“The late Professor Wangari Maathai said, nature is unforgiving. If you take care of it, it will take care of you. If you don’t, it will make you pay!”
Joseph Mwangi is a young man from Gilgil who is passionate about the environment and taking care of it. He runs a company called Globe Gone Green, most of his coworkers being volunteers. Together, they have planted trees all over Gilgil and intend to move their message of conservation to nearby towns and eventually to their entire country. Though global warming is a real scare for the whole world, Joseph believes that it has gotten out of hand and we can take back our Globe and make it greener.
What is your name and what do you do?
My name is Joseph Mwangi, I am the co-founder of Globe Gone Green which is an environmental company involved in the conservation and preservation of the environment. My love for the environment was inspired by my father who worked in NYS and who was actively involved in tree planting activities. Seeing him participate in those activities made me develop an interest in spearheading initiatives of my own to take care of the environment. I am also an aspiring economist. I am currently in school pursuing the degree and I hope to graduate soon.
What inspired you to create your own company?
I felt a strong need to change the state of my community. I come from an area called Gilgil in Nakuru county, the climate of the area is arid and semi-arid. Most of the people who live in Gilgil do not practice crop farming because of the unfavourable conditions, they prefer to concentrate on livestock farming instead. We experience irregular rain patterns and during the hot seasons, strong winds and huge amounts of dust are a real problem. I remember being in school at some point and the roof being blown away by the wind.
I believed that if we could plant enough trees around Gilgil, the climate will change in a few years and we will no longer experience long dry spells with unbearable temperatures. With increased ground cover, we will also reduce soil erosion and most importantly, raise awareness about climate change and the role each of us is supposed to play.
When did you create Globe Gone Green and what have you achieved so far?
My friend William and I came together and decided to do something about the dire state of the climate in our area. Together, we founded the company Globe Gone Green. The company was launched in early 2016. That year alone, we did tree planting challenges in around five schools. The following year we did seven schools. 2018 was a slow year because of personal reasons. In 2019, we were able to plant close to 12,000 trees.
While our peers headed to Nairobi to look for greener pastures, we stayed back and decided to water the grass around us. Our main agenda has been to champion for a better environment where people positively impact their surroundings.
The future lies with the youth and with schools, we see an opportunity to impact an entire generation to love the environment and to care for it. Children are very impressionable beings and if taught well, they will carry on the principles they have learned to adulthood. The same way I was inspired by my father from a tender age is the same way we hope to inspire these children. We train the teachers as well allowing them to ferry on the message.
Besides planting trees how else are you sensitizing people about the importance of environment conservation?
We have a couple of women groups that we have taken under our wings and we train them on how best to participate in the cause for a sustainable environment. We also train them on tree keeping and how to plant tree seedlings. We later buy the seedlings directly from them creating employment opportunities in the process.
What sort of reception have you gotten from your campaign?
Everyone we have approached has been very welcoming and receptive about the work we are doing. Planting trees is an act that benefits many people and our ecosystem as well. Many people already know this, our job is only to remind them. Our cause has led us to working with local communities, privately-owned organizations and government as well. We have worked with Equity Bank, KCB, and KDF. As you can see, people and groups from all sectors acknowledge the work that needs to be done for our environment.
Is it difficult to convince Kenyan farmers to plant trees in their shambas especially because trees are not very lucrative?
It is actually not that difficult. Many farmers understand the benefits of having trees in their shambas. We also don’t just plant trees for the sake of it. We assess an area and determine the type of tree that would fit in the most. For instance, in personal farms, we opt for fruit trees or timber trees. Trees that can benefit the farmer in one way or another. They can use the fruits for their own well-being or use them for commercial purposes such as selling the fruits in the market. The same goes for timber, so you see, it is not just any tree, we look at a tree that will have a long-lasting effect on the people around it.
After planting 12,000 trees in 2019, have you witnessed any changes to the environment?
It is still too early to say because we need to give all those trees some time to grow, I can confidently say that we are going to witness real changes in our environment. We will no longer experience extreme dry spells; the rain patterns will be more consistent and soil erosion will be curbed significantly. In the years to come, Gilgil will no longer be known for its dusty winds, the script will change, and we will see a town that is greener and kinder to the environment.
With your own assessment, how would you describe our nation’s climate?
A lot is being done to control our emissions and to promote afforestation so I can say we are headed in the right direction. I am particularly happy about the ban on logging for the past two years which has saved our nations tree cover and also preserving natural habitats for different species of wildlife. I know of companies in Embu, Nakuru, Nairobi, Narok which are doing amazing work to guarantee the survival of our remaining forests. If we are consistent in conservation, the future is bright for sure.
Last year we experienced one of the longest dry seasons yet, we also saw cases of flooding and landslides caused by excess rainfall, what do you make of that?
Weather patterns are certainly not what they used to be. When we were young, the dry spell would stretch to March at most. In 2019, the first sign of rainfall came in mid-May. The longer the dry season, the greater its effect on the population. You will remember that in 2019 there was news of drought and famine in various parts of the country. People actually died because they could not get clean water or food. These are the effects of climate change and it’s up to us to implement necessary changes for the sake of tomorrow.
What are the changes that we need to make?
First, we plant trees, as many of them as we can. Let’s plant a million of them if possible. Kenyans need to be told about the impact of global warming and the role each one of us is playing in enabling it. After that, we need clear cut policies that restrict emissions and prohibit littering. There are actual policies that exist even now. The problem is that the relevant bodies are not enforcing these policies as they should. I fear that if we do not make the necessary changes, the next decade or two will be quite tough on us. Drought will be on the extreme and floods will be extreme as well. The late prof Wangari Maathai said that nature is unforgiving, if you take care of it, it will take care of you, if you don’t it will make you suffer and wipe you out.
What advice do you have for young environmentalists who don’t know where to start?
If you truly love the environment and have a desire to care for it, start in your own small way. Impact that which is closest to you and mobilize others to join your cause. Don’t be afraid to start alone but make sure you pull in as many people as you can. Be vocal about the changes you want to make, and you will attract the right team. This is a big world, we will need all the help we can get.
What do you have planned for this year?
In 2020 we want to break our own record and plant more than 200,000 tree seedlings all around Kenya. We won’t limit our blessings just to Kenya, if God gives us an opportunity to cross borders to other countries, we will go. After all, it is called Globe Gone Green, so we intend to go global at one point. We hope to carry out more training on seedling planting and environment conservation, we, therefore, invite all like-minded people and other organizations to partner with us in this journey. We will also focus a lot on sensitizing Kenyans on the negative effects of littering. Garbage or litter compromises the water we drink and puts us at more risk of getting diseases like malaria due to stagnated water.