Thirty years ago, Wangari Maathai started a tree-planting initiative with seemingly unexceptional goals in mind: supply firewood, prevent erosion, and protect water supplies. But it wasn’t long before Maathai’s Green Belt Movement began to see that the promotion of biodiversity could help alleviate poverty, promote sustainable development, resolve conflicts, and empower women to protect the rights of their communities.
No stranger to initiating change, Maathai was the first women in Kenya to earn a doctoral degree, has been awarded the Nobel Peace Prize, and was elected to the Kenyan parliament in 2005. The innovation behind the Green Belt Movement quickly garnered widespread recognition as well as international support from socially conscious corporations. In 2005, through the Clinton Global Initiative (CGI), the Green Belt Movement partnered with François-Xavier Bagnoud International (FXB) in an effort to expand the operation throughout the region. With the help of FXB, the Green Belt Movement began working in over 17 countries, planting over 10 thousand tress in Rwanda alone.
Maathai is an active member of CGI, helping to lead panel discussions in recent years on topics such as how to protect the most vulnerable populations and how rural innovations can have a global impact. Proof that one individual’s dream can have a positive impact the world over, Mathaai maintains: "Even at an individual level, we can do little things, and if everyone one of us did something little – there are over six billion of us – so that little action multiplied several million times will make a difference."