Environmental Advocacy | Community Capacity Building | Geospatial Researching. Motto: Greening the Environment and Empowering the People

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Environmental Challenges facing Sub Saharan African by Akin L. Mabogunje

Sub-Saharan Africa suffers from some serious environmental problems, including deforestation, soil erosion, desertification, wetland degradation, and insect infestation. Efforts to deal with these problems, however, have been handicapped by a real failure to understand their nature and possible remedies. Conventional wisdom views the people of this region as highly irresponsible toward the environment and looks to the international community to save them from themselves. It tends to blame all of the region’s environmental problems on rapid population growth and poverty. Yet, there is no conclusive evidence that Africans have been particularly oblivious to the quality of the environment, nor has the international community shown any genuine concern for it until recently. Clearly, protecting the environment of Sub-Saharan Africa is an issue that needs to be examined more carefully and incorporated into an overall strategy of sustainable economic development.

Formulating such a strategy will not be easy: In the closing years of the 20th century, virtually every country in this region is slipping on almost every index of development. The heady post-independence period of the 1960s and early 1970s, when development was considered simply a matter of following a plan formulated by Western experts, has now been succeeded by a time of fiscal crises and international marginalization. The region now finds itself afflicted the consequences of inappropriate policies, as well as by almost endemic political instability, an inability to manage its economies effectively, and an increasingly hostile external economic milieu. As simple survival has become more problematical, it has become increasingly difficult to avoid overexploiting natural resources and degrading the environment. Analysts are now concerned that this will compromise the prospects for sustainable development in the near future.1

To understand the full dimensions of the problems, it will first be necessary to examine the factors that predispose sub-Saharan Africa to serious environmental degradation. This will permit a detailed investigation of the environmental problems caused by humans in both rural and urban areas, along with a suggestive comparison between those problems and ones caused solely by nature.

It will then be possible to look at the question of environmental protection in terms of sustainable development in the region and to suggest the roles that the state and international assistance ought to play. The present situation offers an important opportunity to redirect development strategy in ways that will not only improve the social and economic well-being of people in this region but also enhance the quality of the environment in which they live.

Factors Predisposing to Environmental Degradation

Three factors strongly increase the threat of environmental degradation in sub-Saharan Africa: its demographics, its heavy burden of foreign debt, and the absence of democracy. Throughout the region, the end of the colonial period saw a tremendous expansion of social services, especially in the areas of education and health care. This led to a sharp decline in infant mortality and to a rapid increase n population. During the last 25 years, annual growth rates of 2.5 to 3.5 percent have caused the population of sub-Saharan Africa to double (570 million); at the current rate of increase, it should double again in the next 25 years.

An increase of this magnitude within a relatively short time span implies a rising proportion of children in the population and thus a heavier burden on those who must care for them. This has led to mass migration to the cities (particularly by adult males) and other efforts to supplement family income through non-farm employment. As a result, there has been less time for farm work, and more labor-saving but environmentally harmful shortcuts are being taken. In forested areas, for instance, cleared land is used continuously, even though allowing it to lie fallow from time to time would result in greater productivity and less degradation. In dryland regions, cultivation has been extended into marginal lands that are more easily cleared and cultivated.

Turning to the second factor, countries in sub-Saharan Africa incurred large foreign debts in their efforts to industrialize and to provide their rapidly growing populations with modern social services. Most of these loans have been long-term ones from official sources and on concessional terms; as the need for borrowing has become more urgent, however, countries have turned increasingly to private, short-term loans at market rates. Thus, while in 1970 the region’s total official debt (excluding that of South Africa and Namibia) was slightly more than $5 billion (US dollars), by 1990 it had risen to nearly $140 billion. Total private debt, which was zero in 1970, was more than $20 billion in 1990. (With other external loans, the total indebtedness of the region was more than $171 billion by 1990.2

The problem, however, lies not so much in the rising level of debt as in the region’s dwindling ability to service it. High dependence on the export of primary products left sub-Saharan African countries vulnerable to the long decline of commodity prices that began in the 1970s. The total value of the region’s agricultural exports has fallen dramatically, with the decline averaging 0.8 percent a year from 1975 to 1980, 2.9 percent a year from 1980 to 1985, and 2.5 percent a year from 1986 to 1988. (For some countries the decline has been even more pronounced.3 As a result, the burden of debt has risen markedly for most countries in the region. Between 1980 and 1989, the total external debt rose from 27 percent to 97 percent of gross national product and from 97 percent to 362 percent of exports.4

