Written by: Mustafa Darbar

Mustafa Darbar is a budding environmentalist passionate about nature and looking to make a difference in the world by planting as many trees as possible. You can follow him on his Instagram page @mustafa_is_planting_trees. He has made a pledge of planting a tree for every 10 new followers he gets. Go ahead, follow him and help him plant more!

My name is Mustafa Murtaza Darbar. I am 13 years old. Four years ago, in 2016, I went on a tree-planting trip to Karura Forest. I realized that if I don’t take any action to save the beautiful trees around me, what will happen to the world when I grow up?

This thought turned into a passion, and I have been actively planting trees all over for the last four years.

I live in Nairobi, Kenya, with my father, mother, and sister.My parents have always encouraged me to do good for people and the world. They are a model for me to lead my life. I am sure they are also worried about leaving mother earth a better place for us.

I am a young environmentalist. We see videos and read that we are cutting down more trees than we are planting. Trees are the lifeline of the planet. Not only do they convert carbon dioxide (what we breathe out) into life-giving oxygen (what we breathe in), but they host all kinds of animals and insects. Each tree can be called a ‘tree of life.’

There are many ways to grow trees. I have thrown thousands of ‘seedballs.’ The seeds are covered in charcoal dust. They germinate when the charcoal breaks down in the rains.

My love for growing trees has led me to plant one tree for every 10 followers I get on my Instagram account. I also led a drive to collect 1000 meals and for every 10 meals I collected, I pledged a tree. I managed to raise 1040 meals and planted 104 trees. For World Food Day 2020 I have planted 750 cabbage seedlings to celebrate the 75th anniversary of the UN’s Food and Agriculture Organisation. I am waiting to donate them to a worthy charity as soon as they are ready.

A golden rule is to plant only indigenous (local) species of trees. My favourite trees are the Acacia and Croton Megalocarpus. These are native to my home country, Kenya. The best way to learn about nature is to observe it. Admire the greenery around you. Spend time in nature. Go for walks. Breathe the clean air, let nature seep into your body, mind, and soul.

If you don’t know what a tree is called, take a picture of the tree and look it up using Google Lens. Make a list of trees in your neighborhood. Encourage your parents and friends to go on nature walks. Look around, take pictures, create a collection of trees and plants you see around you. Study them, get to know them. Get your hands dirty. Feel the soil in your hands. Connect with mother earth. Doing this has given me a sense of happiness and contentment. I know I am making the world a better place for us.

Learn to care for trees. Yes, they need to be looked after too. It takes two to three years for them to take root and become independent.

People complain they don’t have a place to plant trees. Look around you. You don’t need acres of land — a small patch in your garden, a park, a nature reserve, to name a few. Ask your neighbor if you can plant a tree in their yard. Start by planting one in a pot! Remember, every tree counts.

Along with planting trees, I am passionate about cleaning rivers. I joined hands with a group of community members to clean the Mbagathi River. I cannot wait for the pandemic to end to go out again!

On a trip to the coastal city of Mombasa, I was shocked at the state of the ocean and the beaches. The pollution in the oceans will kill all the life there. We have to do something!

I ask all my readers, young and old, to join hands to make our world a better place. Let’s plant trees, clean rivers to get fresh water, rid the oceans of plastic waste and pollution. Every bit counts. One person picking up and throwing away a single plastic bag from the beach will save a fish from swallowing it and dying.

Let’s all join hands in recycling, reducing waste, and reusing – the three R’s to make our world a better place for every living being.