“Taking Root” weaves a compelling and dramatic narrative of one woman’s personal journey in the context of the turbulent political and environmental history of her country. Raised in the rural highlands of Kenya, and educated in the United States during the 1960s civil rights era, Nobel Peace Prize Laureate Maathai discovered the heart of her life’s work by reconnecting with the rural women with whom she had grown up. They told her that their daily lives had become intolerable: they were walking longer distances for firewood, clean water had become scarce, the soil was disappearing from their fields, and their children were suffering from malnutrition. Maathai thought to herself, “Well, why not plant trees?” Trees provide shade, prevent soil erosion, supply firewood and building materials, and produce nutritious fruit to combat malnutrition. With this realization Maathai founded the Green Belt Movement, a grassroots organization encouraging rural women to plant trees.
“Taking Root” documents dramatic confrontations and captures Maathai’s infectious determination and unwavering courage. Today there are more than 6,000 Green Belt nurseries throughout Kenya that generate income for 150,000 people, and thirty-five million trees have deeply altered the physical and social landscape of the country.