A Tree-Free Book© is a PDF-based e-book on CD-Rom that uses 99% less paper than traditional books. You can read our Tree-Free Books on your personal laptop or computer, or read at your school, college, local public library, friend or relative’s house. To read it you must use PDF-reading software like Adobe Acrobat Reader, which can be downloaded for free online.
KITABU Publishing makes Tree-Free Books© to support the work of the late Wangari Maathai and the Green Belt Movement. Tree-Free Books© are also cheaper to produce, which makes them less expensive to sell. Most of our target audience is impoverished, so making our books less expensive may motivate them to read.
Dr. Wangari Maathai was an environmental and political activist. In 2004 she became the first environmentalist as well as the first African woman to be awarded the Nobel Peace Prize for “her contribution to sustainable development, democracy, and peace.” According to Jone Lewis, “Wangari Maathai founded the Green Belt movement in Kenya in 1977, which has planted more than  million trees to prevent soil erosion and provide firewood for cooking fires. A 1989 United Nations report noted that only 9 trees were being replanted in Africa for every 100 that were cut down, causing serious problems with deforestation: soil runoff, water pollution, difficulty finding firewood, lack of animal nutrition, etc. The program has been carried out primarily by women in the villages of Kenya, who through protecting their environment and through the paid employment for planting the trees are able to better care for their children and their children’s future.”
According to the United Nations in 1989, only 9 trees were replanted in Africa for every 100 trees that were cut down. Not only did deforestation cause environmental problems such as soil runoff and subsequent water pollution, but lack of trees near villages meant that villagers had to walk great distances for firewood. Maathai was shocked to find Kenyan children now suffering from malnutrition due to deforestation: “My community was supposed to be a rich, coffee-growing area. Instead of eating nutritious, traditional foods, such as beans and corn, people were relying on refined foods such as white bread, maize flour, and white rice, all of which are high in carbohydrates but relatively low in vitamins, proteins, and minerals. Cooking these foods consumed less fuel than the foods I had eaten as a child, and this made them attractive and practical, because available firewood for cooking was limited due to deforestation in the region. This shortage of firewood [research concluded,] was leading directly to malnutrition as people’s diets had changed in response.” Village livestock also suffered from not having vegetation to graze on.
Activism, Maathai felt, was most effective when done in groups rather than alone. She credited her success with the Green Belt Movement to keeping the goal simple. The program provided a ready answer for those who asked, “What can I do?” Planting trees, in this case, was the simple solution.
Most of the GBM’s funds come from small donations of money from people around the world and from gifts from groups like the United Nations Development Fund for Women. In 1986 the Green Belt Movement established a Pan African Green Belt Network that has exposed many leaders of other African countries to its unique approach. had spread to 30 African countries Some of these individuals have established similar tree planting initiatives in their own countries using the methods taught to improve their efforts. Countries that have successfully launched such initiatives in Africa include Tanzania, Uganda, Malawi, Lesotho, Ethiopia, Zimbabwe and others.
According to Maathai, “when people learn about my life and the work of the Green Belt Movement and ask me ‘Why trees?,’ the truth of the matter is that the question has many answers. The essential one was that I reacted to a set of problems by focusing on what could be done…We must never lose hope. When any of us feels she has an idea or an opportunity, she should go ahead and do it. One person can make a difference.”
KITABU Publishing will donate a percentage of each Tree-Free Book© sold to Maathai’s Green Belt Movement.