Not unexpectedly, most countries in sub-Saharan Africa have had to undergo major structural adjustments. This has entailed not only a drastic compression of imports and a sharp devaluation of national currencies but also the retrenchment of a sizable portion of the wage- and salary-earning population. As living conditions deteriorated, more people turned to survival agriculture, both in urban and rural areas. At the same time, sharply rising prices for imported energy products forced many families to fall back on wood and charcoal for their domestic energy needs. Clearly, these developments put acute strain on the environment everywhere in the region.

The performance of most African governments in implementing the reforms necessary to turn their economies around has also been a source of serious concern. The international community spent the years immediately following independence rationalizing (and sometimes applauding) the necessity for authoritarian one-party or military rule. Over time, these regimes have become inordinately corrupt and have managed the countries’ economies without due concern for transparency and accountability. In most countries, this has led to a high level of political instability and social alienation that has impaired both development efforts and environmental protection. There is a growing realization that economic reforms cannot be achieved without a much greater degree of decentralization and democratization in the political process.

Much of the debate about sustainable development in sub-Saharan Africa has focused on the region’s severe poverty. There is no question that poverty has become widespread. The World Bank estimates that between 1985 and 2000, the number of persons living below the poverty line will rise from 180 million to 265 million By 1990, the combination of rapid population growth and an economy in crisis had lowered per capita gross national product to $340, making this region one of the least developed in the world.

For neo-Malthusians, this poverty stems directly from overpopulation; in their view, the two will inevitably lead to an increase in land fragmentation, over-utilization of agricultural and grazing land, more frequent famines, lower life expectancy, and considerable environmental degradation. By contrast, the renowned agricultural economist, Ester Boserup, and others argue that population growth need not result in such dire consequences. In their view, population growth can promote more intensive agricultural practices and induce more favorable attitudes toward technological and organizational innovation that will not only increase productivity but improve environmental quality as well.

Two considerations suggest that the second view is more applicable to the situation prevailing in sub-Saharan Africa. First, over the period 1600 to 1900, this region lost a large part of its population to internecine warfare and the slave trade. As a result, by 1900 the region was more sparsely populated than it had been earlier. Second, at 23 persons per square kilometer, the region’s current population density is still low compared to that of Asia or Europe.

This is not to imply that there is no cause for concern about the environment in sub-Saharan Africa. One needs to keep a sense of perspective in addressing the question, however, the proper focus is on the region’s poverty per se (as opposed to its population growth) and on the impact this has on the environment in both rural and urban areas.

The Potential For Sustainable Development

Three points stand out clearly from this review of environmental challenges in the rapidly growing but poor countries of sub-Saharan Africa. First, the development strategy pursued in most of these countries has wrought serious havoc on the environment without necessarily improving the average person’s standard of living. Second, this has taken place despite the region’s relatively ample natural resources. Third, and perhaps most important, knowledge about the region’s environment and its degradation remains inadequate.

Nowhere is this last point more true than in the attempt to explain environmental degradation in terms of population growth. This Malthusian argument depends on there being a “carrying capacity” beyond which the environment will inevitably suffer. But as already pointed out, in most of sub-Saharan Africa the population density is relatively low. Furthermore, some prime agricultural lands are clearly “undersettled,” while areas less suited to agriculture are densely populated.

A recent study of the relationships among population growth and density, the intensification of agriculture, and the implications for sustainability offers some useful insights on this issue. The study focused on 10 areas with relatively dense populations (ranging from 150 to more than 1,000 persons per square kilometer). Five of these were in East Africa (in Kenya, Rwanda, Uganda, and Tanzania), while the remaining five were in West Africa, mainly in Nigeria. In all of these areas, the study found that “contrary to much conventional wisdom that portrays the African smallholders as wrecking their physical resources, particularly in the face of land-intensive conditions . . . farmers . . . made considerable investments in resource-based capital, thereby protecting their farms from major environmental deterioration and the negative impacts of intensification and production that usually follow.

