The Green Belt Movement (GBM) has a lofty goal: to plant one billion trees worldwide. It may sound ambitious, but it can be achieved with the help of GBM’s numerous partners and members. This grassroots civil society organization (CSO) was founded in 1977 by Nobel Prize winner Wangari Maathai as a way to empower women living in poverty. It is divided into Green Belt Movement Kenya and Green Belt Movement International (GBMI). It one of the largest existing civil society organization with over 100,000 women participants. Women plant income-generating trees to prevent deforestation, lack of water, and soil erosion. Directly involving the women in the service that raises their quality of life has created an environment that fosters continued participation. According to the Green Belt Movement, “The act of planting a tree is helping women throughout Africa become stewards of the natural environment” (GBM). The project began in Kenya but has expanded to many other African countries as the Pan African Green Belt Network. It is helping to support Millennium Development Goal 7: “Integrate the principles of sustainable development into country policies and programmes; reverse loss of environmental resources” and Goal 3: “promote gender equality and empower women” (UN).
GBMI has goals of continuing to expand their work outside of Kenya, empowering women and girls and nurturing their leadership and entrepreneurial skills (GBM). The vision of GBM is to “create a society of principle grassroots people who consciously work for continued improvement of their livelihoods” by mobilizing thousands of women to establish tree nurseries and plant indigenous trees on farms, public lands and forests. Women receive a financial token for the seedlings that survive (Special 6). Communities have developed an “internalized linkage between their basic needs and a healthy environment” (Special 6).
Today, as a result of the GBM, “more than 40 million trees have been planted across Africa. The result: soil erosion has been reduced in critical watersheds, thousands of acres of biodiversity-rich indigenous forest have been restored and protected, and hundreds of thousands of women and their families are standing up for their rights and those of their communities and so are living healthier, more productive lives” (GBM). GBM also works in advocacy efforts to bring attention to poor governance and abuse of the environment. Members involved in the movement have been empowered by the outcome of the impact they have made on the environment.
Increasing participation and membership was necessary for the success of the GBM. GBM has used many elements of increasing participation and membership found in the related Community Tool Box Toolkit. The GBM motivates greater involvement by knowing the interests of the audience. Joseph Karangathi Njoroge has worked with GBM Kenya for 8 years said, “GBM does not dictate an agenda. We help communities identify their problems and solutions; that way they own and sustain them” (GBM). GBM recognizes that groups are made of individuals and provides different ways to participate through tree-planting, bee-keeping, goat-herding, environmental education, advocacy, and Green Belt safaris. More participants and organizations are recruited through Pan-African Training Workshops where the GBM approach is shared in two-week training workshops (GBM). Women in the movement “also take on leadership roles, running nurseries, working with foresters, planning and implementing community-based projects for water harvesting and food security” (GBM) They help accomplish the objective of limiting forest degradation while gaining skills, confidence, and income. GBM contacts potential members through sensitization and mobilization seminars in areas women may frequent—such as community centers or religious settings. They do not require participants to register so “they can engage as many people as possible within the shortest time” (Special 13). The individuals form groups and can register at no cost as members of GBM. The women are trained in seed sowing and nursery development. They collect indigenous seeds from the forest, plant them in their nurseries and transplant them to the forest and verify they are growing at one and three month intervals (Special 13). The entire process is facilitated by a Green Volunteer so participants are confident in the process and can use their own strengths and ask seek support. GBM also encourages the planting of trees and plants that will provide food security. At all steps of the GBM process, participants have open communication with GBM. Logistical barriers are reduced because women work with GBM in their own community. Relationships are built with the Green Volunteer, other community members, and members have the opportunity to attend civic and environmental education workshops with other network members.
Another GBM initiative Women for Change attempts to help “ young girls and women to face the challenges of growing up, making complex decisions about their sexual and reproductive health, and gaining knowledge and skills to protect themselves form HIV and AIDS” (Special 31). It also works to facilitate bee-keeping, economic empowerment, and healthy eating habits of indigenous food crops. Such efforts enable younger women to participate in GBM. The Green Belt Movement has brought together thousands of members in the opportunity to enhance both their quality of own life and their environment.
"The Green Belt Movement." 10 Nov. 2007.
"UN Millennium Development Goals." United Nations. 2005. UN Web Services Section. 8 Nov. 2007