Planting trees in the mind
Traditionally, birthdays are ceremoniously marked world over with merry-making and blowing candles as the norm; so when I received an email invitation for a “Birthday Tree” celebration by Dionisio Ndegwa, a Project Officer at the Green Belt Movement (GBM), I was curious to see what this celebration was about.
In the early hours of Tuesday morning, 16 July 2013, I joined colleagues from GBM to head out to Laikipia Air Base Primary School, located at Kenya Air Force’s base, about eight kilometres northwest of Nanyuki. With Mt. Kenya majestic in the background, the cool mountain breeze and serene environment set the scene for what would be an inspiring event by GBM in cooperation with Kenya Defence Forces (KDF).
From the giggles and smiles on the children’s faces, I knew I shared their feelings of excitement and expectation of what laid ahead. The event kicked off at noon with Dionisio leading the festivities, which was when I realized that the event was a birthday in celebration of our environment.
The Birthday Tree day’s theme was “Plant trees in the mind”, a rallying call to instill love of trees and tree planting in the minds of our children. All the students at the school would be planting a tree each and that they would nurture for the rest of their time in school. This wonderful annual event has helped instill a sense of responsibility in them, and according to Dionisio, it will ensure that the next generation of environmentalists will emerge.
The idea of the Birthday Tree was started in 2007 by Dionisio as a way to encourage children to conserve the environment through tree planting. The children are educated on the importance of trees and their link to a sustainable future; to mark their birthdays each year, they should plant at least one tree. Professor Wangari Maathai pledged her support of the Birthday Tree stating that there is nothing as powerful as putting an idea into a young mind and that: “It is important to nurture any new ideas and initiatives which can make a difference for Africa”.
It was fantastic to see KDF chose to be part of the event, planting trees alongside the children, setting an example that would leave a deep impression on the children’s minds, and the adults too, and a special birthday memory for years to come.
Captain D. Wangai, Base Representative Laikipia Air Base, thanked GBM for choosing the Air Base for this year’s project site. He pledged KDF’s support in assisting the students in nurturing the trees until they reach full maturity. Captain Wangai urged all those present to spread the message of tree planting in a bid to ensure a sustainable environment for future generations.
Over 200 trees were planted with two special trees being planted: one in memory of our founder Wangari Maathai, and the second to celebrate another very special birthday, that of Nelson Mandela who turned 95 this week.
If you have been inspired by Dionisio’s Birthday Tree celebration, why not make a donation to help us plant more trees in honour of your birthday or someone special, and help us encourage more children in Kenya to plant Birthday Trees.