Similar conclusions have been reached regarding other aspects of the population-environment equation in sub-Saharan Africa. Contrary to conventional wisdom, detailed field investigations in Nigeria have found that the rising demand for fuelwood has not led to greater deforestation or desertification. Far from “overcutting their trees,” farmers have been maintaining their tree stocks by planting and by protecting spontaneous seedlings. The area studied showed “2.3 percent per annum increase in tree density between 1972 and 1981, in the wake of the disastrous drought of the late 1960s and early 1970s when pressure on woody vegetation from human and natural sources must have been very intense.”33 Field investigations in Uganda and Mali drew similar conclusions.34

This is not to imply that there have been no instances of severe environmental degradation. These have only occurred under three special circumstances, however: where the population density was greater than 500 per square kilometer; where the area itself was physically or biologically vulnerable; and where socioeconomic conditions impeded the implementation of conservation measures. Indeed, decreases in well-being (indicated by reduced food availability) are attributable not to rapid population growth but to the persistence of customary land tenure arrangements, misguided macroeconomic policies, and inadequate infrastructure. According to the World Commission on Environment and Development, chaired by Gro Harlem Brundtland in 1987, sustainable development is “a process of change in which the exploitation of resources, the direction of investments, the orientation of technological development, and institutional change are inharmony (emphasis added) and enhance both current and future potential to meet human needs and aspirations.”35 Included in the concept of harmony, of course, is the access of producers to the various factors of production, especially land.

The problem of land tenure, like many of the other problems besetting the development process in sub-Saharan Africa, probably stems from the region’s incomplete transition from one mode of production to another. Colonialism attempted to shift the economies of these countries from a precapitalist mode of production (based largely on kinship relations) into a global capitalist mode (based on “commoditized” factors of production whose prices were subject to the forces of supply and demand in a self-regulating market.) Though praiseworthy in many ways, these efforts failed signally in the one major area where they could have made a real difference: the patterns of land ownership in rural areas. By and large, colonial administrators left the traditional patterns intact, thus introducing a major contradiction into the development process.

While capitalism requires well-established individual property rights, most smallholders in sub-Saharan Africa have no such rights, even though they have long-standing rights to the use of communal land. Smallholders thus have no “economic assets” in the conventional sense of the term.36 Second, they have no real collateral against which to borrow and thus no access to the credit they need to invest in improved farm infrastructure, new cultigens, and modern technologies generally. When one considers the heavy investment that went into producing the polders of the Netherlands or the wheatlands of North America, the disability under which African farmers labor becomes readily apparent.

Consequently, much as colonial and post-colonial governments tried to make farmers more market oriented, the fact that one of their major inputs lies outside the market system has always limited the success of this effort. In many cases, farmers have chosen simply to “opt out” of the system, especially now that governments make little attempt to ensure that they receive fair prices for their output.37 The unnecessary liabilities under which farmers labor probably account for a large part of the poverty in sub-Saharan Africa.

Other aspects of the macroeconomic policies pursued by most African governments simply served to deepen the poverty under which the majority of their rural populations labored and exacerbated the negative impact of their activities on the environment. Widening budget deficits eroded the value of national currencies, fueled inflation, undermined peoples’ real income, and encouraged excessive exploitation of natural resources to maintain even a subsistence level of existence.

The Roles of the State and International Assistance

It is clear that the environmental challenges in sub-Saharan Africa are more complex than the simple model linking environmental degradation to population growth and inappropriate macroeconomic policies indicates. Because of this complexity, no easy solutions are available. But whatever policies are adopted, to succeed they must increase peoples’ interest in protecting the environment by involving them directly in the process; reduce the incidence of poverty to reduce the pressure on natural resources; and show people how a high level of resource use can go hand-in-hand with the maintenance of environmental quality.

The state can play an important role in promoting sustainable development and improving the environment. By setting the correct investment priorities, it can provide needed infrastructure, services, education. In urban areas, it should focus on providing safe water, collecting and disposing solid waste, and improving the physical layout of congested areas; in the rural areas, it should focus on health, education, and basic sanitation.

