Peter Wangai started a marathon to encourage people to plant trees to increase forest cover in Kenya. The first event was held in June
Milliam Murigi @millymur1
When you find Peter Wangai swinging on his office chair at his Karen office, you would think he has made it in life. But no, there are two things that keep him awake at night, the issue of deforestation and environmental degradation.
The gravity of environmental degradation and deforestation would worry anyone. According to the United Nations Environmental Programme (Unep), deforestation deprives the economy of over Sh5.8 billion every year. Another report shows that Kenya loses an astonishing 5.6 million trees daily, despite relentless campaigns on environmental conservation.
At least 64.6 per cent of all Kenya’s 8.7 million households (based on the 2009 national population census) depend entirely on firewood as their cooking fuel, where each harvests between 10kgs and 20kgs of firewood daily.
“In many instances environmental degradation is done by us for our own survival,” says Wangai.
Even though, Wangai, the founder of Goldenscape Group Limited runs a tree seedlings and tree planting business known as Goldenscape trees Africa, which has seen more than 5 million trees planted since 2004. He says his mission of planting more than 20 million trees is not yet achieved because Kenyans are cutting more trees than those planted.
“My love for trees started in my teenage days when I started a tree seedlings to encourage people to grow more trees,” he says.
Early this year, Wangai decided to start a race to raise money for trees. This is how Goldenscape Trees Africa Marathon, an initiative aimed at increasing forest cover through walks, marathons and other sporting activities was born.
The first event took place in Nyeri in June. It was a 10km race under the theme Run for Trees Awareness. He says he intends to roll out the project to other parts of the country.
The event attracted more than 500 participants and they planted more than 2,000 trees in primary schools. And to ensure that the trees are taken care of, the company has employed several youths to maintain them.
“Through Goldenscape Trees Africa, we will teach young people on tree investments in every county and we are targeting to employ about 5 million youths,” he says.
Why trees? He says trees have been a subject of interest for a long time to the extent that even President Uhuru started a tree-planting campaign dubbed Panda Miti, Penda
Kenya, geared towards increasing forest cover.
“Initially, I wanted to start this initiative as a corporate social responsibility for Goldenscape Group Limited, but I realised that I won’t meet the target and that is why I decided to plan a marathon because it involved many people,” he says.
Winners of the 10km race men and women each got Sh50,000, runners-up Sh25,000 and the person who emerged third bagged Sh10,000.
“The prize really attracted many people from all fields, but mostly environmentalists and athletes. By planting a tree, Kenyans will contribute immensely to the attainment of Vision 2030 and increase the country’s capacity to adapt the impact of climate change, combat desertification, guarantee water, food security and livehood by conserving water catchments,” he says.