Tribute to Wangari Maathai

wangari maathai, livelihoodsWangari Maathai passed away… We feel so sad and lonely. Wangari symbolized so greatly what is important in a human life: vision, courage and generosity.

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Wangari and I met in Paris three months ago to discuss her role in Livelihoods. She was fully supportive of the approach. We had an intense and fruitful discussion. Wangari expressed genuine interest and curiousity , pointing key questions such as how the Livelihoods Fund would benefit to the communities. She accepted to play the role of a special advisor, but she said she could not take more responsibility for the time being. I fully understand now what she meant.

We all owe so much to Wangari. As a founder of the Green Belt Movement many years ago, she showed us the way, the direct link between poverty and destruction of ecosystems. Before many others, she understood the power of community action, when people take their destiny in hands to change their life. Her tireless action with thousands of women to replant the Mount Kenya forest, where she spent her childhood, was a major contribution to restore biodiversity and water catchment, recreate the foundation of the community livelihood.

Wangari’s action went much beyond tree planting. In her last book, “A challenge for Africa”, she expressed very clearly the sense on her life’s engagement: the bumpy road and need to transparent governance and democracy, the immense role of women and their necessary empowerment, the promising ways to reconcile development and a sustainable planet. Her tenacity to move on day after day despite adversity and difficulties is a living lesson for all of us.

Our collective responsibility now is to help fulfill the hopes she inspired.

Bernard Giraud, Livelihoods