Regulatory measures, however, may be more important than public investment. In this regard, the state should set environmental standards that are realistic in terms of the country’s particular socioeconomic circumstances. For example, setting strict standards for indoor air pollution when most people cannot afford less-polluting energy sources simply makes enforcement impossible. Regulatory measures should also aim to remove those distortions in the economy that tend to penalize producers or promote overconsumption. Important examples include underpricing agricultural commodities and subsidizing public goods and services, both of which favor the urban population. Such distortions, of course, are partly responsible for the economic collapse of many countries in sub-Saharan Africa. Although structural adjustment programs now taking place may improve matters, the governments’ lack of commitment has left the situation far from satisfactory.

Conservation measures have been important in protecting most natural resources from excessive use or degradation. Through its power of eminent domain, the state has been able to set aside sizable tracts of land to protect watersheds, prevent soil erosion, allow natural regeneration to take place, and preserve habitats, species, and biodiversity. In 1993, there were 663 public reserves or parks in sub-Saharan Africa, totaling 125.2 million hectares.38 This however, is no more than 4.6 percent of the total land area of the region, much less than the 6 percent for the world as a whole. Moreover, the 1992 Caracas Action Plan of the World Parks Congress set a goal of protecting at least 10 percent of each of the world’s major biomes; sub-Saharan Africa currently falls far short of this standard.

Simply setting land aside, however, does not mean being able to manage it properly. Many governments in the region lack the staff or financial resources to administer their protected areas, much less invest in new ones. Innovative strategies, such as involving private groups and non governmental organizations, are being considered and may provide another option for conservation management. Such groups are believed to be better able to raise funds to purchase land, to support conservation activities in existing parks and reserves, to incorporate the local population in management decisions, and to negotiate land-use disputes within and between communities.

Important as public investment, regulation, and conservation are, however, it is institutional development that offers the most hope for alleviating poverty and protecting the environment. Three aspects of institutional development are paramount: promoting democracy, expanding individual property rights, and increasing the knowledge base.

Decentralization and democratization must go down to the community level and must entail not only giving people a voice in decisions but also ensuring that they can raise the revenue necessary to translate their desires into reality. This will promote transparency and accountability in government and foster a proprietary interest in the quality of the environment.

The importance of expanding property rights was made clear earlier. Although it is often claimed that land tenure in sub-Saharan Africa is so complex that nothing can be done about it, it is difficult to believe that meaningful reforms cannot be introduced. The most serious mistake that many governments made was to resort to nationalization.39 From a conservation standpoint, nationalization often fails to distinguish between traditional communal property systems (which generally promote sound management of natural resources) and open-access systems (which result in excessive exploitation). When land and water have been nationalized and sound management practices disturbed, the environmental consequences have often been severe.40

Nationalization has also led governments to give short shrift to titling and registration. Yet, until such procedures clearly defined rights to land (on either a freehold or a leasehold basis), much of the region’s natural resources are bound to be treated as common property and therefore suffer degradation and “the tragedy of the commons.”

The third aspect of institutional development relates to the knowledge available for making decisions on environmental matters. People in sub-Saharan Africa have been adapting to the region’s various environments for thousands of years. In the process, they have accumulated valuable information that should be incorporated into a formal analyses of sustainable development.41 Along with such knowledge, of course, must go the collection and analysis of field data by modern techniques. This is necessary to correct the hallowed but mistaken notions of conventional wisdom and to give governments in the region better appreciation of the causes and effects of environmental damage as well as the costs and benefits of different policy options. In this regard, independent commissions provide a useful way for governments to draw on technical expertise both within and outside of their countries; they can also be instrumental in bringing the results of advanced research to bear on local problems.

As mentioned earlier, current knowledge of the ecology of tropical forests and grasslands is still rudimentary. The rich biological resources of these areas—and the ways in which humans relate to them—have yet to receive as much study as they deserve. Given the shortage of funds and trained personnel in most sub-Saharan African countries, this is an area where bilateral and multilateral assistance could make a real difference. The Convention on Biological Diversity, signed by 153 countries at the 1992 United Nations Conference on Environment and Development (UNCED) in Rio de Janeiro, is correct in insisting that tropical countries be compensated for protecting biological diversity from which others benefit. If such compensation became the order of the day, some of it should be used to finance further study of tropical ecosystems.

