Mabuya Camp – Lilongwe, Malawi – Concert 3

Last blog from Chitimba beach, then on the road again. We had a very long drive day, and arrived late in Lilongwe after a beautiful sunset, pitching the tents in the pitch black once more. Thankfully we had managed to recover our solar torches that we had left out in the sun at lunchtime to charge, only to have them carried off by local village children! My tent mate launched the rescue mission into the village and successfully retrieved all 5 stolen torches. The other excitement of the drive was a close call between our truck an another driving dangerously, which ended up with its wing mirror flying off and smashing through one of our truck’s windows, shattering it and leaving glass everywhere. We had passed a couple of accidents earlier in Tanzania, so were extremely thankful that it hadn’t been worse. We’re glad to have quite a cautious driver, although it has often meant longer days for Truck 5.

We had some good workshops on “Development is a Conversation?” and I’ve been preparing to talk a bit about alternative energy and technologies to the group on my bus. We’ve also been working on our petitioning strategy, as the campaign is growing and growing, and we are able to talk to more people and achieve a greater number of signatures and voices every day.

At Mabuya campsite in Lilongwe, the water shortage that we had seen manifested on the journey in the form of dry rivers, suddenly became a first-hand problem as people were trying to get clothes washed and take showers. The water was all gone within 45 minutes of our arrival, indicating that either we are wasteful and have no concept of water conservation, or that the campsite is really very low on their water supply at the moment. In the morning, a tanker came along with another 200Litres maybe, but even when this was divided into basins for us to use, it seemed that however careful we were, the demand was greater than the supply, leaving a few remaining smelly campers and bags of clothes.

Nevertheless, the sun was shining, and we had an exciting day ahead, driving through the town, stopping in busy districts for petitioning, passing the parliament building and finally arriving at the Civo Stadium, where we were greeted by the Malawi We Have Faith team, and began setting up for the afternoon’s concert programme. I helped to produce a second “…. Has Faith” handprint banner, an interactive activity for the school children there, in the midst of the speeches and formalities. We also blew up some balloons that I had brought from the UK and through them into the crowd before the ceremony began, which caused some excitement!

The local faith leaders and Minister for Energy & Environment for Malawi came to address us, which was very engaging and interesting. We also joined with many local bands and artists for the concert programme, leading to a very successful day. Thousands gathered towards the later afternoon, and petition-signing flourished. I got over 300 photo petitions, and Kristian, on Truck 5, achieved over 500 written petition cards! I think we must have surpassed 10,000 signatures again as a group, which was impressive, since we had less of a crowd than in Nairobi. It was a long day on our feet, but campaigning with background of good music and an enthusiastic crowd is always good fun!

Thankfully it was possible to borrow a local modem to upload the first batch of the photo petitions for today to http://www.flickr.com/photos/wehavefaithcaravan/sets/72157627966683387/ These can also be viewed in a slideshow on the HAVE FAITH:ACT NOW page on this website 🙂

The evening was full of good conversation, as the team was inspired and brought closer together by another successful concert day. We met as a group for some singing, and the amazing Namakhaya led us in some traditional South African songs with her beautiful and powerful gospel-like voice. All-in-all, I am going to bed very contented and empowered by the growing voice of Africa on Climate Justice. I don’t know whether we will reach our target of collecting one million voices, but we received 40,000 from the Malawi team today, which were presented to the caravan on the stage at the stadium. I think whatever the number of thousands of petitions is that we hand over in Durban, it will certainly be a strong message from communities in Africa to our world governments and UN policy-makers. I am looking forward to tomorrow, and the new opportunities and experiences that the day will bring!

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Iringa Old Farmhouse Camp & Chitimba Beach

A couple of really nice drive days! Tanzania is such a very beautiful place 🙂 We enjoyed the scenery out of the windows, and the coolness of being at higher altitude in Iringa. Some of the African participants found the UK-type temperatures a little on the chilly side… The Old Farmhouse Camp was a tranquil minimalistic site, with3  clean, stone-built long drop toilets, lit by candles at night, and 3 surprisingly nicely-tiled showers heated by an oven-fire water system, which we had to keep burning as the 160 travellers welcomed a warm wash 🙂

