Africa Environment Day is celebrated on March 3 which is marked in conjunction with Wangari Maathai Day in honor of the late Nobel Laureate who dedicated her life to promoting environmental conservation and sustainable development in Africa.
Themed “Strengthening women’s access to, and control over natural resources,” the celebration is aligned with the 2016 Africa Union Summit theme of “African Year of Human Rights with a particular focus on women’s rights.” This year’s celebration is aimed at creating awareness on the role of women in environment and natural resource management.
Africa Environment Day also coincides with World Wildlife Day which was established by the United Nations in honor of the adoption of the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES).
Honoring Maathai’s Dream
Maathai was the first African, Kenyan woman to be awarded a Nobel Prize in 2004 for her great “contribution to sustainable development, democracy, and peace.”
She founded the Green Belt Movement (GBM) in 1977 which still lives on to empower women in rural Kenya to curb deforestation. Through the organization, up to 50 million trees have been planted.
Recently, with an aim to immortalize the Laureate, Wangari Maathai Foundation, which is a flagship drive under GBM, announced that it will establish the Wangari Muta Maathai House (WMH) which will house her prize, books, iconic images, photos, speeches, lectures among other things. The monument will also act as her final resting place.
Maathai is remembered for standing tall against plans to sell off an urban forest in Nairobi for private development in 1998.The following year, she also protested against the construction of a multimillion-dollar business complex from being constructed in Nairobi’s Uhuru Park.
The objectives for this year’s celebration are: to raise awareness on sustainable environmental management among all stakeholders at national, regional and continental levels; to draw attention to the increasing environmental problems faced by Africa which are being exacerbated by climate change, desertification and demographic changes; as well as to encourage the development of appropriate policies and strategies at national and regional levels and to enhance environmental sustainability.
Africa Environment Day was established in 2002 following the recognition by The Organization of the African Unity Council of Ministers in their meeting in Durban, South Africa that there were numerous environmental challenges confronting the African continent.
In January 2012, the African Union resolved to adopt a decision calling for the joint celebrations of the African environment Day and Wangari Maathai Day.