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Mangrove Trees Fight Poverty in Eritrean Village
10 December, 2012
From VOA Learning English, this is the Agriculture Report in Special English.
Last Friday was the anniversary of the Japanese attack on the American naval base at Pearl Harbor, Hawaii, on December 7, 1941. The surprise attack killed 2,400 Americans and pushed the United States into World War Two. The following year, the government ordered more than 110,000 people of Japanese ancestry into 10 camps to live during the war.
Gordon Sato was born in Los Angeles and was a teenager at the beginning of the war. He and his Japanese-American family were forced to live in the Manzanar War Relocation Center in California. He learned to make corn grow in the dry, dusty soil.
He later became a cell biologist. He earned many honors for his research. But he never forgot his experience in the camp.
In 1985 he went to Eritrea for the first time. He wanted to see what he could do to help the people in their struggle for independence from Ethiopia.
He noticed that camels were eating the leaves of mangrove trees growing along the coast. He planted more mangroves so they could be used to feed livestock. But at first all the new trees died.
Then Gordon Sato observed that mangrove trees only grew naturally where there was fresh water some of the time. The fresh water provided minerals that salt water lacked.
"I went to the area where I planted trees before and they all died, and planted a few thousand more by providing nitrogen, phosphorous and iron. They all grew beautifully and they've been growing for over 10 years. They are huge trees now."
Gordon Sato found a way to provide these minerals by putting nitrogen, phosphorous and iron into small plastic bags at the base of each tree. Each plastic bag had a tiny hole that was very carefully sized.
The women in the village of Hargigo started to feed the leaves of the mangroves to their sheep and goats. But the animals were not producing enough milk for their babies.
Gordon Sato asked the villagers to grind the remains of fish they had eaten and spread this fish paste on the leaves. This provided protein for the sheep and goats so they could produce more milk.
Gordon Sato called his work in Eritrea the Manzanar Project to honor the memory of the Japanese-Americans in the relocation camp.
Today there are more than one million mangrove trees around the village.
Gordon Sato has also started a large garden in Mauritania to grow more mangrove trees.
December 17th will be his 85th birthday, and he is always looking for new projects and new ways to pay for them.
"You don't have to be brilliant to do useful work. All you have to have is moderate intelligence and determination, and you can make a contribution to this world."
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