Wednesday, 23 November 2011

Caravan Chat - Remembering Late Prof Wangari Maathai on the Way to Durban

Prof Wangari Maathai
 PACJA will on 28th November 2011 hold a Waangari Maathai solidarity night in Durban, South Africa. It is expected that song, dance, tribute speeches will render the air as the Trans African Caravan of Hope caravanites remember and honor the late Prof Wangari Maathai who gave so much to the community she found herself in. 

 ‘If Prof Wangari Maathai was here she would reinforce messages that we have heard throughout from the leaders we have met so far. She wouldn’t be talking about Africa being compensated but rather that we as Africans need to look for homegrown solutions,’ Says Joseph Kabiru. He had the opportunity of interviewing the late Prof Wangari Maathai during his stints at both BBC and Nation Media Group. Joseph Kabiru is also a caravanite from Kenya.

I am talking to him whose article on Prof Wangari Maathai got published by the Guardian. He also had interesting perspectives hence my talking to him. His article can be found at
As a young man, his first impression of Prof Maathai was that, ‘she was the toughest woman in Kenya.’ She stood by her values and ideals. She was consistent in both her political and environmental battles.

 ‘This woman started to discuss climate change in the 70s way before the world had picked up on it,’ says Kabiru who grew up in surrounding area of MAU forest. His community benefited from what the government called the ‘shamba’ system where landless people were allowed to cultivate in forest areas They would then be urged to replace the trees. It was confusing for the community.  ‘The trees are growing, the crops are growing.  what is the farce about  forests?, ‘ The rural folk had wondered when in the early 70s the Late Prof Wangari Maathai started urging communities around the MAU to move away. 

‘The community didn’t quite understand the connection. It was confusing. The logic of the ecosystem didn’t make sense at all,’ says Kabiru. It also didn’t help much because the political elite painted her negatively every chance they got. But she fought on. She began working with women’s groups where she taught them not only the importance of trees but also how to plant and take care of them. So far the Green Belt Movement has planted over 40 million trees across Kenya since the 1970s.

Based in Eastern Africa, The MAU is the largest water tower in the region and its existence has been threatened on several occasions because of human encroachment. ‘All major rivers in East Africa are fed by the MAU, ‘ Say Kabiru adding that rivers like Sundu and Molo rivers are now dried up.’  Adding that if one went deep into the MAU one can’t help but notice that there has been destruction because of heavy logging.
‘Now looking back, she knew what she was talking about,’Kabiru adds.

By Maria Wanza

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