Poor countries in sub-Saharan Africa could also use international assistance in reforming their environmental laws and in selecting optimal strategies for environmental management. Not enough emphasis has been given to the role of law in alleviating poverty and protecting the environment. Particularly in the area of pollution charges, the experience of developed countries could be invaluable. But countries in the tropics that are being asked to protect biodiversity and genetic resources partly for the benefit of others also need technical assistance in legally defining and protecting their rights regarding these resources.

Consequently, management strategies must go beyond assessing the impact of individual projects, as this tends to address the symptoms rather than the root causes of environmental problems. Such strategies must pay greater attention to broader issues and recognize intersectoral links and intergenerational concerns. This would entail integrating natural resource management with national economic planning as well as tailoring international assistance to specific aspects of resource conservation. To implement such strategies, African countries must strive to secure broad consensus and support, both nationally and internationally.


In the closing years of the 20th century, most countries in sub-Saharan Africa find themselves almost returning to the drawing board. Three decades of trying to drive their economies according to Western models have left them prostrate, their people wallowing in poverty, and their environment exposed to many hazards. More importantly, the international indebtedness of these countries and their present unattractiveness to foreign investors are forcing them to rethink the whole question of development.

The next 25 years thus offer real opportunities for improvement, beginning with population control. At the household level, the economic crisis is inducing a reassessment of the viability of large families; at the governmental level, political inertia and indifference to family planning programs are being replaced by more effort and initiative. Already, fertility has begun to decline in some countries, such as Zimbabwe, Kenya, and Cameroon.42 Although the future remains uncertain, there is every likelihood that this trend will spread across the region.

A decline in fertility, however, will not completely eliminate the momentum that has built up in the years of rapid population growth. The number of people will continue to increase, raising the population density all over the region. But as already emphasized, there is growing evidence that the African environment is more resilient than conventionally thought and can probably support a higher level of population and more intensive agriculture. Technological innovations and institutional developments are thus more important to maintaining a sound environment in sub-Saharan Africa than are efforts to reduce population pressure. If the focus of development shifts from mere economic growth to eradicating the widespread poverty, the people as a whole can play a more decisive role, not only in turning the economic fortunes of their countries around but also in enhancing the quality of the environment.

* Akin L. Mabogunje is Chairman of the Development Policy Center in Ibadan, Nigeria, and a former professor of geography at the University of Ibadan.

The above article is copyright © African Technology Forum. All rights reserved. This article appeared in Volume 8, Number 1 of ATF. Select this link to see the table of contents for this issue. Select this link to order this issure of ATF . For reference and other information click African Technology Forum for more.

Why Girls’ Education is Key in War Against Climate Change in Africa by Alice Ruhweza, the Vice President of Programs and Partnerships at Conservation International in Africa.

One year ago I was on an all-female expedition to Antarctica aimed at heightening women’s influence as decision-makers on issues that shape our planet. It wasn’t long before I discovered I was the only African-born woman on the trip. The first thing I thought was: how did I get here and how can I use this experience to benefit others?

I reflected on this over the following three weeks, even as I was awed by the beautiful wildlife, blue icebergs and the sublime awesomeness of the Antarctic Ocean. I realized then and there how my parent’s investment in my education had opened up this and many opportunities in my life and I returned home determined to advance the education of girls. But educating girls does not just unlock individual opportunities like mine – it is a vital but overlooked solution to one of the biggest catastrophes Africa and the world has ever faced: climate change.

The urgency of addressing climate change is evident from Antarctica, where 25 square miles of a massive ice sheet has just crumbled into the sea, to southern Africa, where Cyclone Idai, one of the worst recorded tropical cyclones to affect Africa and the Southern Hemisphere. Idai left at least 746 dead, over 2,390 injured and over 2.9 million people impacted in Mozambique, Zimbabwe and Malawi. Meanwhile, extremes of drought are also rising and, by 2020, up to 250 million people in Africa may suffer from decreased access to water, and yields from rain-fed agriculture may drop by 50 percent.

To rise to the challenge, African and global leaders must think beyond standard solutions. Africa Climate Week, held last month in Accra, Ghana, did not go far enough. Although the meeting covered crucial topics such as National Climate Action Plans, Cities and Local Action, Energy Transition, Nature-based Solutions and Climate Finance, Girl education was not part of the agenda.

