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Last Updated: Thursday, 16 December, 2004, 20:06 GMT
'Protecting land can avert war'
Wangari Maathai
Professor Maathai is also vocal on women's rights
The newly crowned Nobel Peace Prize winner, Kenyan environmentalist Wangari Maathai, has said that land degradation is behind some of Africa's wars.

She told the BBC News website that the anarchy in Somalia partly resulted from a decline in the quality of land for cattle-herders.

She also said that frequent clashes in Kenya were rooted in conflicts between pastoralists and farmers.

She was last week awarded the Nobel Prize for her environmental campaigns.

Professor Maathai, also Kenya's deputy environment minister, is the first African woman and environmentalist to win the prestigious award.

The 64-year-old was honoured for her campaign to save Africa's trees and for promoting social, economic and cultural reforms that are ecologically viable.

'Never say never'

Professor Maathai was answering questions sent to the BBC by people around the world.

She also dropped a hint that she might have her eyes on Kenya's top job.

Tree in front of blazing building   AP
Trees can galvanise people, Professor Maathai says
Asked whether she would like to be president, she said there was not a current vacancy, before adding:

"The sky's the limit. I never say never."

Asked about the link between the environment and wars, she said:

"The degradation of the environment clearly either started or exacerbated conflict."

The land started off good, but it was allowed to become degraded and then people fought over it, she said, adding that the answer was for people to stop over-using the land.

Professor Maathai is the founder of the Green Belt Movement, which has planted 20-30 million trees in Africa to counter forest loss and slow the spread of the deserts.

The movement went on to campaign on education, nutrition and other issues important to women.

She was elected as an MP in Kenya in 2002, and became deputy environment minister in 2003.

Prof Maathai beat a record 194 nominations, including former chief United Nations weapons inspector Hans Blix and the head of the UN energy watchdog, Mohamed ElBaradei, to win the prize.

Prof Maathai has fought hard for the environment

Nobel Peace Prize: Your views
16 Dec 04 |  Have Your Say
Africa 'makes excuses on climate'
30 Nov 04 |  Science/Nature
Profile: Wangari Maathai
08 Oct 04 |  Africa

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