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Lessons from Wangari Maathai’s "I Will Be a Hummingbird" Story

Michael Boampong's picture


She was one of Kenya’s most recognizable women, the first African woman recipient of the Nobel Peace Prize in 2004 for combining environmentalism and social activism. She was the founder of the Green Belt Movement, where over 30 years she mobilized poor women to plant 40 million trees. She was designated as a UN Messenger of Peace with a focus on the environment and climate change and supported the UN to promote many campaigns on protecting forests and advancing the MDGs.

These credentials illustrate no other person but Wangari Maathai , who is known to have passed away on 23rd September 2011 after a long struggle with cancer.

As we mourn the death of such an activist, a mentor, a fighter, a champion, and a leader, there are some lessons which we can learn from Wangari’s "I Will Be a Hummingbird" story. As you read the bullet points below, imagine the hummingbird’s perspective as you read them. Better yet, imagine being a “hummingbird.” From my understanding the hummingbird’s story teaches us that:

  • The current numerous development challenges that confront societies and the world at large should not overwhelm us into being negligent of our responsibilities;
  • The least amongst us can be the greatest. Small development interventions can make meaningful impacts;
  •  Everyone needs to do the best that he or she can. A change begins with your best contribution;
  • To others our initial interventions might sound crazy but in some way we will win their hearts.


Though Wangari is gone, her soul will find peace and she will continue to live in our hearts if our daily lives reflect the messages she imparted from the hummingbird’s point of view.