Magazine article New Internationalist

Wangari Maathai (1940-2011)

Magazine article New Internationalist

Wangari Maathai (1940-2011)

Article excerpt

The death from cancer of Wangari Maathai means that Africa has lost one of its most revered daughters. She said in an interview with the New Internationalist in 1990: 'At 50 1 know I have maybe another 20 active years. Before anything happens to me I want to know that the seeds have really been planted, that things will carry on changing.'

She would probably never have been satisfied that she had done enough to bring about change but no-one could have done more. She devoted inexhaustible energy and courage to opposing dictatorship and pursuing a pioneering environmental vision that proved inspirational to people all over the world.

Born in the Kenyan village of lhithe, near Nyeri, she completed degrees in biological sciences in the US before returning to Kenya to complete a doctorate in veterinary medicine - and becoming the first woman in east and central Africa to earn a professorship in her field. As chair of the National Council of Women of Kenya during the 1970s, she became aware of the worsening conditions of women in rural areas and the Green Belt Movement was the ultimate result. Planting trees was seen as a practical solution to myriad problems -providing fuelwood for cooking and fodder for livestock as well as preserving soil - and over her lifetime the Green Belt Movement planted around 47 million trees. But it was also clear from the first that the movement posed a profound challenge to the social and economic path that the world was taking. …

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