We’ve recently spent a couple of days helping a group of 8-10 year olds from Hulme to create a Wangari Maathai Peace Grove, in honour of the first African women to win the Nobel Peace Prize.
The grove is one of three being created in the city through the wonderful Manchester Environmental Education Network (MEEN). According to MEEN’s co-ordinator Raichael, the project aims to “inspire our communities with Wangari Maathai’s story, to bring young and older community activists together to share their stories whilst taking positive action together by planting trees”.
So we sent seasoned Helen along to chat with young activists from the Eco Team at St Phillip's Primary school, and to plant their Peace Grove at Hulme Community Garden Centre:
“The young people I met are amazing. I certainly wasn’t doing what they are doing - or even really thinking about the world in that way - at their age. Already they grow food at school, plant trees and have made videos about climate change that they sent to the Paris summit.
When the children were asked to think about what future actions they would take they came up with a whole range of ideas. Asia, who plants trees with her Grandma when she goes back to visit, wants to encourage and teach everyone in her community to plant trees too, whereas Olamide has decided to introduce a meat free day at home with her family.
The adults were a bit less vocal about their plans (we could hardly get a word in edgeways – which was great!), but I shared mine, which is establishing a large agro-ecological farm and centre to support and inspire others to create a fairer and more sustainable food system.
Raichael emailed us all after the first day saying “Walking back to school with the pupils they were very pleased to have met you, slightly surprised that you had turned up just to talk to them, and they're really looking forward to planting the trees with you next week”. The feeling was very mutual – it was a breath of fresh air to meet such an enthusiastic group of people who at the age of 8 – 10 are already trying to change the world around them for the better.
At the second session we planted 6 different types of Rowan trees, along with our ideas, to create a peace grove in Hulme. The idea is to grow our ideas into actions – and make some compost to feed the trees at the same time.
The little group that I worked with – Olamide, Asia, Tiah, Hafswa and Zarah, were very enthusiastic about planting the tree even in the rain and the mud (and there was a lot of both!) and said they would definitely come and visit us on the Kindling farm.
The future feels a little bit more hopeful - and happier - in their hands”.
MEEN’s project celebrates the life of the first Black African woman, Wangari Maathai, to win a Nobel Peace Prize. She won this prize because she inspired the women of Kenya to replant the country's lost forests and empowered them to resupply their environment with the food and firewood needed for future generations of Kenyans. MEEN wants to share her incredible legacy as it brings together the threads of democracy, women’s rights and environmental issues and is still active under the name 'The Green Belt Movement'. More information can be found at http://www.greenbeltmovement.org/