Saturday, October 01, 2011
MAATHAI VERSUS THE IMF AND WORLD BANK
Professor Wangari Maathai (Nobel laureate and environmentalist) was born in the central highlands of Kenya in 1940.
Back in the 1940s, her small village had clean water, rich soils, rich forests and plenty of food.
"It was heaven. We wanted for nothing," she said.
"Now the forests have come down, the land has been turned to commercial farming, the tea plantations keep everyone poor, and the economic system does not allow people to appreciate the beauty of where they live."
Maathai was educated by Catholic nuns. (environment)
Maathai said: "After my education by the nuns, I emerged as a person who believed that society is inherently good and that people generally act for the best."
Maathai won a scholarship to study in the US, as part of the 'Kennedy airlift' in which 300 Kenyans - including Barack Obama’s father - were chosen to study at American universities in 1960.
After further study in Germany, she returned to a newly independent Kenya in 1966.
Her early work as a vet took her to some of Kenya's poorest areas.
She saw first-hand the damage that was being done to the environment.
In 1977, she set up the Green Belt movement.
She became critical of politicians in Kenya, the World Bank, the IMF, Britain and other former colonial powers.
Before the 1990s, the Mau forest (above) was a protected area. "But then senior officials in President Daniel arap Moi's government grabbed large plots of the highly fertile land for themselves." Website for this image
What began as a few women planting trees became a network of 600 community groups.
They looked after 6,000 tree nurseries, which were often supervised by disabled and mentally ill people in the villages.
By 2004, more than 30 million trees had been planted, and the movement had branches in 30 countries.
In Kenya, the Green Belt movement has become an agricultural advice service, a community regeneration project and a job-creation plan.
In the early 1990s, Maathai set up Mazingira, the Kenyan Green Party.
Maathai became a junior environment minister between January 2003 and November 2005.
She died in September 2011. (Nobel laureate and environmentalist)