October 09, 2015 06:41 UTC

Science & Technology

Mangrove Trees Fight Poverty in Eritrean Village

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Dr. Sato explains the importance of pH or acidity to students in Eritrea
Dr. Sato explains the importance of pH or acidity to students in Eritrea


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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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Comment Sorting
by: Olimar Oliveira from: Caetite Bahia Brasil.
12/14/2012 11:18 AM
Very interesting, Gordon Sato japanese ancestry, in the time of world war two, to live in camps during the world war two, studied, se formou, graduated, specialized, and his research led to needed regions of Africa.

by: Shige from: Japan
12/14/2012 1:51 AM
It is good and unique idea spreading fish paste in the mangrove leaves to provide livestock with protein. I want moderate intelligence like that.

by: Yoshi from: Sapporo
12/12/2012 11:45 AM
Thank you VOA for introducing us a famous biologist among concerned people but unknown by common people, Dr Gordon Sato, Japanese American San-sei. I didn't know him, but I looked up him online and came to know as foolws.

He directed a department of biology an American university and achieved prominent works in the field of developing medicines especially on anti-cancer ones to have been once nominated for Novel Prize. What made him to become interested in Eritrea was reported that the compassion to an Eritrean young met in America who was eagering the independence of his motherland, Etritrea from Ethiopia. Then, he went to Eritrea alone and tryed to operate fish firmings to help Eritrian people make their own livings. It's said that he reflected Eritrean people who were submitted by others on Japanese Americans during the World War Two. I agree adversity makes a man wise.

by: Yoshi from: Sapporo
12/12/2012 4:06 AM
Yes, there are a lot of people who left homelands and have been working as volunteers in foreign countries. I think they are great devoting their lives struggling with unfamiliar climate and culture. What makes them to offer such a favor to foreigners? I think various worldwide news broadcasted by VOA must have been playing one of such roles as the motivation of foreign volunteers' work.

by: Yaz Amano from: Funabashi Japan
12/11/2012 9:50 PM
Sato's word "You don't have to be brilliant to do useful work......" really encourages us to work not only for the world but also for our small communities.

by: Dzu from: France
12/11/2012 6:51 PM
I admire him , his work , his genetosity

by: Thu Trang from: Vietnam
12/11/2012 9:04 AM
The jobs seem very simple, but noone can do it. Dr Sato made difference because he always try to find the way to improve people's life in the difficulty condition.

by: ertra
12/11/2012 1:45 AM
He could have not chosen any better place than Eritrea to do this.

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