Since her death on Sept. 25 of ovarian cancer, there has been renewed interest in the ideas of Wangari Maathai, who was the first woman in east and central Africa to earn a Ph.D. and the first African woman to win a Nobel Peace Prize. Most searchers have centred on her books.
Author: Wangari Maathai
Publisher: Knopf, PP352,2006
It is a matter-of-fact account of the exceptional life of Wangari Maathai, the 2004 Nobel Peace Prize laureate. Born in 1940, Maathai attended primary school at a time when Kenyan girls were not educated; went on to earn a Ph.D. and became head of the Department of Veterinary Anatomy at the University of Nairobi before founding Kenya’s Green Belt Movement in 1977.
The mother of three explains how the good earth has sustained her life and that of generations before her in this engrossing and eye-opening memoir. It is a work of tremendous dignity and rigor in which Maathai describes the paradise she knew as a child in the 1940s, when Kenya was a “lush, green, fertile” land of plenty, and the deforested nightmare it became.
Discriminated against as a female university professor, Maathai fought hard for women’s rights. And it was women she turned to when she undertook her mission to restore Kenya’s decimated forests, launching the Green Belt Movement and providing women with work planting trees. Maathai’s ingenious, courageous, and tenacious activism led to arrests, beatings, and death threats, and yet she and her tree-planting followers remained unbowed. She went on to be a minister for the environment and natural resources, Nobel laureate, visionary, and hero. She restored humankind’s innate, if nearly lost, knowledge of the intrinsic connection between thriving, wisely managed ecosystems and health, justice, and peace.
(A children’s book)
Author: Donna Jo Napoli
Publisher: Simon & Schuster/Paula Wiseman Books, PP40, 2010
Through artful prose and beautiful illustrations, Donna Jo Napoli and Kadir Nelson tell the true story of Wangari Muta Maathai, known as “Mama Miti,” who in 1977Mama Miti by Donna Jo Napoli founded the Green Belt Movement, an African grassroots organization that has empowered many people to mobilise and combat deforestation, soil erosion, and environmental degradation. Today more than 30 million trees have been planted throughout Mama Miti’s native Kenya, and in 2004 she became the first African woman to win the Nobel Peace Prize. Wangari Muta Maathai change Kenya tree by tree—and with each page turned, children will realise their own ability to positively impact the future.
Kadir Nelson uses a dazzling array of textures, colors, patterns, and cinematic techniques (a panoramic long shot on one page, a close-up on another) to capture the large (the environment, the diversity of life) and small (the personal) forces that propel the poor to seek help from “Wangari.”
Napoli downsises the story to the toddler and elementary school-age set by focusing on Wangari’s aid to individuals and families. Wangari helps them by recommending different varieties of trees: Mukinduri for firewood, mukawa to protect wildstock from predators, muthakwa wa athi to cure sick cattle, even a tree “which acts as nature’s filter to clean streams”--the giant sacred fig. Donna Jo Napoli and Nelson create an almost mythic tableau, supported by Napoli’s short descriptive sentences (interspersed with words spoken by Kenyan natives) that evoke an oral story-telling structure.
A deep humanity runs through the book, and Wangari seemed blessed by the gentle and generous power of nature. At the same time, the story takes on real problems with practical solutions, showing that small steps can build into something greater. The age-appropriate story covers many important personal and social issues with gorgeous illustrations and a melodious, easy-flowing text.
Replenishing the EarthReplenishing the earth
Author: Wangar Maathai
Publisher: Doubleday Religion, PP208, 2010
This is an impassioned call to heal the wounds of our planet and ourselves through the tenets of our spiritual traditions.
Maathai spent decades working with the Green Belt Movement to help women in rural Kenya plant—and sustain—millions of trees. With their hands in the dirt, these women often found themselves empowered and “at home” in a way they never did before. Maathai imparts that feeling to everyone, and believes that the key lies in traditional spiritual values: love for the environment, self-betterment, gratitude and respect, and a commitment to service. While educated in the Christian tradition, Maathai draws inspiration from many faiths, celebrating the Jewish mandate tikkun olam (“repair the world”) and renewing the Japanese term mottainai (“don’t waste”). Through rededication to these values, she believes, we might finally bring about healing for ourselves and the earth.
Wangari speaks in clear language about the benefits of a nurturing, protective, and symbiotic relationship with the earth. She has a pointed way of writing, and brings up examples of cultures (mainly African, as is the point) and religions, along with some positive activist groups. She delves deeply into “the Source” and its relationship to religion and spirituality. She carves a fine, deep niche for spirituality + conservationism + love.
The Greenbelt MovementThe Green Belt Movement
Author: Wangari Maathai
Publisher: Lantern Books, 117, 2003
This book begins with a dry account of the Green Belt Movement’s 20-year history, which has been filled with setbacks and successes that are undoubtedly fascinating, but Maathai hurries by them with bland, cut-and-dry statements. The second half of the book reads like an extended grant proposal, enumerating goals and projects, explaining why ideas are worthwhile and outlining step-by-step processes that similar groups can follow. Many sections are little more than laundry lists of activities and achievements that barely hint at the group’s struggles against countless obstacles, particularly corruption and indifference.
The book takes you into Maathai’s grassroots level work.
The Challenge for Africa
Author: Wangari Maathai
The Challenge for Africa
Publisher: Anchor, PP 336, 2010
It shows how some nations are on the brink of collapse due to corruption, gross mismanagement and lack of the peoples’ trust and faith in African leadership. This is Africa’s biggest challenge.“The Challenge for Africa” is a book of complaints about Africa and ideas, suggestions, and solutions to its numerous and complex problems.
She juxtaposes the “traditional” and “modern” culture and how African culture, ethnic divisions, and the destruction of family ties.
She shows how foreign aid sent to assist African leaders in resolving the myriad of issues and problems has not worked. He view is that African leaders should reject “handouts” and instead mobilise the population to build stronger economic, social and political infrastructure.
She shows how globalisation has had a negative impact on locally-grown products which have had limited success in competing with mass-produced goods distributed by transnational corporations. The African market place is the centrepiece for economic and political activities in most countries and has been unfairly affected by the international markets.