilizers can be put to other uses by farmers.

A group of trees also function as water catchments. When hundreds of trees lose water daily through transpiration to the atmosphere, the water vapor rises accumulates and condenses to form clouds which result in rainfall. The importance of rainfall water for our economy is great considering the fact that as an agricultural dependent economy we also rely much on rainfall fed agriculture rather than irrigation. Rainfall water in rivers is used for hydroelectricity production, for consumption and rivers provide shelter for fish. Cutting down of trees for whatever purpose is detrimental to the constant supply of rainfall which leads to adverse effects on agricultural and energy production. It also leads to pipe water shortages or rationing.

Trees consume Carbon Dioxide, a green house gas that causes global warming from the atmosphere and gives out Oxygen a vital gas for the survival of human beings and animals. Global warming leads to; adverse climate changes such as increased or decreased amounts of rainfall, very warm summers or very cold winters, melting of glaciers and consequential rising of sea and ocean levels. Desertification, the spread of deserts also occurs due to increased temperatures and decreased vegetation covers amongst other factors. It is said that the Sahara Desert expands at a rate of 48 kilometers every year. Pretty soon it will be knocking at our doors. Prof Wangari’s advice in addressing the desertification issue was, “We want to see many Africans planting trees. There is absolutely no excuse to stop desertification because this is something that is doable and cheap.”

Every once in a while it is possible to see individuals taking a rest under trees. Trees provide shades from sun radiation. Years ago, I recall that Wazee’s baraza used to be held under the shade of trees, and to really understand the importance of these shades, imagine Uhuru Park or City Park without trees.

Trees provide much needed shelter for different types of animals and birds. It cannot go without mentioning the economic importance of these particular animals to the much needed income from tourists who come to see the different bird and butterfly species among other animals. The resulting effects of tourism is the many jobs created in the hospitality industry. Accordingly, tourism is the third largest contributor to the gross domestic product of Kenya.

When it comes to property ownership especially real estate, it is much more expensive to purchase a piece of land or a house in areas where there are trees as compared to those that lack trees. Most of us study, find employment and make a lot of saving so that one day we can purchase land or a place to stay in the posh neighborhoods’ of Lavington, Kilimani, Karen, Runda, Kitisuru to mention just a few. Why not save for a piece of land or a house in areas with little or no tree cover? The answer is simple, the trees add aesthetic value to the surroundings and many times where there are trees, there is beauty and there is fresh air.

The above are just some of the benefits of trees to the world – the environment, economy and to us. Sadly we never put into consideration some of these benefits before we encroach and settle in forests, before we cut down every tree that we see before us for either charcoal production, firewood or so that we can use the wood to construct houses, make sculptures or furniture.

We should all engage in afforestation and reforestation programs. Planting trees where none exist and where others had been felled. We should also strive to plant a tree whenever we cut down one. As we commemorate an year since the passing of Prof Wangari Maathai, let us take it unto ourselves to engage in environmental conservation initiatives. There is a lot to be done when it comes to the environment, it can be done but what matters is are we ready to do it? Are we ready to participate in cleanup activities? Are we ready to engage in recycling processes, especially that of paper bags? Are we ready to participate in proper waste/garbage management practices?

The environmental challenge and responsibility is up to us; to act negatively, remain as bystanders or act constructively. However, we should remember that if only we could act like the hummingbird in Prof Wangaris’ fable, we could achieve a lot, collectively!

Kenya Discovers Oil

More on this here and here and here and here and here

Turkana is one of the poorest regions in Kenya. Its people have suffered attacks from neighboring hostile communities, famine, sickness and have been literary left behind in all the development endervors of the country. In a metaphorical way the cartoon by Gado above asks the government a very crucial question.

There is excitement in Kenya as Tullow Oil a British firm strikes Oil in Turkana County. The Kenyan President Mwai Kibaki announced the news on Monday the 26th March 2012. This weekend, Tullow Oil which has been prospecting for oil in block 10BB in Turkana county discovered oil in Ngamia One well at a depth of between 846 and 1041 metres. They have established over 20 metres of what is technically refered to as oil pay. … This is the first time Kenya has made such a discovery.

