It's a Saturday afternoon. Alice Wanjiru, a 10-year-old student at Brookhouse School Runda, is busy pruning seedlings in a nursery she started near the Afro Sayari Hotel along the eastern bypass.
She is preparing the seedlings for a tree-planting exercise scheduled to take place on January 13, 2024 along the Ruai sewer line.
Through the Green Hummingbird Movement, an organisation she started in 2020 to engage in various activities that contribute to the conservation of the environment, Wanjiru has managed to convince the county government of Nairobi to allocate some land where she can plant 13,000 trees.
To achieve this goal, Wanjiru will be joined by other children born between the months of December and January, who instead of celebrating their birthdays in the conventional ways, will instead plant trees.
The tree planting exercise will also bring on board 27 schools, environmentalists and other climate-conscious organisations.
To convince as many children as possible to plant a tree on their birthdays, the movement is willing to provide seedlings to children who are willing to plant trees at the Afro forest or at any other available space.
The Green Hummingbird Movement borrows its name from a story the late Wangari Maathai, a former Kenyan Assistant Minister for Environment, once shared.
“Wangari narrated a story of a little hummingbird that saw the forest on fire. The bird didn’t watch, but tried to put in small efforts to save the forest from the fire. The hummingbird did what the big animals were scared of doing,” says Wanjiru.
The late Maathai is remembered globally for winning the Nobel Peace Prize as result of her immense contribution to environmental conservation.
Apart from planting trees, Green Hummingbird Movement also engages in clean-up exercises, among other humanitarian activities. It aims to inspire the current generation of children to be more climate-conscious and environmentally responsible.
It also encourages people to not only plant trees, but also to adopt and maintain them up to such a time when they are mature enough to survive on their own.
“Every year we have environmental day, where people plant trees but they do not follow up to find out whether the trees still exist or dried up. Whenever you plant a tree you should adopt it for 3 years to make sure it has matured enough to a point where it cannot dry up because of the weather," Wanjiru notes.
"If possible, make sure it grows until you are between 50 and 60 years old so that you can tell your grandchildren about the tree," she says.
Wanjiru's father, James Gitundu, says developed a passion for conserving the environment at the tender age of 5, when she first came to the Afro Sayari Hotel and saw a bare piece of land which she wanted to transform into productive land.
Since then, Mr Gitundu has been supporting his daughter to achieve her objectives through the family business. To date, little Wanjiru has planted more than 5,000 trees and hopes to plant 1 million trees within the next five years.
“We are happy to support her, although it is expensive. It is a responsibility we take on gladly because the trees that were planted here three years ago are now very big,” Gitundu says.
He is seeking to rope in partners such as the county government and environmental organisations to sponsor and encourage other children like her daughter to continue with such initiatives.
Mr Gitundu also says he would be glad to work with other parents to support their children to participate in environmental initiatives.
“The Green Hummingbird Movement's slogan is that we don’t have another planet to live, so we better make this one work for us. If Alice plants a certain number of trees, and another kid plants a certain number of trees, they could change the world,” Gitundu says.