While rarely considered together, progress in girls’ education and climate change are integrally connected. A ground-breaking study by the global coalition Project Drawdownidentified family planning and educating girls among the top 10 out of 100 most powerful solutions to addressing climate change. Data from the World Bank shows that girls with 12 years of education or more will have four to five fewer children than girls with little or no education.

Furthermore, with fewer people being born, carbon emissions will be reduced – effectively, simply, and permanently. Having one fewer child is estimated to reduce emission reductions by the equivalent of 58.6 tons of CO2 per year. This is calculated to be more effective than commonly promoted strategies like recycling, eating a plant-based diet or changing household lightbulbs.

It is also important to note that when girls are afforded an education, they are uniquely positioned to be part of solutions in the fight against climate change. A 2017 study by Brookings comparing girls’ education and climate vulnerability in in 162 countries found that for every additional year of schooling a girl receives on average; her country’s resilience to climate disasters improves by 3.2 points. Five African countries that had the lowest numbers of girls going to school also had the lowest levels of resilience to climate disasters. With 52 million girls still out of school in Sub-Saharan Africa, climate resilience is unlikely to improve.

The positive impact of girls’ education on climate resilience can be seen in South Africa’s iconic Kruger National Park, a global safari destination. Despite its abundant wildlife and a thriving ecotourism economy, hundreds of thousands of women and youth in villages surrounding the park still live in poverty and rely on smallholder agriculture, even as increasing drought threatens water supplies.

My colleagues at Conservation International in South Africa have partnered with the Local Department of Education and Department of Health to support sexual and reproductive health education and leadership training. In just under a year, teenage pregnancies at Manyangana High School fell from an average of 16 per year to just one per year, and the percentage of girls graduating high school increased from 32 percent to 99 percent in three years. Local female youth leaders are now driving activities that increase community resilience to climate change. One young woman has started a local Scouts program for 250 children – creating the next generation of field rangers and conservationists.

As an economist working at the intersection of development and conservation, I know that we are running out of time to address climate change. If the 52 million girls currently out-of-school in Africa are given a chance to go to school, they will grow to become change makers and problem solvers for Africa and the planet just like the women I met in Antarctica.

The United Nations Climate Action Summit that will take place on 23rd September 2019 provides an excellent opportunity for African policy makers to seize this moment and add Girls’ Education to the climate change agenda.

Alice Ruhweza, the Vice President of Programs and Partnerships at Conservation International in Africa


April 22—marks the anniversary of the birth of the modern environmental movement in 1970.

Each year, Earth Day—April 22—marks the anniversary of the birth of the modern environmental movement in 1970.

Setting the stage for the first earth day

The height of counterculture in the United States, 1970 brought the death of Jimi Hendrix, the last Beatles album, and Simon & Garfunkel’s “Bridge Over Troubled Water.” War raged in Vietnam and students nationwide overwhelmingly opposed it.

At the time, Americans were slurping leaded gas through massive V8 sedans. Industry belched out smoke and sludge with little fear of legal consequences or bad press. Air pollution was commonly accepted as the smell of prosperity. “Environment” was a word that appeared more often in spelling bees than on the evening news.

Although mainstream America largely remained oblivious to environmental concerns, the stage had been set for change by the publication of Rachel Carson’s New York Times bestseller Silent Spring in 1962. The book represented a watershed moment, selling more than 500,000 copies in 24 countries, and beginning to raise public awareness and concern for living organisms, the environment and links between pollution and public health.

Earth Day 1970 gave voice to that emerging consciousness, channeling the energy of the anti-war protest movement and putting environmental concerns on the front page.

The Idea for the first Earth Day

The idea for a national day to focus on the environment came to Earth Day founder Gaylord Nelson, then a U.S. Senator from Wisconsin, after witnessing the ravages of the 1969 massive oil spill in Santa Barbara, California. Inspired by the student anti-war movement, he realized that if he could infuse that energy with an emerging public consciousness about air and water pollution, it would force environmental protection onto the national political agenda. Senator Nelson announced the idea for a “national teach-in on the environment” to the national media; persuaded Pete McCloskey, a conservation-minded Republican Congressman, to serve as his co-chair; and recruited Denis Hayes from Harvard as national coordinator. Hayes built a national staff of 85 to promote events across the land. April 22, falling between Spring Break and Final Exams, was selected as the date.

