Thursday, 19 August 2010
Wangari Maathai: The Green Belt Movement
Wangari Maathai was born in Nyeri, Kenya (Africa) in 1940, earned a BS in biology from Mount St. Scholastica College in Atchison, Kansas (1964), a MS from Univeristy of Pittsburgh (1966), and afer studying in Germany, obtained a PhD from the University of Nairobi.
She introduced the idea of planting trees on farms and in school and church compounds. Trees would reforest the mountains and create an environment conducive to clean drinking water; they would provide firewood; fruit trees would help alleviate malnutrition.
Over 30 million were planted in Kenya through the Green Belt Movement, this eventually developed into the Pan African Green Belt Network serving Tanzania, Uganda, Malawi, Lesotho, Ethiopia, Zimbabwe, and other countries.
She promoted cancellation of the unpayable backlog debts of the poor countries in Africa by the year 2000 and led a campaign against land grabbibg and rapacious allocation of forest lands.
Beaten, harassed, and jailed for her efforts by Daniel arap Moi, Kenya's president.
But she never got discouraged! She has continued fighting for a green environment and she was appointed Kenya's Assistant Minister of Environment, Natural Resources, and Wildlife.
In her Nobel Peace Prize speech, Wangari Maathai said, "Although initially the Green Belt Movement's tree planting activities did not address issues of democracy and peace, it soon became clear that responsible governance of the environment was impossible without democratic space. Therefore, the tree became a symbol for the democratic struggle."