Lesein Mutunkei is a 16 year old Kenyan high school student who is an avid football player with a love for adventure and the outdoor.
From when he was around 11 years old, Lesein started hearing about deforestation, climate change and plastic pollution. In January 2018, Lesein decided he needed to do something and so he combined his love for football and his love for nature and committed to plant a tree for every goal he scored. He came up with an innovative initiative called Trees For Goals.
Lesein was inspired by Prof Wangari Maathai’s story of the Hummingbird – doing my ‘little thing’. Lesein says his ‘little thing’ is playing football and planting trees – this way he can improve his football and improve his environment. Lesein wanted to make sure his initiative is simple and anyone, especially young people, can be part of it.
In 2019, after learning more about the urgency of the negative effects of climate change and air pollution, Lesein decided to increase his commitment: for every goal he scores he plants eleven (11) trees to represent his team, given that football is a team effort of eleven players.
Lesein inspired and encouraged his football club Ligi Ndogo, and his school football team to join him to adopt an environmentally-conscious attitude of linking football to environment. Lesein was excited when his school basketball
team adopted T4Gs but called it ‘Hoops For Trees’. Lesein continues to reach out to schools and football clubs to adopt the Trees 4 Club initiative.
Lesein says, “Climate change crisis is a universal challenge and football is a universal game. Football has the power to help us create global environment awareness and take global action to achieve a greener future.”
In Sept 2019, Lesein was invited by the UN to attend the first Youth Climate Summit in New York as one of the youngest delegates where he met other young people taking climate action. Lesein has been feature in local and internationally media e.g Nation Media, BBC Africa and NatGeo.
Lesein has been featured in a number of books such as ‘United We Are Unstoppable- 60 Inspiring Young People our World’ by Akshat Rathi and ‘ How you can save the Planet ‘ by Hendrikus van Hensbergen. Lesein has won various environment awards including Eco–Hero International 2020 Award, Green Kids Award and
Environment Day Art and Essay Competition.
Over the last two years, Lesein has planted over 1400 trees, most of which are fruit trees and indigenous trees including 600 trees at Karura Forest with his football team at Ligi Ndogo. Lesein commits not only to plant trees but rather to grow trees. He has planted trees in urban forests like with his school at Ngong forest, his home compound, Karura forest and at a rural primary school in Kajiado – always ensuring he is accompanied by other young people.
Lesein is part of Kijani World Kenya – a group of Young Kenyans who use their talents, art and passion to promote
an environmental conscious generation among their peers (Instagram: @Kijani_World).
Lesein is committed to creating a forest of Trees for Goals in each county of Kenya, then a forest of Trees for Goals in each country in Africa. His biggest goal is for FIFA to adopt his approach of Trees4Goals and famous football players to start planting trees. Lesein believes we need to keep solutions simple and to know Sports is a powerful force and can educate people and inspire them to do more for our environment.
Lesein’s message: “Prof Wangari Maathai is my inspiration and she planted 51 million trees in Kenya. She taught us that it is the little things we do that will make the difference. My little thing is planting playing football and planting trees. I always say: you are never too small or too young to make an impact in the world. Remember that everything you do, however small, counts. It is best to start now, because we don’t have much time.”