On April 22, 1970, 20 million Americans took to the streets, parks, and auditoriums to demonstrate for a healthy, sustainable environment in massive coast-to-coast rallies. Thousands of colleges and universities organized protests against the deterioration of the environment. Groups that had been fighting against oil spills, polluting factories and power plants, raw sewage, toxic dumps, pesticides, freeways, the loss of wilderness, and the extinction of wildlife suddenly realized they shared common values.

Earth Day 1970 achieved a rare political alignment, enlisting support from Republicans and Democrats, rich and poor, city slickers and farmers, tycoons and labor leaders. By the end of that year, the first Earth Day had led to the creation of the United States Environmental Protection Agency and the passage of the Clean AirClean Water, and Endangered Species Acts. “It was a gamble,” Gaylord recalled, “but it worked.”

As 1990 approached, a group of environmental leaders asked Denis Hayes to organize another big campaign. This time, Earth Day went global, mobilizing 200 million people in 141 countries and lifting environmental issues onto the world stage. Earth Day 1990 gave a huge boost to recycling efforts worldwide and helped pave the way for the 1992 United Nations Earth Summit in Rio de Janeiro. It also prompted President Bill Clinton to award Senator Nelson the Presidential Medal of Freedom (1995)—the highest honor given to civilians in the United States—for his role as Earth Day founder.

Meet the organizers of the very first Earth Day.

Earth Day Today

As the millennium approached, Hayes agreed to spearhead another campaign, this time focused on global warming and a push for clean energy. With 5,000 environmental groups in a record 184 countries reaching out to hundreds of millions of people, Earth Day 2000 combined the big-picture feistiness of the first Earth Day with the international grassroots activism of Earth Day 1990. Earth Day 2000 used the power of the Internet to organize activists, but also featured a drum chain that traveled from village to village in Gabon, Africa. Hundreds of thousands of people gathered on the National Mall in Washington, DC for a First Amendment Rally. Earth Day 2000 sent world leaders the loud and clear message that citizens around the world wanted quick and decisive action on global warming and clean energy.

Much like 1970, Earth Day 2010 came at a time of great challenge for the environmental community. Climate change deniers, well-funded oil lobbyists, reticent politicians, a disinterested public, and a divided environmental community all contributed to the narrative—cynicism versus activism. Despite these challenges, Earth Day prevailed and Earth Day Network reestablished Earth Day as a relevant, powerful focal point. Earth Day Network brought 250,000 people to the National Mall for a Climate Rally, launched the world’s largest environmental service project—A Billion Acts of Green®–introduced a global tree planting initiative that has since grown into The Canopy Project, and engaged 75,000 partners in 192 countries in observing Earth Day.

Earth Day had reached into its current status as the largest secular observance in the world, celebrated by more than a billion people every year, and a day of action that changes human behavior and provokes policy changes.

Today, the fight for a clean environment continues with increasing urgency, as the ravages of climate change become more manifest every day. We invite you to be a part of Earth Day and help write many more chapters—struggles and victories—into the Earth Day book.

2020 marks the 50th anniversary of Earth Day. In honor of this milestone, Earth Day Network is launching an ambitious set of goals to shape the future of 21st century environmentalism.

22nd April, 2019 Earth Day

What is Earth Day, and what is it meant to accomplish?

A message from Kathleen Rogers the president of Earthday.org

On April 22, 1970, millions of people took to the streets to protest the negative impacts of 150 years of industrial development.

In the U.S. and around the world, smog was becoming deadly and evidence was growing that pollution led to developmental delays in children. Biodiversity was in decline as a result of the heavy use of pesticides and other pollutants.

The global ecological awareness was growing, and the US Congress and President Nixon responded quickly. In July of the same year, they created the Environmental Protection Agency, and robust environmental laws such as the Clean Water Act and the Endangered Species Act, among many.

One billion people

Earth Day is now a global event each year, and we believe that more than 1 billion people in 192 countries now take part in what is the largest civic-focused day of action in the world.

It is a day of political action and civic participation. People march, sign petitions, meet with their elected officials, plant trees, clean up their towns and roads. Corporations and governments use it to make pledges and announce sustainability measures. Faith leaders, including Pope Francis, connect Earth Day with protecting God’s greatest creations, humans, biodiversity and the planet that we all live on.

