DURBAN, South Africa (4 December, 2011)_ To commemorate and honour the life and work of Professor Wangari Maathai, the Collaborative Partnership on Forests (CPF) opened Forest Day 5, one of the most intensive and influential annual global events on forests, with a short video about the Nobel Laureate.
Maathai — Nobel Peace laureate, conservationist and politician who led an international movement for women’s rights and environmental preservation — died in Nairobi in September of this year while undergoing cancer treatment aged 71.
“We have a final challenge from (Wangari): to keep the trail blazing, to keep our energy up, to keep (up) negotiations, but most importantly to make sure that everything that is happening here is getting translated, in Africa and the developing and developed worlds,” said Judy Nyaguthii Kimamo of the Green Belt Movement in her introduction to the presentation.
A passionate supporter of agroforestry, Professor Maathai founded the Green Belt Movement in 1977, an environmental non-governmental organization that has, to date, planted more than 30 million trees throughout Africa. While the movement started as a tree-planting campaign, under the reign of Maathai, it became a lot more — it gave people a reason to stand up for their rights, pushed for equity and cultures of peace and empowered Africans, especially women, as leaders.
“People do not know how much they depend on the survival of the ecosystem. So when people say they want to come in and cultivate, or they want to come in and grow commercial plantations, I know that they are digging their own graves,” said the late Wangari Maathai in the video.
“It is the people who must save the environment. It is the people who must make the leaders change. So we must stand up for what we believe in and we cannot be intimidated.”
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