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Mangrove Trees Fight Poverty in Eritrean Village

Gordon Sato traveled to Eritrea for the first time in 1985. The Japanese-American cell biologist wanted to see what he could do to help the people in their struggle for independence from Ethiopia.

On his trip, 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. Gordon Sato found a way to provide these minerals. He put nitrogen, phosphorous and iron into small plastic bags at the base of each tree.

Holes in the bags released the minerals into the soil over time. 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 and spread this fish paste on the leaves.

This provided protein for the sheep and goats so they could produce more milk. 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.

He says, "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." Gordon Sato called his work in Eritrea the Manzanar Project. The name is meant to honor Japanese-Americans placed in the Manzanar relocation camp in California during World War II.

For VOA Learning English, I'm Carolyn Presutti. (Adapted from a radio program broadcast 18Dec2012)

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