The Ngamia site. Photo: East African Standard

The Kenyan Minister for Energy Mr. Kiraitu Murungi in confirming the president’s announcement said

It is true that Oil has been discovered. We now need to work to establish how much oil is present. The work to put in place proper structures for extraction and selling of the oil will take about three years. Hence we ask Kenyans not to be apprehensive but be patient so as this work may be done well. This discovery is a blessing to the county of Turkana and the entire country as a whole.

In an era of rising petroleum prices, African oil has been drawing new interest from major companies around the globe. Its oil is considered to be of high and relatively inexpensive to refine. But most Africans are seeing little benefit from this influx of oil drillers and investment. In fact, because of an economic paradox known as the “Resource Curse,” they are often hurt by exports of their countries’ oil. “Between 1970 and 1993, countries without oil saw their economies grow four times faster than those of countries with oil.”

With this discovery Kenya should avoid dependency on this resource and instead adopt the approach of Norway whose oil sector has not been made to drive the economy. Hence Kenya should use this resource to continue fueling their enterprise, education and other important areas of the economy. On the other hand there are other concerns such as the costs and benefits of this discovery and how the  income the government gets from this resource will be spent first for the benefits of Turkana county and the entire country as a whole; projects of this nature are also known to have serious environmental problems; hence these considerations should be taken into place before serious commencement of the project.

The Legacy of Wangari Maathai, the Social Activist

When I was a young person, I grew up in a land that was green, a land that was very pure, a land that was clean. And I remember going to a small stream very close to our homestead to fetch water and bring it to my mother. We used to drink that water straight from the river. I had this fascination with what I saw in the river. Sometimes I would see literally thousands of what looked like glass beads. I would put my little fingers around them in the hope that I would pick them and put them around my neck. But every time I tried to pick them, they disappeared. I would be there literally for hours desperately trying to pick these beads, without success. Weeks later I would come back, and there would be these thousands of little tadpoles. They are beautiful, pitch black, and in that water they would be energetically flying around and I would try to get them. You can’t hold them, they are wiggling and they are very slippery. They eventually disappeared and then the frogs came. I never realized that the glass beads were jelly sacks of eggs or understood the three stages of frogs until I went to college and learned biology. Once I had all this knowledge about the miracle of science I came home from college to discover that the creek had dried up and my homeland was suffering much environmental damage. (By Professor Wangari Maathai published in Grist Magazine 15 Feb 2005)

Milicent Agutu

A social Activist

Social Activists are persons who fight/fought against injustices done to the people, by leading people in taking action for their own social transformation or by making people to be protagonists of their own change. Wangari Maathai was one of the Kenyan Social and Environmentalist Activist, founder of the Green Belt Movement, first Eastern African woman to receive a PhD. and first African Woman to win the Laureate Nobel Peace Prize.

This analysis is to explore the real names of the activist, injustices fought against, actions done to fight injustices, structures, institutions, organizations set up by her, advocacy undertaken to change the social systems and structure, the obstacles she faced and from whom, what were the results in her lifestyle and the results today.

Professor Wangari Maathai – was born in Nyeri, Kenya (East Africa) in 1940. She was the 1st African woman to receive a PhD. in Central and Eastern Africa and the 1st African woman to win the Laureate Nobel Peace Prize besides winning several other awards for her social activism, launching several campaigns, establishing several movements and serving on Boards of several organizations. She is known for her persistent environmental conservation, human right and democracy struggle.

In the fight for human rights, she took part in hunger strike in a corner at Uhuru Park (Freedom Corner), to pressurize the government to release political prisoner, however the police forcibly removed the protestors, the protest continued until all prisoners were released in 1993. When Wangari took part in hunger strike, the government audited the Green Belt Movement in an apparent attempt to shut it down.

In 1997 Professor Wangari campaigned for equal benefits for women on the staff of the University which went as far as attempting to turn the academic staff association into a union in order to negotiate benefits, the court denied this bid but many of her demands were later met.  She received the woman of the world award in 1989, enjoyed leadership as she served in Boards of several organizations both nationally and internationally i.e. she was elected the UN Secretary General’s Advisory Board on Disarmament and was the founder and director of Green Belt Movement.

