The Common Good
January 2005

The Woman Who Planted Trees

by Rose Marie Berger, Mark Betz | January 2005

Catholic Kenyan environmental activist Wangari Maathai won the
2004 Nobel Peace Prize—a first for an African woman and a
first for environmentalism—for her work with the ...

Catholic Kenyan environmental activist Wangari Maathai won the 2004 Nobel Peace Prize—a first for an African woman and a first for environmentalism—for her work with the Green Belt Movement, the largest community-based environmental organization in Africa. Maathai, the first Kenyan woman to earn a Ph.D., is particularly known for leading poor Kenyan women in a reforestation movement that has planted 30 million trees.

"This award is given to those who have fought the good fight and prevailed," Green Belt Movement board treasurer Lilian Njehu told Sojourners. "It not only recognizes the environment, but also the critical importance of the work of women." Maathai worked with the World Council of Churches on faith and science issues and led the Africa campaign of Jubilee 2000, the faith-based debt relief movement. "When we plant trees, we plant the seeds of peace and seeds of hope," Maathai wrote in response to receiving the Nobel Prize. "We also secure the future for our children." After learning about the prize, Maathai planted a Nandi flame tree at the foot of Mt. Kenya.

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