Step by step, the soles of his feet slapped the hot sand as he ran as fast as he could. The sand was so hot that he felt as if he was stepping on hot water. But this didn’t slow him down. A few meters ahead of him was Katune.
Katune was his only bridge to the future, and he was going to get it by any means necessary.
Katune was a cow. His dear mother’s only cow. It had slipped out of the rope around its neck and bolted up the dry seasonal river that they had been crossing. The fourteen year old boy ran along the riverbed with all his might. He had to re-capture that cow because he was on his way to Kabati market to sell it as this was the only way his parents could raise money for his school fees.
His parents had to choose between the cow and his education. They chose his education. So as he ran after the surprisingly fast cow, he knew that he was quite literally running after his education. Running for his life. Chasing his dream.
The young boy later became Dr Isaac Kalua, the renowned environmentalist and founder of the Green Africa Foundation. This is the story of his green dream and how it came true.
Although rivers are meant to flow merrily, most rivers in Kitui County in eastern Kenya are seasonal. For most of the year, they are dry parches of hot sandy riverbeds. As a child, Isaac lived daily with this dryness – dry riverbeds, dry farms, dry atmosphere. Not to mention a dry throat that often ached for the rare quench of cool, clear water. But in the midst of this grey dryness, he noticed the green habits of his father. The elder Kalua would plant trees not just in their small farm but along the dusty roads of Kitui.
In the words of Dr. Haim Ginott, the eminent American child psychologist, ‘children are like wet cement; whatever falls on them makes an impression.’ The tree planting habits of his father made an impression on young Isaac. From a tender age, he learnt to appreciate not just tree planting, but tree growing. The fact that he was surrounded by dryness only caused him to appreciate trees even more.
Although they say that life begins at forty, Isaac’s seems to have began at thirty. In the year 2000, when he was only thirty years old, he founded the Green Africa Foundation, right in the same dry land of Kitui that he hailed from.
He was determined to make this new organization a hybrid of conservation and empowerment. With an intense look in his eyes, he says firmly, ‘I believe in establishing economic hubs at the grassroots level towards a green Africa.’ These two components of economy and environment are anchored in an ethical cornerstone that emphasizes compassion for fellow human beings. Consequently, the ‘green’ in Green Africa has three meanings – compassion for fellow human beings; health, peace and sustainable livelihoods and finally, passion for the environment.
These three meanings may seem like a handful but Dr Kalua says that they stem from a simple creed, ‘thinking and acting green can take you to the next level.’ This simple sentence is at the very heart of his green dream. It is the essence of Green Africa Foundation. Thinking and acting green means that you will reach out to humanity in compassion and peace, reach out to the environment in conservation and reach out to the society in sustainability.
Dr Kalua is a green diplomat. An ambassador of the environment. He often travels across the world to preach the green gospel even as his organization leads by example. He subscribes fully to the words of James Kent the eighteenth century American legal scholar that, ‘in life, nothing is so potent as the silent influence of a good example’
This is an excerpt from Dr Kalua's upcoming memoirs..