Born in a small village in the district of Nyeri of Kenya in 1940, Maathai was part of the Kikuyu tribe and was one of 300 Kenyan students who benefited from a United States scholarship to study in America.
Maathai became an eco-warrior on her return to Kenya where she worked in veterinary medicine research at the University of Nairobi where she earned a Ph.D. She eventually became the head of the veterinary medicine faculty, a first for a woman in any department at the university.
Through her work in various environmental and civic organizations, Dr Maathai realized that poverty and environmental degradation were intrinsically linked. She became involved in organizing work for poor people and eventually this became a national grass-roots organization, providing work and improving the environment at the same time.
In 1977 she formally founded the Green Belt Movement, an environmental NGO, focusing on planting of trees to combat the major problem of deforestation, erosion, environment conservation whilst at the same time creating ‘jobs’ for women.
She encouraged the women of Kenya to plant tree nurseries, searching nearby forests for seeds to grow trees native to that particular area. According to the UN, her Green Belt movement has planted more than 30 million trees and has helped nearly 900,000 women while inspiring similar efforts in other African countries.
The establishment of global environmental organizations gave Maathai the openings to bring world attention to environmental issues affecting developing countries.
In 2004 she became the first African woman to win the Nobel Peace prize for her contribution towards sustainable development, democracy and peace.
Environment Africa’s CEO, Charlene Hewat, had the privilege of meeting Dr Maathai during a Climate Change meeting in Denmark. Charlene has also been involved in planting trees in her home country Zimbabwe and launched a campaign with Nelson Mandela ‘Madiba’ to plant one million trees in a year which was achieved.
Pamberi Wangari, you shall always be our hero for the African Environment.Post published in: Environment