This is an interview with Wangari Maathai, Environmental Activist and Nobel Prize winner. Wangari Maathai started the Green Belt Movement and also fought for equal rights for women in Africa. She is the first African woman to win the Nobel Peace Prize.
From the very beginning Wangari Maathai understood that she has to rehabilitate the environment as the rural people are asking for clean drinking water, for food, for energy, for building material, for fodder for the animals. She thought peace is connected to a good environment because there won’t be any conflicts if natural resources are abundant. She insists that conflicts over natural sources are even at the global level. When she was a child, which was almost more than fifty years ago, the environment was very pristine, very beautiful and very green but as she grew the people destroyed all the local biological diversity. All the flora and fauna disappeared. One thing she noted is that not only did the rain pattern change, became less, but also the rivers started drying up. So she started campaign to restore the vegetation and to restore the land and to rehabilitate the forests. When she started working with the women she taught them how to plant trees. In the beginning it was difficult, but they soon gained confidence and they became very competent foresters. She called them “Foresters without Diplomas.”
Wangari Maathai thinks that the women responded well to her message because it is a need for them. She has seen three transformations. One of the biggest was that ability of an ordinary illiterate woman to get to understand and to be able to plant trees. The other two transformations are the transformation of the landscape, the willingness of people to fight for their rights.
Wangari Maathai also influenced the rest of Africa by her efforts. She finally concluded that the greatest activity is to plant a tree which is a wonderful symbol for the environment.