For a 19-year-old, Anita Soina is very articulate and expresses herself with such admirable clarity especially on environmental issues. When we invited her to our offices in Westlands, she came complete with a tree seedling, which she planted and tasked this writer to care for it.
Her love for the environment stemmed from a forest near her late grandfather’s place. It was her favourite place to visit and when the forest was cleared by the community around for fuel and timber, she vowed to not only reclaim it, but also spearhead tree planting throughout Kenya.
Having noticed that she alone cannot plant enough trees, she started Spice Warriors – a green movement that educates, emancipates and calls upon youths to take proactive action against deforestation. Through her efforts, over 2,000 trees have been planted so far.
While there are many environmental activists in the country, Soina uses an avant-garde approach that appeals to her peers.
“People in my generation only like to do things when they look cool. If I were to tell them to join me in planting trees, few would show up. But if I ask them to go hiking, team building or photoshoots and incorporate tree-planting in the activities, they will be more receptive to it and that’s how I onboard the youth to this cause,” she says.
“It is just one plastic, said 8 billion people…”
Millennials and their phones are a match made in heaven, and even throughout interview, Soina can’t help sneaking looks at her phone and for a good reason: social media plays a vital role in her campaign.
“It is very handy. It is through social media that I meet like-minded people, view other people’s conservation efforts and get inspiration for mine. For awareness, I share relevant facts about the environment and Spice Warriors’ activities, too,” she says.
She started a social media campaign early this year dubbed #20TreesForAnitaSoina.
“I will be turning 20 on December 24 and the best way to celebrate it is by planting trees. So I am encouraging everyone to plant 20 trees in their own compounds be it schools, churches or work places,” says an enthusiastic Soina.
As part of her campaign, she has volunteered to do the actual planting of trees for those who may not be able to do it on their own. Her energy can only be likened to that of the late Nobel Laureate Prof Wangari Maathai.
A sworn environmentalist, the burning of the Amazon Forest is a cause for concern for Soina. Even then, she was encouraged to see many people and especially celebrities coming out to support measures meant to salvage the situation.
“Amazon is home to indigenous species of both plants and animals. Its burning unsettles me, but I was happy that many people took to social media to weigh in on the matter,” she says.
Her only wish is that people be more conscious of the environment and adopt measures to preserve it even more.
“I found it quite ironic that people were touched by the Amazon fires yet still throw litter aimlessly in the streets. If you were really moved by the Amazon fires, then do your small bit here at home by planting a tree and being more conscious of the environment around you,” she avers.
Thoughts on Mau evictions
The government’s decision to evict people from the Mau complex has been met with praise and criticism in equal measure. On her side, Soina feels the eviction was long overdue.
“When I was young, we used to draw clean drinking river from the Mara River whose source is the Mau. It was always swollen and we had so much trouble crossing over to the other side to see relatives. These days, it is just a stream we can wade through. The water isn’t as clean either,” she says.
So should people be evicted from the Mau or not?
“They have to be evicted and fast. What I do not support is the government forcefully evicting people without proper strategy for resettlement or compensation,” she adds her voice on the issue.
The young environmentalist hopes to plant 7,000 trees before the year ends and if her enthusiasm is anything to go by, we might as well consider it done.