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February 10, 2007


Last year I heard a very impressive interview by Terry Gross with Nobel Laureate Wangari Maathai of Kenya, the first African woman to be thus honored. The interview is about twenty minutes and I was deeply impressed, enough so that I am surprised that the NY Times writer didn't have so much as a footnote referrring to her. Africa is a big place, of course, and it's a long way from Niger to Kenya, but from what I have read and heard about this woman, any article about planting trees in Africa that fails to mention Wangari Maathai is incomplete. A Google search returns many treasures.

And yes, the article also strikes me as hopeful.

Thanks for bringing up Wangari Maathai, Hootsbuddy. I blogged her when she won the Nobel Peace Prize:


I wonder why the reporter didn't mention her - or did the editor cut it? Context would help American readers.

It's is great you picked up this positive news story. I just wanted to add that if people are interested they could find more study reports and details about this development in Niger on www.frameweb.org/nigerregeneration.

Thanks Anna for the added information. Here is a "hot", clickable link:


Reminds me again of Grameen Bank and the insight that poor people are not the helpless aid recipients that we in the West sometimes imagine. In fact people in difficult circumstances must often be quite resourceful just to stay alive.

The other lesson is that difficult problems often have quite simple, low-tech solutions. People like me want all the solutions to problems to be patentable, ingenious engineered devices. It just isn't so!

Did my PhD on soil conservation in Burkina Faso, and have worked in Niger over some years, although further west. The article plays down the real severity of the food crisis in S Niger, 2005-6 - which went on at the same time as 'greening'. They have picked up an encouraging story - source, Chris Reij's team in Amsterdam - but there is plenty of misery in this and nearby regions, suggesting the link between 'greening' and 'sustainable development' is not yet made. Niger is poor, poorly governed, and still very susceptible to drought [any drought over 12-14 days and the millet crop dies - no irrigation]. I fail to see how more biomass is going to translate into better life expectancy, jobs, healthcare, opportunities - the lack of these still impel S Nigeriens to extraordinary feats of migration to cities and to Europe and beyond, often illegally. Timber and tree crop sales may help, but not much in my experience.

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