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  • 3 March: Celebrating the spirit of Wangari Maathai (Weekly Blog, 6 March 2016)

    Posted on March 6, 2016
    A blog by Catherine Leonard, Secretary-General

    A couple of things really stood out for me this week – firstly, we received an update from our colleague Robin Yarrow in Fiji with whom we had shared our sympathies when the Pacific island nation suffered catastrophic losses wreaked by Tropical Storm Winston last month.

    On Thursday, Robin sent through these pictures of the Morris Hedstrom Bond Store in the World Heritage town of Levuka that has been badly hit by Winston:

    1 916The images (taken by Built Heritage Adviser, Bart van Aller, who originally went to Fiji as an INTO volunteer) give a sense of the challenge ahead of the National Trust for Fiji’s team but you can also see that progress is already being made and we are liaising with them as to how INTO might best support reconstruction efforts – watch this space!

    As Robin said in an earlier email, ‘our rural people are always positive and resilient and seem to recover so well’.   I was reminded that earlier this year, Fiji again ranked highly (second!) in a poll for the world’s happiest country.  Fiji is also one of the world’s most hopeful nations.   We wish them all the best.

    Moving across the globe to Kenya.   Thursday 3 March was not only World Wildlife Day and Africa Environment Day, it was also Wangari Maathai Day.  The late Nobel Laureate, one of Kenya’s most famous daughters, left many lasting legacies including the urban forest of Karura in Nairobi, which she fought to protect in the late 1990s.  We heard about her work leading a group of determined citizens against illegal land-grabbing developers and the uplifting story of Karura’s ongoing protection from Chief Scout, John Chege and Alice Macaire, Founder of the Friends of Karura Forest at our conference in Entebbe in 2013.

    Well, Karura is under threat again and this week we have been encouraging our networks to support the Greenbelt Movement and the Friends of Karura Forest in their campaign opposing plans to develop 25 acres of the community forest and to protect this vital public resource.


    Wangari Maathai was a trail-blazer.  The first environmentalist to receive the Nobel Peace Prize for – in the words of the Nobel Committee – standing ‘at the forefront of the fight to promote ecologically viable social, economic and cultural development’.   So as we remember and celebrate her contribution every 3 March, let’s seek to emulate Wangari Maathai’s vision, optimism and bravery in all we do.

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