During the long hours of driving, we did some activities to get to know each other better, and to understand a bit better each other’s connections to Climate Change. Truck 5 (Nyota!*) has a very diverse mix of people from Ole, the Masai, to researchers from Norway and the UK. The most inspiring story for me came from Winnie Asiti, the infamous Kenyan Climate Activist (350.org, KYCN, AYICC). She told of how the region which flourished as she grew up has over the years been devastated by deforestation, diminishing resources, and food and water shortages. Now what she knew as a rich, thriving landscape when she was young is bleak and barren. This moved Winnie to study Environmental Science, attend the UNFCCC COP12 (Nairobi) and COP15 (Copenhagen), and get seriously involved in Climate Activism – making big efforts, nationally and internationally to slow and halt the degradation of her natural world… She is the most friendly and caring girl, and an excellent speaker, with such clarity and passion, and has achieved so much for someone only a little older than me. She has great respect from national politicians, and is accredited to attend the COP17 main conference, which recognises her competence at an international level! I know that with people like Winnie, our campaign will succeed in making a huge influence on global climate policy and the treaty we are calling for. I am looking forward to hearing and writing about other life stories from people here.

Beautiful sunset on the first night, as we discussed how solar power could become more prevalent in Africa:

As we crossed the border from Tanzania into Malawi, we were shocked to see more than 5 of the large rivers, that should be running into Lake Malawi, completely dry… the lake’s waters are shrinking away from the shores, and the communities are noticing the land drying up further around the lake. This means that the rich banana, mango and orange plantations we see around will no longer be sustained, and the region’s food and trade will plummet, leaving people empty-handed and deeper into poverty and struggling to support themselves.

As the sun was setting, we arrived into Chitimba camp, and set up the tents… I took a brief tour of the campsite after a satisfying dinner of tomato soup & bread, followed by spaghetti with Ugali (sp?). But I found all the charging points, and showers taken, so wandered back to camp and crashed out in the still-slightly damp tent…

We woke up this morning to a beautiful sunrise over the shores of the lake, refreshing showers, and bright smiles. Here are some of my favourite impressions of the morning:

Today, we have a drive day to Lilongwe and then the concert there tomorrow and our third brig campaigning opportunity. I’m going to use today to try to mobilise my bus to be able to gather as many petitions as possible. In the meantime, please keep signing the online petition at www.wehavefaithactnow.org! Thanks! Claire x

*meaning star in Swahili

Dar Es Salaam

Lots of news since Nairobi, but very little opportunity for internet! So here we are on the road again, leaving the beautiful Kipepeo Camp and travelling quickly towards Iringa.

The past few days have been very challenging: I managed to pick up Bronchitis (“a bad chest infection”) and the leaders took me off the bus to go and see the doctor so I’ve been prescribed with 3 kinds of drugs and a cough medicine, which seems to be helping a lot. I’m feeling a lot better, after a good couple of nights’ rest in the beach hut, and was still able to attend the national We Have Faith concert in Tanzania, which went very well. The Vice President attended, I was interviewed by a couple of national TV/radio stations in Tanzania, after speaking on stage, which was exciting 😀

I helped to run a successful photo petition campaign, collecting about 200 messages on a whiteboard, with people’s faces, which can be viewed at http://dearworldleaders.wordpress.com or http://www.flickr.com/photos/wehavefaithcaravan/sets/72157627966683387/show/

The modem (GPRS/EDGE) connection on the bus isn’t going to let me put up many images with this post, sadly, but they are ready to go next time it’s better!

13000 petitions were collected in Tanzania, and now we’re travelling on to Malawi! We are quickly learning how to speak sensitively about the issues locally affecting communities in Africa, and the best language to use to engage the people we meet with our campaign. The most exciting piece of news from the journey is that the BBC and CNN are wanting to cover our campaign! There is so much to do! We are going strong, and our leaders will hear the African voice – WE HAVE FAITH: ACT NOW FOR CLIMATE JUSTICE!

P.S. We saw some beautiful wildlife (Elephants, Giraffes, Zebras, Gazelles, Buffalo, Monkeys etc.) and drove through the Baobab valley, full of Baobab tress, symbolic of one of our sponsors, and also the UNFCCC COP17 logo.

Two extremely busy days and 10,000 signatures today!

