Elizabeth Wathuti: Environmentalist Who Has Planted Over 30,000 Trees, Only Kenyan Featured On The 2022 TIME100 Next

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Elizabeth Wathuti: Environmentalist Who Has Planted Over 30,000 Trees, Only Kenyan Featured On The 2022 TIME100 Next
Elizabeth Wathuti Photocredit/gree

Elizabeth Wathuti is a renowned Kenyan environmentalist and climate activist. She burst into the limelight in November 2021 during the UN Climate change conference (Cop26) in Glasgow. In her powerful address, which caught the attention of US President Joe Biden, she highlighted how Kenyans were affected by climate-related starvation. The 27 year old has been featured on the 2022 TIME100 Next List.

Here is her story as told by WoK.

Background

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Elizabeth Wathuti was born and raised in Nyeri County, a region with the highest forest cover in Kenya. She developed a passion for the environment at an early age. The environmentalist planted her first tree when she was only 7 years old. Elizabeth pioneered an environmental club while she was in high school school. After her O-levels, she joined Kenyatta University-graduating with a bachelor’s degree in Environmental Studies and Community Development. She was part of the leadership of Kenyatta University Environmental Club (KUNEC) whose activities included clean ups and tree planting.

Career

In 2016, she established the Green Generation Initiative with the aim of nurturing young environmentalists. She also worked with primary schools to offer practical environmental and climate education. Her video titled ‘The Forest is a Part of Me’ was featured by the Global Landscapes Forum (GLF) as part of a series on Youth Voices in Landscapes. The environmentalist received the Wangari Maathai Scholarship award for her outstanding commitment and passion to environmental conservation. She became a member of the Green Belt Movement founded by the late Professor Wangari Maathai who is her role model.

The Cop26 Conference

In November 2021 during the United Nations Climate Change Conference (Cop26) held in Glasgow Scotland, Wathuti gave a moving speech that highlighted the struggles of Kenyans affected by climate-related starvation. 

“As we sit comfortably here, more than 2 million of my fellow Kenyans are facing climate-related starvation. In this past year, both our rainy seasons have failed and scientists say that it may be another 12 months before the water returns again. Meanwhile, our rivers are running dry, our harvests are failing. Our store houses stand empty. Our animals and people are dying,” she said.

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The speech caught the attention of US President Joe Biden who despite his security team signalling him that it was time to leave, waved them off and waited until Wathuti finished her speech. Since that ‘Glasgow moment’ her diary has been packed. 

The 2022 TIME 100 Next List

Wathuti has been featured in the TIME Magazine’s 2022 TIME 100 Next list which acknowledges 100 emerging leaders who are shaping the future across the globe. This year’s list had five categories – Artists, Innovators, Phenoms, Advocates and Leaders. Wathuti was the only Kenyan featured under the Phenoms sub-group alongside popular international acts including the most followed person on tiktok Khaby Lame and NBA Player Ja Morant among others.

“It is a great honor to be included in this years’ TIME 100 Next List. Today I especially wish to celebrate the tireless efforts of my friends in the global youth climate movement, who are also fighting every day for a safe future. Together, we are an unstoppable movement of millions, and we will not tire, we will make change happen,” she said during her acceptance speech.

Achievements and accolades

Throughout her environmental career, Wathuti has received various awards and recognitions. In 2019, she was awarded the Africa Green Person of the Year Award by the Eleven Eleven Twelve Foundation and named as one of the 100 Most Influential Young Africans by the Africa Youth Awards. In the same year during the International Youth Day, she was recognized by the Duke and Duchess of Sussex for her work in environmental conservation. She was featured by Greenspace and the Queen’s Commonwealth Trust website. She became the UN Young Champions of the Earth Regional finalist for Africa, won the Diana International Award and the Green Climate Fund Climate Youth Champion Award.

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