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In the footsteps of King Charles at Karura Forest

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 King Charles III (centre), Wanjira Mathai (right) and former Chair, Friends of Karura Prof. Karanja Njoroge walk in Karura forest. [Denish Ochieng, Standard]

Have you ever visited and taken a leisure walk in Karura forest? Last week, King Charles III of Britain did so alongside Wanjira Mathai, the daughter of the globally recognised environmentalist, and Nobel Peace Prize winner, the late Prof Wangari Mathai.

The visit and subsequent walk by the two highlight their mutual interest and the late environmentalists in protecting and preserving green spaces and forests, especially in cities.

Forests are vital in the adaptation of climate change and building communities' resilience to the effects of climate such as floods and heatwaves.

Karura Forest is Africa's largest urban green space that covers 1,041 hectares attracts 50,000 people per month and employs over 300 people.

Its preservation and conservation were spearheaded by the late Prof Wangari Mathai and a team of women, who through the Green Belt Movement were "patient, persistent and committed in their quest to liberate this forest," Wanjira told the King.

Today, thanks to Prof Mathai's unwavering fight to preserve the forest and save it from grabbers, Karura Forest is the "lungs" of not only Kiambu, and Nairobi counties but beyond.

Some 30 years ago, Prof Wangari Mathai and a team of other "brave" women founded the Green Belt Movement.

The women believed that fighting to preserve the forest was a worthy cause and as a result of their fight through the 1980s and into the 1990s environmentalists, university students, politicians, religious leaders, community members, neighbours, and human rights defenders who joined the movement were reportedly beaten, bruised and battered in the struggle.

Documented facts indicate that the movement was patient, persistent, and committed in its quest to liberate the forest, and every time it faced a hurdle, it would come back, each time planting a tree - a tree of resistance to leave a mark that the forest belonged to the people of Nairobi, and Kenya, and should not be privatised.

Among the list of supporters of the movement, were the British High Commission, and local businesses, who all organised for support to save Karura.

Wangari Mathai who dreamed of the accomplishment beyond her lifetime would have been particularly proud to walk alongside His Majesty, but her daughter represented her.

The walk brought back memories of when the then Prince Charles during an event for the late Prof Mathai, in 2013 at Kew Gardens, London said: "She had an infectious spirit a sense of optimism, and a deep sense of hope. She understood the link between poverty and the natural environment."

Besides enjoying the natural and colourful sights and sounds, another reason to visit is to learn how Africa's largest green space is an example of what can be achieved by protecting green spaces and how it contributes to "keeping the city's rivers clean."

 King Charles III, Wanjira Mathai and CS Environment Soipan Tuya plant a tree at Karura forest. [Denish Ochieng, Standard]

To learn how protecting natural ecosystems and reforestation, while facing untold losses and damages, saves the environment for future generations.

It is also interesting to find out how Karura Forest is fast growing to be a role model of how building sustainable cities is good for climate, nature, and the people who live in them.

The forest is open to all visitors who share a love for nature and a common respect for unspoilt natural beauty at a modest fee, whose proceeds go to maintaining the safety and security of the forest.

There are also other activities that a visitor, family, or groups can engage in at the forest.

Activities at Karura Forest include walking, jogging (marked 5-10 and 15km trails along forest paths), tree-planting, whiling away time against the background of nature beauty and sounds, bird-watching, dog-walking (on-leash, except in designated sign-posted areas), horse-riding, mountain-biking, tennis (KFEET centre grounds) and group gathering for events.

As you indulge in these activities, remember the rules: Do not litter, leave nothing behind but footprints, take nothing away but memories.

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