His Royal Highness, The Prince of Wales celebrates the life of Africa’s first Environmental and Woman Nobel Peace Laureate, Wangari Maathai, at Kew Gardens
27 March 2013
The Green Belt Movement International-Europe in partnership with the Royal Botanic Gardens in Kew, London is delighted announce a very special celebration of the life and legacy of Professor Wangari Maathai, Green Belt Movement (GBM) founder and 2004 Nobel Peace Prize Laureate at the Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew on Wednesday 27th March 2013. The day will focus on Professor Maathai’s contribution to understanding of the environment, peace and sustainable development, and the continuation of her legacy through the work of the Green Belt Movement organisations.
To mark the occasion, an Oak tree raised at Kew Gardens (Quercus x kewensis) will be planted in honour of Professor Wangari Maathai by His Royal Highness, The Prince of Wales. The Prince of Wales is a strong advocate for forest conservation and was a close friend of Professor Maathai, working with her at UN climate change meetings, a Nobel symposium, and with international experts on how to save the world’s forests. HRH Prince Charles will be joined by Nobel Peace Laureate Shirin Ebadi, Professor Maathai’s daughter Wanjira Mathai, and GBM friends and supporters to pay tribute to the late Professor Maathai. Five to ten year old pupils from Stoneygate College will perform a play about a hummingbird in a forest fire. The hummingbird tale was a story Professor Maathai loved to tell and encapsulates her life-long message to be committed to protect the environment and to ‘do the best that you can’. The Revival House choir will sing Swahili and Kikuyu songs.
On the 27th March there will be various activities to commemorate Professor Maathai at the Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew. This will include an exhibition of GBM’s work in the Nash conservatory.
The inaugural Wangari Maathai Lecture will be given by Mary Robinson at 6pm in Kew’s Jodrell Lecture Theatre, entitled: 'Wangari's Inspiration on Courageous Leadership and Climate Justice’.
The day’s celebrations symbolise the next phase of GBM, building upon Professor Maathai’s life-work and projecting her legacy for future forest conservation. A recent report from the FAO states that for ‘every tree planted in Africa, 28 trees are cut down’ which highlights the importance of the work done by GBM and Kew. However, while replanting of trees needs to continue on a large scale in Africa this will only be sustainable when ‘the right trees are planted in the right places’. The use of non-native species in replanting schemes in some areas such as water catchments has been shown to have detrimental effects on the ecosystem, especially in the longer term. As GBM has experienced firsthand, the availability of the right indigenous seeds and expert knowledge is a major constraint for most subsistence farmers, a problem which Kew’s Millennium Seed Bank is actively working on with its partner organisations in Africa.
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Notes to Editors
Professor Wangari Maathai was the first African woman to be awarded the Nobel Peace Prize in 2004 and is internationally recognized for her struggle for peace, democracy, and sustainable development. The first woman from East and Central Africa to earn a doctorate, she returned to Nairobi to gain her PhD from the University of Nairobi. Professor Maathai introduced the idea of community-based tree planting after seeing the devastation of the land and forests in rural Kenya. In recognition of her deep commitment to the environment, the United Nations (UN) Secretary-General named Professor Maathai a UN Messenger of Peace in December 2009, with a focus on the environment and climate change.
The Green Belt Movement (GBM) was founded by Professor Wangari Maathai in 1977 in Kenya and has planted over 51 million trees. GBM is an environmental organization that empowers communities, particularly women, to conserve the environment and improve livelihoods. GBM uses a watershed-based approach to its conservation and forest restoration activities that are underpinned by Community Empowerment and Education (CEE) programmes that ensure communities understand the linkage between environmental degradation and their livelihoods to take action and protect their natural environment.
Mary Robinson was the first woman President of Ireland and former United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights. Mary Robinson is a life-long advocate for gender equality, climate justice and women’s participation in peace-building. She is the founder of the Mary Robinson Foundation – Climate Justice.
The Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew was founded in 1759, and declared a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 2003. Kew is one of London’s top visitor attractions and a world leader in plant science and conservation. Throughout its history, Kew has made important contributions to increasing the understanding of the plant kingdom with many benefits for mankind. Today it is still first and foremost a scientific institution. Their work helps to discover and describe the world’s plant and fungal diversity, safeguard the world's plant life for our future, promote the sustainable use of plants and inspire an appreciation of plants and the environment.
Green Belt Movement International- Europe Contact: Amy Haworth Johns, Communications Officer: 020 7549 0395; firstname.lastname@example.org
Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew contact: Anna Quenby, Head of Public Relations; 020 8332 5607; email@example.com
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