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Global Ideas

Saving Kenya’s anti-cancer tree

The bark of the Prunus Africana tree contains ingredients that fight illnesses like prostate cancer. Green groups and local residents are working together to stop illegal deforestation and promote sustainable harvesting.

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Project goal: The Kenyan environmental group Green Belt Movement wants to work with the local population to restore the degraded forest in a bid to stop soil erosion and protect biodiversity

Background: In 1997, Kenya’s Wangari Maathai founded the Green Belt Movement. She became a key figure in Kenya’s environment, women’s rights and democracy movement and was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize in 2004

Size: Since it was set up, the Green Belt Movement, together with several rural communities, has planted more than 30 million trees. The organization has trained more than 30,000 women to earn a living in forestry and beekeeping

Investment: The Green Belt Movement is financed through donations, funds from the United Nations and an own eco-tourism company. The German government’s International Climate Initiative (IKI) provides around 1.5 million Euros to support reforestation projects in Kenya and Ethiopia

The centuries-old Aberdare mountains in Kenya have been receding drastically in recent decades. Along with them, the rare Prunus Africana tree, which can grow to a height of 36 meters, is also disappearing. Since 1998, the tree has been on the Red List of Endangered Species. Prunus Africana is something of a miracle child in the world of natural medicine - traditional healers in Kenya extract medicinal ingredients from its bark to treat a host of illnesses. The tree is especially coveted by European drug companies for its healing impact on prostate cancer. Two women, who couldn’t be more different, are working to protect the valuable tree.


A film by Hilke Fischer

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