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Wangari Maathai – may you rest in peace in the shade of celestial forests

Saddened by the passing of Professor Wangari Maathai, who supported and collaborated with us on many initiatives, the staff of the World Agroforestry Centre have set up this page to pay tribute to a truly remarkable and inspiring person.

Many of us fondly remember Wangari’s keynote address to the 2nd World Congress of Agroforestry and the encouragement she gave us to emulate humming birds and build a collective voice for conservation.

The loss of Wangari Maathai is a tragic one for the entire world. It has cut short the hearty voice of one who spoke truth to each of us, beckoning us all to do our duty to care for the earth and to care about its most disadvantaged people. Her vision was one of planting and nurturing trees as a genuine vehicle for healing the planet and creating social justice. She inspired us all in a very personal way, and she beckoned each of us always to greater concrete action.
Dennis Garrity, Director General

Trees are one of the few living organisms that outlive humans. They are nature’s intergenerational gift. Wangari’s memory is one of the few human endeavours that will outlive a tree’s lifespan. Wangari you are the ultimate dendrophile and humanitarian. May you rest in peace in the shade of celestial forests.
Tony Simons, Deputy Director General

A shining light of inspiration, her story of the many little birds will stay with us; to induce change a lot of courage is needed, beyond the effective merging of local and scientific knowledge.
Meine van Noordwijk, Chief Science Advisor

As we take our occasional jogs around the Karura forest tracks and as we stroll around Uhuru Park, we will always remember this great icon. Prof Wangari Mathai stood taller than any tree in the forest of humanity.
Elizabeth Kahurani, ASB Partnership Communications Officer

An environmental icon and lover of trees has passed on much too earlier than I personally expected. Listening to her talk in support of the environment and particularly trees gave me the confidence that we will have Maathai with us for a long time. Who will defend the trees and the environment in her absence? May God grant her soul eternal peace in His Kingdom where the environment “is still intact”.
Jeremias Gasper Mowo, Regional Coordinator East Africa

I was a student at University of Nairobi when Wangari was pushed and roughed up by her male colleagues and superiors. I witnessed the unpleasantness during one of our lab sessions. Wangari didn’t let the un-evolved men intimidate her. While most men try to be gender sensitive, there are however always exceptions. Wangari didn’t let anyone or anything hold her back from her beliefs. Wangari’s way of being encourages me and makes me strong! Mama Wangari you always met me with an affectionate ‘understanding’ hug which I will continue to embrace all my life. Thank you mama- I know you walk in green pastures.
Ramni Jamnadass, Leader, Global Research Project – Quality Trees

Nobel Peace Prize Laureate Wangari Maathai was an inspiration both personally and professionally for so many, she was a great friend and business leader. A woman of tremendous vision, conviction and dedication, she lived life to the fullest and exhibited her trademark and seemingly limitless passion and energy in all her endeavors’. In the Unbowed: A Memoir Maathai stresses the connection between environmental conservation and good governance. Maathai will be sorely missed and always remembered.
Priscilla Muisyo, Colleague from ICRAF

Sadly, it’s not that often you come across a woman who fills you with true admiration and wonder for her bravery, un-stoppable commitment and fearless optimism. Wangari did that for me not long after I arrived in Kenya. She was an inspiration to so many and her legacy will live on.
Kate Langford, Communications Specialist / Writer

The role model and encouragement you provided for girls and women across the globe to not only take on tough issues and leadership roles as you did, but also to become scientists, was truly inspiring.  I will always remember your gratiousness in writing an inspirational forward for ‘Nature’s Benefits in Kenya: An Atlas of Ecosystems and Human Well-Being’, a multi-institute effort aimed at turning science into actions benefitting both people and the environment you so cherished.
Patti Kristjanson, Scientist

Wangari said “It’s the little things citizens do. That’s what will make the difference. My little thing is planting trees.” To me her little thing made a big difference.
Yvonne Otieno, Communications Officer

Recently I visited Nairobi and was fortunate to be able to walk in the Karura Forest where I learnt more about this woman, her agrofrestry initiatives and the Green Belt Movement. She was strong and courageous, May Her Soul rest in Eternal Peace!
Fannie Gondwe Regional Finance and Administration Manager for Southern Africa Region

Dear “Mama Wa Mazingira”, we gained a lot hearing from you advocating for the agroforestry and trees importance in community livelihoods and climate change mitigation worldwide. It is early and abrupt for us to hear that you’ve crossed the eternal river while the challenges faced especially under the ever raising climate change are still enormous in this more vulnerable environment in Africa. Please, I and the present generation of scientists shall live to remember you forever!
Serge Ngendakumana, Associate scientist-Climate change Policy and Governance

She was an inspiration and blazed the trail for millions of women in developing countries who have had to endure centuries of punitive cultural practices. A memorable quote from her publication Unbowed, “Throughout my life, I  have never stopped to strategize about my next steps. I often just keep walking along, through whichever door opens. I have been on a journey… When the journey is acknowledged and sustained by those I work with, they are a source of inspiration, energy and encouragement. They are the reasons I kept walking, and will keep walking, as long as my knees hold out.” Rest in peace Mama Miti
Betty Rabar, Publications Officer


I must begin my remarks to you today on a somber tone. For as you may have learned, Professor Wangari Maathai, Nobel Peace Prize winner and global champion for environmental sanity, died after a lengthy fight with cancer. Wangari was a bigger than life tsunami of a woman. And for me, a personal friend and neighbor in Nairobi.

Anyone who has read her booked entitled ‘Unbowed”, you could not have failed to be touched by the sheer courage and vision of this wonderful woman. She spoke truth to power, particularly those powerful forces who cared not for our environment, and cared not for the poor who, through no fault of their own, so often are the victims of these powerful interests that act either through impunity or carelessness.

Wangari would not let us forget our responsibilities to heal the planet for our children and grandchildren. Perhaps we can dedicate this Congress to her memory, her vision, and what she so courageously fought for.

Dennis Garrity, Director General


Kate Langford

Kate Langford is a consultant writer with close to 20 years’ experience in communicating natural resource, environmental and land management issues for various government and non-government organizations. She previously worked as Communications Specialist for the World Agroforestry Centre in Kenya and has worked in Indonesia, Laos, Vietnam and Australia. She holds a Bachelor of Science and a Graduate Diploma in Scientific Communication.

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