Wangari Maathai Scholarship Fund-Sylvia Rotich

My love affair with trees

Sylvia Rotich’s demeanor is nothing like the fiery late Wangari Maathai, who fought tooth and nail to protect the environment. The two are worlds apart; her voice is mellow and soothing—she certainly does not cut the image of a woman who would confront gun-wielding police officers to save trees. But at only 22, Rotich has planted over 2,000 trees despite coming from a humble background and facing the loss of her father at an early age.

As a high school student,when her colleagues were splurging their pocket money on the latest fashion and snacks, Rotich made good use of the Sh2,500 pocket money she was given every term. To the eighth born in a family of 11, this was a perfect source of ‘environmental capital’ that has today made her rub shoulders with the who-is-who is the environment world.

“I began my conservation work in 2005 when I was in Class Eight at Kaptingo Primary School. There was an event in school and some seedlings were being offered to the staff and I wanted to buy them, but I did not have money. That evening I went home and borrowed Sh120 from my mother. I bought six seedlings at Sh20 each; three seedlings of cypress and three of gravella. All the six survived and they are there to date,” she told People Daily.

This was the beginning of a journey that landed the fourth-year Environmental Conservation and Natural Resource Management student at the University of Nairobi a Sh878,500 award last week. The annual award dubbed The Wangari Maathai Scholarship Fund was set up last year in memory of the late Prof Wangari Maathai and is given to a competitively selected female recipient aged between 18 and 25 years, who has demonstrated outstanding leadership in environmental conservation.

Rotich vividly remembers September 20, 2011 when on her first trip to Nairobi city to follow up her admission at the university, she expected to find green bushes, like in her home county, Marakwet. After her award last week, the 22-year-old still expressed her vision to turn Kenya green but admits it will be difficult to fit in the late Prof Wangari Maathai’s shoes. “I have already planted over 1,000 trees in my former primary school and wish to plant 1,000 more now that I have gotten this money” she said.

Story by Lillian Kaivilu-The People Daily 

Sylvia Rotich is the second recipient of the Wangari Maathai Scholarship Fund Award 

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