Earth Day Network, the organization that leads Earth Day worldwide, has chosen as the theme for 2018 to End Plastic Pollution, including creating support for a global effort to eliminate primarily single-use plastics along with global regulation for the disposal of plastics.  EDN is educating millions of people about the health and other risks associated with the use and disposal of plastics, including pollution of our oceans, water, and wildlife, and about the growing body of evidence that plastic waste is creating serious global problems.

From poisoning and injuring marine life to the ubiquitous presence of plastics in our food to disrupting human hormones and causing major life-threatening diseases and early puberty, the exponential growth of plastics is threatening our planet’s survival.

Earth Day 2020: 50th Anniversary of Earth Day!

Get the scoop on Earth Day Network’s big plans for 2020, the 50th anniversary of Earth Day: citizen science, clean-ups and tree-planting, huge events, and more.

Earth Day 2019: Protect Our Species

Find out more about the 2019 theme for Earth Day, to protect threatened and endangered species.

Earth Day 2018 and Beyond: End Plastic Pollution

EDN built a multi-year campaign to End Plastic Pollution. Our goals include ending single-use plastics, promoting alternatives to fossil fuel-based materials, promoting 100 percent recycling of plastics, corporate and government accountability and changing human behavior concerning plastics. EDN’s End Plastic Pollution campaign includes four major components:

  • Leading a grassroots movement to support the adoption of a global framework to regulate plastic pollution;
  • Educating, mobilizing and activating citizens across the globe to demand that governments and corporations control and clean up plastic pollution;
  • Educating people worldwide to take personal responsibility for plastic pollution by choosing to reduce, refuse, reuse, recycle and remove plastics and
  • Promoting local government regulatory and other efforts to tackle plastic pollution.

STEi Foundation in Jigawa State

STEi Foundation in Jigawa State in collaboration with the Department of Forestry and Wildlife Management of the Federal University Dutse celebrated Word Forestry Day on 21 March 2019 with NYSC members and STEi Foundation GreenTeens of Dutse Capital School, Jigawa State North West Nigeria.
Courtesy: Nasir, Tukur Yahuza – Jigawa State Coordinator of STEi Foundation

Bravo to STEi Foundation team in Jigawa State, North West Nigeria.

On 7 April, 2019 Okpuno Community in Anambra State became part of STEi Foundation Green-Community in Nigeria

Okpuno Community in Anambra State is now STEi Foundation Green-Community in Nigeria.

Sequel to STEi Foundations last environmental advocacy to the Okpuno Community in Anambra State on 31 March, 2019; His Royal Majesty, the Igwe Ogene of Okpuno and Council, has formally endorsed a partnership agreement with STEi Foundation.

Congratulations to the newest Green-community in Nigeria. Together, STEi Foundation shall ensure environmental sustainability.

Appreciation profound goes to HRM, Igwe Sir Sunday Okafor and all members of His Igwe-in-Council.

STEi Foundation – Greening the environment and empowering the people.


John Ogbodo
Founder and Chief Executive Director
STEi Foundation

On 2nd April, 2019 STEi Foundation held partnership meeting in Anambra State, South Eastern Nigeria

Following the news commentary scripted by the Founder and Chief Executive Director of STEi Foundation which was separately aired on both, the Federal Radio Corporation of Nigeria( Purity FM) and Anambra State Broadcasting Service (Radio) in Commemoration of 2019 World Forestry Day, the management of STEi Foundation received a gracious invitation for partnership from the Honorable Commissioner of Environment for Anambra State, Arch. Mike Okonkwo.

Consequently, two separate meetings were held today with the Honorable Commissioner, and with the State Director of Forestry, Mazi Vin Okapu in Awka. See photos below.

Resolutions centered around effective Forestry governance in Anambra State and sustainable conservation cum Ozzu community participation in the management of Mamu River Forest Reserve in Orumba North LGA of Anambra State.

Work in progress.

Our profound appreciation goes to both managements of FRCN Purity FM and ABS Radio, for freely relating our advocacy commentary during their news hours for 22nd and 23rd March, respectively.

STEi Foundation – Greening the environment and empowering the people.

Photos below:

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