Solving hunger and poverty, one tree at a time



By Susan L. Roth and Cindy Trumbore
(New York: Lee and Low Books Inc., 2011, 36 pp., $19.95, hardcover)

Dr. Gordon Sato, a scientist, wanted to help villagers in Eritrea on the African coast. His efforts to ease hunger and poverty involve planting mangrove trees by the salty Red Sea.

There is little rain in Eritrea, so leafy plants do not survive, but the mangrove tree can grow in salt water. The trees provide food for the villagers’ goats and sheep, a major source of meat and milk for the people. The mangrove tree roots also become hiding places for small fish, and shellfish, which in turn attract bigger fish for the local fishermen. Fish is another important food for the villagers.

Sato hired the local women to plant the seedlings. This gave them extra income. The trees became a green forest 4 miles long, and including one million trees. The trees give off oxygen for the people and animals to breathe. The dry branches are fuel for the cooking fires.

With the success of the mangrove trees in Eritrea, Sato launched similar projects in Mauritania and Morocco. He has received numerous awards for his humanitarian efforts to end hunger.

Sato named his project the Manzanar Project because when he was incarcerated as a teenager in the Manzanar, Calif. concentration camp during World War II, he experimented and succeeded in growing corn in the dry desert to help feed his hungry family. He hopes the Manzanar Project will “remind people that it is possible to fight injustice with hope.”

“The Mangrove Trees” is written in cumulative verse, which means that each succeeding page adds a few lines to the same verse from the previous page. There is also prose to provide details. Susan Roth’s illustrations are intricate paper and fabric collage.

The afterword includes biographical information about Sato along with photos of the steps involved in planting the trees, and photos of village life in Hargigo, Eritrea. “The Mangrove Trees” is the winner of the California Eureka Award presented by the California Reading Association.

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