Dr. Maathai is first African woman to receive prize and it's first time the environment is considered part of the struggle for peace.
Dr. Wangari Maathai, the leading Kenyan environmentalist, civil rights activist, and deputy environment minister in the Kenyan government, has been awarded the 2004 Nobel Peace Prize. Citing her “stand at the front of the fight to promote ecologically viable social, economic and cultural development in Kenya and Africa,” the Nobel committee established a number of precedents. Dr. Maathai is the first African woman to receive the prize and it is the first time that the environment has been considered as part of the struggle for peace.

However, as Dr. Maathai relates in her book The Green Belt Movement: Sharing the Approach and the Experience, which Lantern Books published in 2003, environmental conservation, women’s rights, good governance, and the struggle for freedom are all components of a peaceful world. For decades, Dr. Maathai labored to further women’s rights and protect the environment—often at great personal cost and under the threat of physical violence.

Dr. Maathai founded the Green Belt Movement on Earth Day 1977 as a way to combat the massive deforestation and soil erosion she saw occurring throughout Kenya, the result of corruption and poor land management. She understood that the depletion of trees was a woman’s issue, since women were the ones who gathered firewood for fuel and fetched water. With less shade to cool the ground and help it retain water, a shortage of trees meant that the women had to walk further afield to collect water and wood and that the soil would be eroded and degraded. It meant less time at home to tend the crops, look after the children, or further their own education.

With her doctorate in biological science, Dr. Maathai knew that planting trees could radically improve the soil quality in Kenya and change women’s lives for the better. This is the mandate of the Green Belt Movement, and the subject of The Green Belt Movement. In the book, Dr. Maathai explains how the Green Belt Movement began, the challenges it faced and how it has succeeded in transforming the lives of ordinary Kenyans by creating a more sustainable energy source, better food knowledge and educational opportunities, and empowering women. Since its inception, the Green Belt Movement has planted nearly 30 million trees throughout Kenya (with a 70 percent survival rate) and provided an income for 80,000 people. The Green Belt Movement now has programs in over thirty African countries, the United States, and Haiti. As importantly, it has enabled many African women, who make up 70 percent of Green Belt’s members, to take control of their own destiny.

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Lantern Books publishes books for all wanting to live with greater spiritual depth and commitment to the preservation of the natural world. Lantern Books is a division of Booklight Incorporated. Lantern Books is now the United States Distributor of Findhorn Press, Stealth Technologies, and Samhita Publications.