Positive People – Lesein Mutunkei

Sport has the power to unify and excite large audiences of people, as we have already seen with Extreme E this year. Kenyan teenager Lesein Mutunkei has taken this strategy and scored a winning goal of his own.

For every goal that Lesein scores, trees get planted. It’s a simple yet effective message that appeals, and makes for a satisfying way of motivating more of us to get active and promote environmentalism in our own way. Born in Nairobi, Kenya, Lesein Mutunkei is in his late teens, but as you’ll see, age is just a number, and his movement, Trees4Goals, is the means with which he intends to make the world a greener place.

Back of the net

Lesein’s work with Trees 4 Goals unites two of his own self-declared passions in life: love of the outdoors, with his love of football. From a young age, Lesein enjoyed walking among the trees and getting a bit of fresh air, but recognised his country was experiencing a serious loss of tree cover. Between 2001 and 2020, his home country lost an estimated 11 per cent of its trees, releasing the equivalent of 176Mt of CO2.

“I have planted over 1,000 trees in the last two years.”

– Lesein Mutunkei, Trees4Goals

In his own way, Lesein has tried to use his love of football to change the conservation from what trees can do for us towards what we can do for trees. In a blog post for WWF Kenya, Lesein revealed that, once he started the Trees 4 Goals initiative, he originally planned planting one tree per goal. By 2020, he wanted to take his efforts even further. What started as one tree planted per goal mushroomed into 11 trees planted per goal.

Explaining the reasoning behind expanding the tree-planting, Leisein revealed: “It represents team effort in football and the contribution by my football team. I have planted over 1,000 trees in the last two years.”

The power of sport

While it’s something of an own goal to destroy the forests and jungles which give our planet such enormous biodiversity, initiatives such as Trees 4 Goals are an assured way to score an environmentalist hat-trick. Sports such as football are immensely popular with the booming Kenyan population, and the sport is also one of the most favourite of all ball sports worldwide.

It has the ability to cut through cultural and ethnic barriers irrespective of the country it is played in, and as we saw earlier this year with the much-anticipated 2020 Euros here in the UK, football attracts some of the largest audiences both on TV and in-person. In just a few short years, Trees 4 Goals has managed to hit the 1,000th tree milestone, but by ramping up the number of trees planted per goal, with more such initiatives springing up, even more could be grown in the ensuing years.

Like a seed, the best ideas start small and germinate into something which can become far larger than first expected. While Lesein continues planting his 11 trees per goal, the Kenyan government is aiming to ensure the planting of 1.8 billion trees by 2022. If such a large goal could be met by next year, the Kenyan government estimates they could reach a point where 10 per cent of the country is covered by trees. The science behind tree planting is clear: a report in 2019 claimed that if 900 million hectares were devoted to additional tree planting of half a trillion trees, the world could offset half of all carbon emissions produced since 1960.

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