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Saturday, October 09, 2004

ABC News > A Prize-Winning ‘Tree Woman’ Nobel Peace Laureate Wangari Maathai Looks for Salvation in the Environment

Oct. 8, 2004 ? Today Wangari Maathai was named the winner of the 2004 Nobel Peace Prize for her contribution to sustainable development, democracy and peace.
For more than three decades, she has worked to save Africa's natural environment and improve the quality of life for women.
But the Nobel Committee's announcement today caught her completely by surprise.
"I was shaking and crying," she told ABC News. "I am still very excited and I particularly like the fact the news reached me here in Nyeri, at home, in front of Mount Kenya."
Keeping Peace By Keeping Green
She is known as "the Tree Woman of Kenya," sometimes as "Mother Earth."
Her Green Belt Movement has planted 30 million trees across Africa to combat deforestation, which has been devastating to the African way of life.
Half of Africa's forests have been destroyed. Much of the continent has been devastated by mining, logging and other development and people in need of fuel.
Maathai believes that saving the environment is a way to safeguard peace.
"When we destroy our resources, when our resources become scarce, we fight over them. And many wars in the world are actually fought over natural resources," she said.
Widespread Admiration
Maathai began planting trees in 1977 ? in her own back yard at the foot of Mount Kenya.
By the early 1980s she had encouraged the formation of 600 nurseries growing trees.
Some 3,000 women make a little money caring for the trees. Maathai raises all the money privately. By 1993 more than 20 million trees were growing.
"She is like the Pied Piper. Whenever she visits a village, the women gather around her, they sing to her when she arrives, they give her great tributes, food, and just love," said friend Mary Davidson.
A Remarkable Woman
Maathai is the first African woman to win the Nobel Peace Prize.


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