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Kenya's Greenbelt Movement Empowers Women and Poor Communities

In 1978, a Kenyan woman named Wangari Maathai suggested the planting of trees as a way to help rural women survive in their difficult new circumstances. Between The Lines' Melinda Tuhus interviewed her about the situation that gave rise to her organizing effort and what the movement has accomplished thus far.
Kenya's Greenbelt Movement Empowers Women and Poor Communities

Interview by Between The Lines' Melinda Tuhus

For decades, Kenya, a land of incredible beauty and abundant natural resources, has suffered under several inter-related catastrophes. The introduction across much of the land of monoculture coffee production for export, forced small farmers in search of firewood and building materials to denude the lush countryside of trees. This environmental devastation, combined with rampant political corruption and the imposition of harsh conditions laid down by international lending agencies, have created a disastrous situation for the people of Kenya.

In 1978, a Kenyan woman named Wangari Maathai suggested the planting of trees as a way to help rural women survive in their difficult new circumstances. Thus was born the Green Belt Movement, one of the most successful grassroots women's empowerment efforts in the world. Maathai has gained international recognition for her work, as well as the enmity of Kenyan president Daniel Arap Moi, who has been in office roughly since she founded the Green Belt Movement.

Maathai is teaching this semester at Yale University's School of Forestry and Environmental Studies, where Between The Lines' Melinda Tuhus interviewed her about the situation that gave rise to her organizing effort and what the movement has accomplished thus far(A RealAudio Version of this interview may be found at www.btlonline.org).

For more information, visit the Yale University website at www.yale.edu/forestry

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