GIS for Conservation

The Green Belt Movement

Conservation and World Peace Organization Uses GIS

The Green Belt Movement (GBM) is a nonprofit, nongovernmental organization committed to empowering Africans, especially women, by advocating conservation of the environment, good governance, and cultures of peace. Wangari Maathai, an environmentalist, women’s rights activist, parliamentarian, Nobel Peace Prize Laureate, and founder of the GBM, has made empowerment and conservation possible through the planting of trees across her Kenya homeland and the globe. By teaching women how to plant and grow trees, the members of GBM ensure conservation of valuable natural resources and provide tools for living sustainable lifestyles. GIS technology is an essential tool to target areas in need of trees, monitor tree planting and growth, and achieve Maathai’s and GBM’s goals.

Planting trees to prevent deforestation, desertification, and soil erosion, as well as to preserve natural resources, such as clean water, provides Kenyans with the resources for sustainable lifestyles. The major mountains in Kenya, which are locally known as the Five Water Towers, provide the villages below with drinking water. Mount Kenya, the largest mountain in the country, refreshes and sustains 2 million people alone. With tree loss due to logging and harvesting, the amount of water these mountains provide the villages is lessened. Glacier loss on these mountains due to disruptions to the environment also diminishes the amount of available fresh water. Members of GBM plant trees on these mountains to preserve the environment and therefore ensure the continuing supply of water to Kenyan villages.

Trees are also planted to provide Kenyans with the resources they need to live. Full–grown trees provide building materials, fuel for cooking fires, income through sale of timber, improved soil and crop conditions, cleaner air, and even food. The women who plant the trees are paid for their work, so they reap the benefits of their labors as well as the trees.

Between the years 1990 and 2000, the forest cover on the Five Water Towers and in Kenya has vastly changed due to human encroachment and other disruptions. Peter Ndunda, GIS specialist for GBM, can see the harmful human effects on forests using GIS technology. Peter maps the threatened forests and then overlays the image on an older map of the area. Doing this he can see how the forests have diminished over time. This allows members of GBM to target areas in need of conservation and tree planting. Because women who plant trees are compensated, a method is needed to locate where, when, and how many trees have been planted. Peter and the GBM GIS team use GIS technology to track and monitor tree planting so that resources and efforts are recorded. GIS technology helps GBM use its resources and time more efficiently and track areas in need of conservation and tree planting more effectively, which allows more successes for conservation and women across the globe.

Read more about the Green Belt Movement.

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