We left Lilongwe bright and early (4am!) to head towards the Zambian border and Chipata, which would be our first stop in Zambia. A huge reception awaited us at the border, including a full marching band and an excited crowd shouting greetings. The temperatures are still soaring here, so I stayed in the bus to film the passing procession. I will try to upload some of these larger videos soon.
We arrived at Mamarula campsite in Chipata in the early afternoon, which was nice and shady, with lots of trees and grass, to make a pleasant change from the hot brown mud of previous sites. Some of us took a brief nap to re-energise after the early start and long drive. Then some of us including Tensing Norway, headed to te big church in Chipata for the first (smaller) concert in Zambia, and to meet the faith leaders. The concert was totally amazing, the highlight for me being a theatre piece calling for climate action by a 3 very talented Zambian thespians. They were just so animated and had an excellent script which really came to life on the stage. I also enjoyed some traditional Zambian drumming and dancing that was performed for the congregation/audience in the church. It was a beautiful building: modern, but high-ceilinged, with many brightly coloured stained glass windows, and interesting echoey acoustics, which were perfect for the drumming and some of the music! It was a honour to shake hands with the key speaker from the church, and to meet and greet other local people from this faith community, and others who had come just for the concert. Even in tiredness, the dedicated group who made it to this small event were able to have some great conversations on Climate Justice, sign a few petitions and leave our message. We left feeling very moved by such a strong atmosphere and commitment from everyone present. It was a delight to see the passion and efforts of this faith group in Zambia, as they joined our concert performers (Tensing) to communicate the impacts and collective responsibility of Climate Change.
The following day, we drove on to Lusaka, 600km away. Driving is getting to be a familiar exhaustion for us all now! But Durban draws closer and closer and the petitions are stacking higher and higher every mile 🙂 The journey took us on windy roads through the hills and across rivers, over bridges that allowed only one vehicle at a time. When we eventually arrived in Lusaka, we were met by more of the Zambian campaign team at one of the main shopping malls. We were covered live on Zambian national news, some speeches were given, and of course, we did some more petitioning! We headed on to Eureka campsite in the early evening, and thankfully had a few hours for rest and relaxation before bed. I even had time to play my flute for a little while round the fire in the evening, which was a real joy, in the cool of the evening.
That night, we had our first huge thunderstorm, as the rainy season hits Zambia. Floods will be frequent in the country at this time of year, and good irrigation of land is essential. Unfortunately, not everyone had pitched their tents adequately (or under a tree, like ours!) so there were many wet, soggy campers, mats and sleeping bags in the morning, which put a dampener on our spirits on the concert day, but the team is still smiling and pushing on!
In hindsight, I should have spent the morning on camp with the majority of others, but part of me was raring to go, and there were a few things I wanted to pick up in the mall, like more pens and duct tape – invaluable campaigning tools! So I headed off with the Canadian/American media team soon after breakfast, to the CRWRC office in Lusaka, with their kind representative here. We picked up some more airtime and other essentials at the shops and then attempted to use the internet and get some more files uploaded. Thankfully, Ryan managed to upload two of his brilliant videos, which I will link here as soon as I find out their location on vimeo! This was quite a feat, since we were uploading 100s of MBs over the unpredictable Airtel modem connection. We got my unlocked modem working for Ruth as well, who stayed at the office during the afternoon, while the rest of us headed on to the big Lusaka concert…
This, the main event for Zambia, was a complete contrast to the effective and moving Climate Change concert we had had in Chipata only a day before. Unfortunately, the organisers of the programme hadn’t put the principles or message of the Climate Justice campaign at the centre of the event. So it turned into a bit more of a teenage binge party, all a bit too close to resembling the UK’s Carling festival weekend, with the big-name bands drawing in large crowds of youths, wanting to drink and dance. This was a massive disappointment for the caravan team, who had expected Climate Justice to feature as a strong message as at previous events. I hope that this hasn’t damaged the public face of our campaign, with significant national media coverage again, here in Zambia. In spite of this hiccough, we still managed to collect a significant number of written and photo petitions, so our demands for Durban were at least being communicated on the ground in the large crowd the event had drawn in, making up for their absence from the main proceedings on the stage.
Later in the evening, we were invited to the house of the NCA (Norwegian Church Aid) director’s house in Zambia, where a celebratory buffet and drinks had been prepared for us. Spirits were mixed after a mixed day with disputed degrees of success. A few tears of anger were shed by the central caravan team, at an inappropriate act that had been included in the concert programme, but now it’s time to move on, and look forward to Livingstone and beyond.
We’re back on the road again today, striking camp at 5am, and heading towards our next and final (smaller) concert in Zambia, before crossing the border to Botswana tomorrow. We’re going to redouble our efforts today at putting engagement with Climate Change where it should be as the top priority on our agenda. Sadly, some of us are getting significantly tired and fairly unwell, at this stage of the journey. I think that Zambia has been the most ambitious and challenging country yet, with a programme of 3 concerts in 3 days prepared for us. Now the sensible thing to do would be not to attend the optional concert in Livingstone this afternoon, but I am dying to meet Maggie – one of the other (of only 30) participants on the Youth for Eco-Justice programme in Durban! It’s really exciting to me that she has been involved in organising the Livingstone concert, and that we have already been in communication about Youth for Eco-Justice. It’s almost like a friendly face, and a familiar enthusiasm, from someone who I know is on exactly the same page as me when it comes to Faith and Climate Action. So that will be today.
The solar panel is still going strong on the truck, as the sun beats down on the left-hand-side window… Zambia is so huge, but the population is small, and concentrated in a few places, so we’re seeing a lot of wild places, mountains and forests, which is beautiful. It is unfamiliar not to see many villages dotted along the road, as in other countries. It really is true wilderness! I would love to come back to Africa to explore more of these places for a more extended time. I feel like this is a bit of an introduction to the continent as a whole, which may be followed up with returning to my favourite places from the trip. However, if Africa continues to get hotter, I don’t think anyone will be able to live in these beautiful regions… They have recorded an alarming 45 degrees centigrade recently here in Zambia, and even though we’re not close to that now in the rainy season, I’m still fighting a battle to keep enough suncream on to prevent my skin turning to reddened bark! Global warming is a stark reality here, but people cannot move far or in large numbers – there just isn’t the capacity for movement or transportation that we take for granted in the global North. Also, people have no desire to leave their homes, and the changes in temperature are stepping up slowly enough that communities are just trying to adapt. No one sleeps with blankets here any more. There are many water shortages and crop failures, but people are powerless to change the weather that falls on their land and homes, so it’s a case of dealing with it as well as they can. The majority don’t understand the human contribution to global warming, in the form of greenhouse gases, emitted by factories and power stations in distant parts of the world, but can relate to the fumes of kerosene lamps and cookers damaging their respiratory health, a concept that can be scaled up to describe the damage to the Earth.
Update: 9:15pm – Thursday 17th – Another fantastic reception with marching band and flag-wavers in Livingstone and I met the marvelous Maggie! 🙂 The group split into 2 this afternoon – half going to the concert, and half going to Victoria Falls, where some daring people did the huge bungee jump from the bridge over the gorge! More pictures of that tomorrow 🙂
This continues to be an incredibly enlightening experience for me, and spurs me on to take back ideas, information and strengthened convictions to the UK, to join with campaigners to influence a transition away our careless and harmful policies and practices, when it comes to the future – my future – on the planet. Thanks again for reading, and best wishes and greetings from the We Have Faith caravan!