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Love for nature wins student Sh850,000 first Maathai prize

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Abigael Ndinda (centre) celebrates with classmates after winning the inaugural Wangari Maathai Scholarship Fund award in March. The award was in recognition of her efforts to conserve the environment. Photo/Courtesy

Abigael Ndinda (centre) celebrates with classmates after winning the inaugural Wangari Maathai Scholarship Fund award in March. The award was in recognition of her efforts to conserve the environment. Photo/Courtesy 

By Neville Otuki

Posted  Thursday, April 4  2013 at  18:18

In Summary

  • As a teenage girl, she saw boreholes dry up in her neighbourhood and the only nearby River Kikuuo recede at alarming rate. She vowed not to stand on the sidelines and watch the grim picture unfold.
  • On March 21 this year, Ms Ndinda became the first winner of the inaugural Wangari Maathai Scholarship Fund in recognition of her unyielding efforts to conserve the environment.
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Abigael Ndinda, 22, could easily pass for a model thanks to her striking looks and a smashing smile — but she says she has never given it a thought.

Instead, she draws satisfaction from soiling her hands on the farm or at a tree nursery bed back in the village.

Ms Ndinda’s roots in the largely semi-arid Makueni County buttressed her conviction to champion tree planting to reduce the effects of desertification in the area.

As a teenage girl, she saw boreholes dry up in her neighbourhood and the only nearby River Kikuuo recede at alarming rate. She vowed not to stand on the sidelines and watch the grim picture unfold.

And so after completing high school in 2008, she was never at a loss how to keep herself busy as she waited to join college. She stepped up efforts to conserve the environment in her village in Matiliku Division. 

While her peers lazed around, Ms Ndinda was busy planting trees on the family farm.

She says she tried to interest some of her friends in the project but they laughed her off. Her friends could not understand why such beauty could soil her hands. Not one to give up easily, Ms Ndinda pushed on with her cause and approached various churches in her area with the idea.

That was five years ago. On March 21 this year, Ms Ndinda became the first winner of the inaugural Wangari Maathai Scholarship Fund in recognition of her unyielding efforts to conserve the environment.

The student of clinical medicine at Mount Kenya University received Sh850,000 ($10, 000).

The Wangari Maathai Scholarship Fund was started last year in memory of the late Prof Wangari Maathai, the Kenyan conservationist who won the Nobel Peace Prize in 2004.

It is supported by The Rockefeller Foundation, Green Belt Movement, and Kenya Community Development Foundation (KCDF). The judges were looking for a woman aged between 18 and 25 who demonstrated the values promoted by Prof Maathai. For them, Ms Ndinda espoused all that and more.

Ms Ndinda’s passion for the environment dates back to her childhood years when her mother gave her and her siblings a rose flower to tend. Failure to water one’s flower meant one went to bed hungry.

To be on the safe side, she dutifully watered her rose flower twice a day. “My flower bloomed and was the best among my siblings,” she says with nostalgia. “The praises I received from my mother planted in me a passion for nature,” she says.

She remembers a particular event to mark World AIDS Day, December 1, 2008. The performances of the day focused on the theme at hand: HIV/Aids. When her turn came, she recited a poem on environmental conservation.

“Of course the organisers of the event were mad at me, but I cared less; I had made my point,” she quips, adding that her obsession with trees cost her friends who could not relate with a ‘farmer’.

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