Finnish-Kenya Society and future leaders 254 come together in Mathare to nurture mother nature
As we walk through the behemoth of a concrete jungle that is Eastleigh, drowned in the noise from the construction going on all round, pungent air pollution wafts the air. The trees that once were have all been cleared to pave way for the latest shopping malls, and blocks of flats towering up to stony Babels rising twenty floors in some places.
It is a harbinger of the inevitable, because next to Eastleigh is the neighborhood Mathare. As the Swahili saying goes “Mwenzako akinyolewa chako tia maji”. (If you see your neighbour’s head getting shaved, prepare your own head by putting it in water for the barber).
Before Charles Kariuki, one of the Future 254 leaders got familiar with the term ‘environmental activism,’ he had an innate craving for Conservation, ‘a yearning that permeated my whole being,’ in his words. Being born in Mathare, a more urban ghetto area of the city of Nairobi, ‘Slim’ as he is popularly known had the need to be in a natural environment , filled with flora and fauna of all sorts.
“I reminisce the detours we took coming from school in childhood (Pangani Primary School) and taking some sweet time to harvest all sorts of fruits before getting home,” he recalls. “ Zambarau (black plum) or ‘zamba’ as we called them, passion, loquats, guava, berries, mango, pomegranate even. Sadly, these luxuries are no more for the kids of Mathare.”
How will Future Leaders 254 ensure that the coming generation enjoys the simple joy of plucking a juicy mango directly from a tree?
How do we all incorporate technology and smart ways of farming to foster the coexistence of both an urban world merged with organic green spaces?
Such pondering led him to a group of youth from Mathare’ Mlango Kubwa area, who under the banner of Future Leaders 254 partnered with the dedicated Finnish-Kenya Society, who provided much-needed ‘green finances,’ collated by the UN’s tireless and energetic Sari Seppanen, and gathered on the weekend before today’s Tree Planting holiday … to plant trees, in an exercise even enjoined by local police.
“We need to show people the importance of having a clean environment. Part of what we do is educating our community on proper waste management, organizing clean up exercises, tree, and flower planting.” Christopher ‘Topha’ Mwangi, a member of Future Leaders 254 says.
“We also use art to best communicate this message i.e. music, film, and documentaries” adds Venna Atieno, a talented photo and videographer, who makes excellent mini-docus for the community here in Mathare.
Future Leaders 254 managed to plant dozens of trees this past Saturday in different spots in Mathare to beautify as well as preserve the culture, in what was Phase Two of the tree-planting project.
They aim to have planted 5000 trees in two years!
Among the trees and flowers planted were Guava, Mango, Avocado, Orange, Passion, Burrows Tail, Silky Oak commonly known as Mukima or Mubariti, Arrowhead plant, and purple bougainvillea, to name a few.
They note, however, that the challenge lies in maintaining and nurturing the new seedlings.
Water shortages, stray goats, chicken, children, and drunkards have been on top of the hit list making it hard to preserve plantings in the area, but after a learning period, some measures have been put in place to ensure the longevity of the plants.
Times have changed.
Weather patterns have changed.
“Some ways of living must drastically change,” says James Gichuru, a 254 FL organizer who also quipped, ‘let food be your medicine and your medicine be your food.’
But just as Nature is our ‘Mother, we as the Kenyan community must now nurture nature, through initiatives like this one, not only on new environmental holidays like today, but tomorrow, next year, and in the decades to come in our lifetimes.