KARURA FOREST IN KENYA
"As the first African woman to receive this prize, I accept it on behalf of the people of Kenya and Africa, and indeed the world." With these words, Wangari Muta Maathai accepted the Nobel Peace Prize Friday in Oslo. Maathai used her lecture to warn that environmental destruction must be reversed so that "humanity stops threatening its life-support system. To many that was the moment they heard of her work. To us Kenyans, we have walked every step of the way with her struggle to save our environment.
Karura Forest is not far from COP 12’s site and is where several corporate partners have planted trees, including Citi Group. You will be pleased to see the young trees looking very green and doing well here, too. Their survival and strength are signs that the forest is healthy and supporting their growth.
...But as we walked along this particular site in the forest, something was very odd...
Scattered around us were large blocks of cement and rubble, which clearly looked out-of-place a few kilometres into the forest! When I asked how it got it there and why, I was shocked to learn that it was leftover from the protest that Prof. Wangari Mathai successfully led one decade ago against private developers of a large housing complex in Karura.
“So this was the actual site where construction began and Prof stood?”
“Yes, right here.”
There are no plaques or signs to identify this site, but it was from this spot that Prof. Mathai saved Karura Forest.
If you have read the book or seen the documentary, then you understand the significance of the events that unfolded there (and if not then I recommend that you get a copy!). Standing there was both magical and humbling; historic yet so alive. A sacred ecology exists in that forest that I hope is preserved forever for others to experience, too. Beyond the silence and the miles of trees that surrounded us, I imagined the chaos of the protests and the lives that were risked. If not for Prof’s vindication and bravery, the trees and their ecosystem would not be there. It reminds me of when she said, “I cannot survive without the trees, and nor can you.” How true it is. The battle she won a decade ago to preserve Karura Forest is already supporting new life and a new history of its own, which we must learn from and protect for years to come.
The Earl of Wessex Prince Edward who is also a son of the British Monarch, Queen Elizabeth recently visited Karura forest courtesy of Friends of Karura whose patron is Mrs. Alice Macaire the spouse of the British High Commissioner to Kenya. Accompanied by British High Commisioner Amb. Rob Macaire, the Prince was taken through the history and features of Karura forest which is in the process of transforming itself into an ecotourism and recreational site by the Head of Nairobi Conservancy Mrs. Charity Munyasia for the benefit of Nairobi city.
The Earl was shown the just concluded electric fence which was built by stakeholders mobilized by Friends of Karura. He was also able to visit the famous Karura caves which as he was rightly told was a haven for freedom fighters during the war for Kenya’s independence. He then visited the Karura Falls and delighted in washing his hands in the cold waters of River Karura.
Prince Edward was later hosted to an evening tea party at the edges of the very scenic Karura swamp right in the middle of the forest where other local and diplomatic dignitaries joined in.