Kenyan scientist Wangari Maathai
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International Institute for Sustainable Development

Wangari Maathai

"We have a special responsibility to the ecosystem of this planet. In making sure that other species survive we will be ensuring the survival of our own."
- Wangari Maathai

In Africa, trees are being cut down much faster than they are being planted. This means that deforestation, the destruction of forests, is happening fast. Scientist Wangari Maathai has worked for many years to stop deforestation in Kenya and in other places in Africa.

Deforestation leads to many problems. Without trees holding the ground in place, the top layers of soil wash off into rivers during rainstorms. This can cause water pollution. Fewer trees make it difficult for people to find firewood. Many animals can not find the food they need.

To combat these problems, Wangari Maathai founded the Green Belt Movement in 1977. The movement paid Kenyan women to plant trees. This provided jobs for Kenyan women and helped to stop deforestation. The program was so successful that other countries in Africa wanted to do the same thing. Wangari Maathai has helped African countries make their own programs to plant trees. Through this project, women have planted more than 20 million trees in Africa.

Wangari Maathai was born in Nyeri, Kenya (Africa) in 1940. She is the first woman in East and Central Africa to earn a doctorate degree, and for many years she was a professor at the University of Nairobi in Kenya. She and her organization have won many awards including the 2004 Nobel Peace Prize. In December 2002, she was elected to the Kenyan parliament and was appointed to be the Assistant Minister for Environment, Natural Resources and Wildlife.

Last modified January 9, 2006 by Lisa Gardiner.

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