In Kenya, Teen Soccer Player Takes Aim at Climate, One Tree at a Time

Aug 5, 2022

Thought Question: Think of a movement or cause that you are passionate about. How would you encourage others to support it?

Score a goal, plant a tree. Lesein Mutunkei has a unique approach to saving forests. Mutunkei is an 18-year-old Kenyan who plays amateur soccer. He wants the biggest names in the sport to pick up a shovel and plant some trees.

Mutunkei has been planting trees since he was 5 years old. Growing up, his family planted trees to mark special moments. The tradition caused him to associate tree planting with celebration. In 2018, the Kenyan Forest Service reported Kenya’s forest cover was just 6%. He knew he had to take action. 

So, Mutunkei turned his family’s tradition into Trees4Goals. Now for every score he makes on the soccer field, Mutunkei plants 11 trees. One for each of his teammates.  

Trees4Goals aims to motivate young athletes to do the same. The goal is for a tree to be planted for every point scored. So far, over 5,500 native trees have been planted around Kenya’s capital. 

Kenya’s Ministry of Environment and Forestry has taken note of the project. It has started to donate saplings. The ministry tells him where the trees are most needed. In return, Mutunkei advises them on how to best involve young people in conservation efforts. Mutunkei’s next goal is to gain the attention of FIFA. That's soccer’s governing body. He wants FIFA to influence its billions of followers to help save the planet.  

"Football is a universal game and climate change is a universal problem," Mutunkei told CNN. "(It) has the power to connect, engage, educate and inspire my generation to create a safer and greener future."

Photo by Boudhayan Bardhan courtesy of Unsplash.

Question
Which quote best captures the story’s central idea? (Common Core RI.5.2; RI.6.2)
a. “Growing up, his family planted trees to mark special moments. The tradition caused him to associate tree-planting with celebration.”
b. "‘Football is a universal game, and climate change is a universal problem,’ Mutunkei told CNN. ‘(It) has the power to connect, engage, educate and inspire my generation to create a safer and greener future.’"
c. “So far, over 5,500 native trees have been planted around Kenya’s capital.”
d. “Kenya’s Ministry of Environment and Forestry has taken note of the project. It has started to donate saplings.”
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