Wangari Maathai, the Kenyan environmentalist who went on to become the first African woman to win a Nobel Peace Prize, died of cancer at the age of 71. Tributes from leaders around the world in the press praise her as one of the most widely respected women on the continent.
She founded a movement in 1977 to plant trees across Kenya that would fight erosion while creating firewood for fuel and jobs for women. Her Green Belt Movement spread across the continent planting more than 30 million trees and helping nearly 900,000 women.
She won the Peace Prize in 2004 for what the Nobel committee called “her contribution to sustainable development, democracy and peace.” It was a moment of immense pride in Kenya and across Africa.
Her ideas for promoting sustainability and community-building inspired similar environmental efforts in other countries.