This week, Kenyans and environmentalists are mourning the death of their Tree Lady. Wangari Maathai was a most remarkable woman who dedicated her life to sustainable development, democracy and peace. She was 71. This charismatic Kenyan woman was known around the world as well as in the hallowed halls of international governments as the Tree Lady. She was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize in 2004 and was the first woman in East Africa to get a PhD. She has inspired many, has captivated many high powered audiences, and was certainly one of the most impressive women of her generation.
Her long career was a continual fight, against all odds, for rights and freedom, but she is most famous for her environmental activism and ‘green’ campaigns which earned her the Tree Lady title.
Wangari Maathai’s philosophy and methodology were so simple… she encouraged the women of Kenya to plant tree nurseries throughout the country. She encouraged them to find seeds in nearby forests to grow trees native to the area. The women were then paid a small amount for each seedling which was later planted elsewhere. This concept ultimately became known as the Greenbelt Movement which has to date planted almost 4 million trees in Kenya.
Her life story is known to many, but I often wonder how many more ‘Tree Ladies’ there are out there who are doing great things against all odds at a grass-routes level that none of us get to see or hear about. This blog post is a tribute to those people. I like to believe that there are more people doing good as opposed to bad…even though it’s the sensational bad guys that make the news!
Travellers to Africa often want to see community upliftment and conservation projects in action, and we have facilitated many such visits to local on-the-ground organisations. It is part of what we do, besides planning your African safari, we are happy to arrange cultural interactions and facilitate visits to sustainable development projects.