Wangari Muta Maathai, the so-called woman of trees, was the first African woman to win the Nobel Peace Prize in 2004.
Ms. Maathai frequently expressed concern about poverty in Africa. In an exclusive interview with Africa Renewal shortly after winning the Nobel Prize, she maintained that Africans “cannot afford to have a region where a few people are filthy rich and a huge number of people are in dehumanizing poverty.” She was the first African female to win a Nobel Peace Prize and the first woman in East Africa to earn a doctorate in veterinary anatomy, which she obtained from the University of Nairobi. She studied in Kenya, the US and Germany.
Ms. Maathai founded the Green Belt Movement in 1977 to plant trees across Kenya, alleviate poverty and end conflict. She was driven by a perceived connection between environmental degradation and poverty and conflict. “Poor people will cut the last tree to cook the last meal,” she once said. “The more you degrade the environment, the more you dig deeper into poverty.”
She died at the age of 71 in 2011, of ovarian cancer.
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