In Environmental arena Wangari founded the Envirocare Ltd to limit the rising unemployment, while restoring environment and providing job, she also started the business of trees where she involved the ordinary people at the Karura Forest and also paid them per each tree seedling. In 1988 Wangari campaigned for the registration of voters for election and pressed for constitutional reform and freedom of expression. In 1998 she protested against government privatization of public land in Karura Forest to give to political supporters. She led a group of women and they planted trees which later on the 16/8/1998 made President Moi to announce the banning of allocation of public land. Professor Wangari also sought for an injunction in the Kenya high court to halt the construction (60 – stony Kenya Times Media Trust Complex) on 15th November 1989 by the government at Uhuru Park. This led foreigners to cancel the project in January 1990. Government was against many of the stances the movement taught pertaining to rights and democracy and being restricted to concentrate only on environment, Government too invoked the colonial-era law of prohibiting groups or more than 9 people meeting without attaining license from the government.

When she protested against the grabbing of Uhuru Park to contract a 60 – story, Kenya Times Media Trust Complex, the government forced her to vacate her office and the Green Belt Movement and she was forced to move into her house, where they later broke in and took her to the jail for 3 days and was later released on bail. She was also called names and with other pro-democracy activists were targeted for assassination. Green Belt Movement was called a bogus organization and its members, a bunch of divorcees. Also when she protested in 1998 against privatization of public land in Karura Forest, which was to be located to political supporters, Wangari, four Members of Parliament, Journalists and the German environmental student   protests, they were attacked and injured.

Her struggle to protect the environment made her known nationally and internationally and she received several awards both nationally and internationally i.e. The 2004 Laureate Nobel Peace, The conservation scientist award and served in President Kibaki’s government as an Assistant Minister for Environment and Natural Resources and Wildlife and till death served the Eminent Advisory Board of the Association of European Parliamentarians with Africa (AWEPA). In June 1997, she was elected by Earth Times as one of the 100 persons in the world who made a difference in the Environment arena. Through Wangari’s activism, Uhuru Park was not grabbed and as such there is some natural beauty in the town centre where a thousand families are formed everyday and new lovers find a place to prepare for future plighting of troth. There is space for public activities as crusades are conducted there, government defense teams practice there, and the freedom corner reserved too.

The Karura Forest was protected, thus led to the establishment of Envirocare Ltd, which provided environmental restoration, jobs for unemployed, water catchment area. This later also led to the finding of the Green Belt Movement which focused on planting trees, environmental conservation, human rights which contributed much to sustainable development, democracy and peace.

Politically Professor Wangari started the movement for free and fair election, during the multiparty election in 1992 she formed a middle ground group in effort to unite the opposition, which she later became the chair person, this movement promoted free and fair elections. During tribal clashes she travelled with friends and media to encourage people to cease fighting and with Green Belt Movement, “Planted trees of peace” that made peace prevail in the area. She became the Chairperson for the Movement of free and fair elections formed in 1992, during the multi-party elections.

 Final Remarks

From the analysis of Professor Wangari’s life as an activist, it simplifies what is required of a social activist and the challenges faced in activism. Where as the main requirements are Love for the creation, Diagnostic abilities (ability to sense/identify problems and offering solutions), Conceptual abilities (turning reality into model), Technical abilities (use of the modern technologies). These main requirements could be broken further to resource mobilization, research abilities, good implementation plans, leadership skills and techniques, training ability, multi tasking abilities, cost and expense control, activities budgeting. While for one to handle the challenge in activism, it must be a call and sacrifice (one must be ready to die for others). Activism needs the application of the pastoral cycle effectively at all its stages (insertion, social analysis, theological reflection and action).

Curriculum to Teach about Wangari Maathai

Join the struggle against human trafficking!!

By Mike Mungai (Bwana Mdogo)

The blue heart campaign is a new  initiative against human trafficking.  All can join it and contribute to it in their own ordinary ways.

Students and members of the community in Riruta Satelite, Nairobi united  against human trafficking during the world clean up day down.

Simple activities can be used to get the counter human trafficking message to the society in simple ways

Let us be united against human trafficking. Let us spread this message far and wide! REG uses days such as the World Clean Up day to spread this message.

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