Peru honours the late Maathai for environment conservation efforts


Kenya: The late Nobel Peace Laureate Wangari Maathai has been honoured posthumously in Peru for her efforts in conserving the environment.

Peru has named its city park after Prof Maathai for her enthusiasm in protecting the environment.

 The park in Lima was officially commissioned late last month to commemorate the Nobel laureate and her works.

The ceremony coincided with the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change that was held in Lima.

Maathai was the force behind the creation of the United Nations Billion Tree Campaign now called Plant for the Planet, which had planted more than 12,000,000 trees around the world by the end of December 2011.

Late last year, Kenyan expatriates in Qatar planted trees in the city of Mesaieed to commemorate Maathai’s third memorial.

Her legacy

According to the Qatar Tribune which published a story on Maathai, Zacchaeus Njuguna said he was continuing her legacy by planting trees.

“Greenery soothes the eyes. I also feel that having more trees in Qatar would beat home-sickness because it will make expatriates feel at home since most of them come from places that have many trees,” Mr Njuguna was reported to have said by the Qatar Tribune.

The Pittsburgh University in the United States where Maathai studied for her master’s degree in biology had also honoured her by putting up a memorial plaque in a garden dubbed Wangari Maathai Trees and Garden in the campus.

According to the university’s website, the school’s Chancellor Mark A. Nordenberg is reported to have said the following during the unveiling of the garden:

“Professor Maathai’s lifelong commitment to advocating for women, the poor, and the oppressed, especially through her founding of the Green Belt Movement, has had a truly global impact, bringing hope and opportunity for a better life to countless women. In light of these accomplishments, coupled with the honour that she has brought to the university as one of our outstanding alumni, it is only right that we pay tribute to her life  accomplishments through the creation of a living monument here at the university.”

He added: “The new Wangari Maathai Garden and Trees reflects the pride we take in claiming Wangari Maathai as one of our distinguished graduates and it will serve as an ongoing inspiration to generations of Pitt students to come, reminding them of the positive difference that one person, armed with an education and a dream, can make.”

Maathai was the founder of the Green Belt Movement that continues to fight and create awareness on the importance of conserving the environment.

The environmentalist, who was the first African woman to win the Nobel Peace Prize, will be remembered for not only fighting for the environment but also for democracy as well as human rights.

She died in 2011 at the age of 71 from ovarian cancer and was cremated as she had previously requested, with at least 5,000 trees being planted throughout the country on the day she was buried.

Mathaai’s coffin was made from water hyacinth and papyrus reeds with a bamboo frame as opposed to the commonly used wood coffins.

The uncommon coffin, it was reported, was meant to be eco-friendly and gave the assurance that no tree was cut to make the coffin.

Unlike in many State funerals, there was no viewing of the body given the nature of the late environmentalist’s coffin.

In 2009, the United Nations through its Secretary General recognised Maathai’s commitment to the environment by making her a UN Messenger of Peace.

Another feather was added to her cap the following year when she was appointed to the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) advocacy group. It was a group that was meant to rally worldwide support for the achievement of the MDGs.

According to the Green Belt Movement website, Maathai in 2010 also became a trustee of the Karura Forest Environmental Education Trust, established to safeguard the public land for whose protection she had fought for almost 20 years.

The same year saw her partner with the University of Nairobi to set up the Wangari Maathai Institute for Peace and Environmental Studies (WMI).

The WMI, the website says, brings together academic researchers on land use, forestry, agriculture, resource-based conflicts and peace studies.