Wangari Maathai founded the Green Belt Movement in 1977 following her return to her native Kenya, after pursuing university studies in the US: she was concerned not only about the detrimental changes in the landscape caused by deforestation, but also about how these were affecting women’s lives especially. Through the Green Belt Movement, more than 47 million trees have been planted, and with them, many families have been able to take active control of their own food production and become involved in promoting sustainable development.
Three inspirational children’s books that relate this aspect of Wangari Maathai’s life are Planting the Trees of Kenya: The Story of Wangari Maathai by Claire A. Nivola (Farrar, Straus and Giroux, 2008) and Wangari’s Trees of Peace: A True Story from Africa by Jeanette Winter (Harcourt Books, 2008) and Seeds of Change: Wangari’s Gift to the World by Jen Cullerton Johnson, illustrated by Sonia Lynn Sadler (Lee & Low Books, 2010). Wangari’s story helps children to recognise that small actions can lead to big actions, and that through putting many people’s small actions together, they can be the instrument for momentous change.
You can read more about Wangari Maathai’s incredible life on the Green Belt Movement’s website, including her advocacy for freedom and peace; and her own words about some of the issues close to her heart. Our thoughts and prayers are with Wangari’s family: may the knowledge that Wangari’s name and influence will live on be of consolation to them in their time of grief. An online condolence book is available on Wangari’s Facebook page.