The Girl who Saved the Umbrella Trees

One evening on the 10th day of February 1996, Mzee Amin Hussein was counting his goats, when he heard a baby crying. He knew a baby had been born.

Every day before sunset, the sound of cows mooing, and sheep and goats bleating would fill the air in Bondhei village, just like many other villages in Garissa county. Young and old men would stand at the entrance of the Harello – the livestock shed, to count and make sure none is lost in the grazing field. One evening on the 10th day of February 1996, Mzee Amin Hussein was counting his goats, when he heard a baby crying. He knew a baby had been born. Mama Khadija Abdi Dagane and Mzee Amin named the baby girl Madina after a holy city of prayer in a faraway country called Saudi Arabia. The green from the trees stood out in Bondhei like the striking green dome in the city of Medina.

Baby Madina loved the outdoors, and when it was time for her to go to school, chasing butterflies and catching grasshoppers made the journey to school so much more fun and shorter. She loved walking under the acacia trees, the natural umbrellas, she called them. She would touch the hard shells of tortoises crossing the footpath, and they would hide their heads under the shell.


Who is cutting down our umbrellas?

One day when Madina was going to school, she noticed that the umbrella trees she loved had been cut down, the green shrubs started disappearing too, and so did the butterflies, the bees and the flowers that were as colourful as her floral dresses. One day she asked her dad, papa: “Who is cutting down our umbrellas?”, her father told her: “My daughter, some of my friends believe that God grows trees or trees just grow by themselves, and so they cut the trees to make chairs, tables, beds, burn charcoal and even build houses”.

Mama, what can I do to stop this?

Madina was so sad; she asked her mother: “Mama, what can I do to stop this?”. They tried to talk to the people in her village to stop cutting down the trees, but they did not listen to little Madina and her mother. People from far away came to the village to buy wood from the umbrella trees until there were no more trees to cut. The village became so dusty; there were no green leaves for the goats, and the rain also stopped for many months.

When Madina completed secondary school, she decided to collect seeds of the umbrella trees from other villages. She brought them and made a nursery bed using soft soil and goat manure from her father’s Harello. She planted 6,000 seeds. It took 28 days for the seeds to germinate. It was very hard work, but more people in her village are now supporting her.

They want to plant five million trees to make Bhondei green and colourful with butterflies, bees, and flowers blooming.

Madina Hussein is the Founder and CEO at Global Nature Conservation – an organisation based in Garrisa County which focuses on environmental conservation, protection of wildlife, sustainable livelihoods and Just Climate Action. Global Nature Conservation is a VCA partner in Kenya.

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