All is well in Kenya! This is our last night in the University accommodation, before we embark on our 3 weeks under canvas on the road to Durban…

Last night was dance and song training for the caravan, and we had some great fun, learning all the routines for the concerts:

This morning, we saw the trucks for the first time, and took our maiden journey into the centre of Nairobi for the first of our climate concerts and campaigning days!

The Norwegians on the bus (yes, we have a table for our “workshopping” for Durban and the campaign, on our journey!):

Many Africans gathered at Nairobi’s memorial park, sitting on the bank to watch the amazing performances on stage:

Petition boxes were filling up fast, as people poured into the venue to see what we were shouting and singing about. Lots of interest and enthusiasm about climate action, and an attentive audience, to the campaign as well as the musical entertainment 🙂

Eventually, we run out of blank petition cards, so had to be creative again to continue campaigning to this brilliantly receptive crowd!

After a very successful day, and a lot of hard work, the team gathered outside the memorial park, for celebrations, singing and dancing in true African style 😀

A conga line quickly formed as the atmosphere was buzzing, and chants of “Climate Justice” broke out, as well as smaller groups of singers and dancers…. it was the sort of spontaneous celebration founded in joy, that could not be choreographed if you asked, or ever reproduced with the same gusto!

Chants…

Beautiful music….

On return to the Multimedia University, we were just in time for dinner at 7:30pm, and then spent quite a lot of time gathering people to count our spoils from the day – a.k.a. THE PETITIONS! We ended up with 10,000 which was fantastic, but we will aim higher and higher every time! Still this put huge smiles on the dedicated campaigners’ faces as we turned in for the night. The world leaders have a very Big Ask coming their way…

That’s it from me today. Particular requests to sign the online petition at www.wehavefaithactnow.org and perhaps also the Time for Justice petition, with a photo message to the UNFCCC… Thanks and best wishes to everyone!

An Evening of Entertainment

The evening began with a draft statement from the conference to the COP (Conference of Parties) in Durban. This turned out to be quite a mission, with everyone wanting their own wording, and I imagine it reflected some of what goes on in drawing up some of the official UN texts!

Spent quite a bit of time today concerning myself with the helping the organisational team secure visas, and account for everyone travelling. There is certainly much organising behind this caravan, and I think everyone is feeling the pressure at the moment, as we prepare to leave. We have more logistics meeting tomorrow, and I hope finally that I will meet Prince from the DR Congo, since I believe he will arrive finally on the bus after travelling through Rwanda! This will be a very joyful moment for me, after trying to support for him to participate.

The evening has been filled with celebration, music, dance and entertainment from a variety of countries and cultures. Norway performed some songs from their Tensing group, and South Africa, Botswana, Zambia and Kenya also performed  traditional and dances & songs for us. I was particularly captivated by a young rapper from Kenya, but I’m not sure how well the sound clip I recorded actually captured his talent (& screaming marks some quite impressive break dancing)!

Tensing Norway

Salsa Dancing!

South Africa 🙂

I am beginning to think about what I will be able to offer and contribute during the course of our venture, and imagine I will turn mainly to practical skills and logistical/getting-on-with-stuff roles! However, I’m also hoping to step out of my comfort zone a bit, challenge myself and try to get involved a bit with: the music team, playing my flute; games and entertainment – I should have some songs in my head from the years of Scouts/Guides/church; and lastly I want to pass on some of my ideas and knowledge on Climate Change and Sustainability that I have been gaining over recent years… this is such an important part of our mission – Climate considerations must be communicated clearly and powerfully, to inspire a trail of conversation and action in our path, wherever we go.

Tiredness is now catching up with me, and I have a strange feeling that tomorrow is going to be another busy day, despite the conference closing today! We’re turning to the caravan and campaigning strategies to work around our concert and travel programme . Getting really fired up about what we’re working towards for the journey and the goal at Durban!

Regional African Youth Conference on Climate Change (Friday 4th Nov)

The morning began with an interesting presentation from the Norwegian delegate, about Climate Change and Norway, with a campaigning focus on Fair Trade, fair tax, debt cancellation and Climate Justice for poverty reduction. Sustainability and protection of the climate and environment must come first for human existence:

 

“We cannot make the world a better place if we cannot live in it”

 

There was also some discussion on the importance of the petroleum industry in Norway and the efforts of Statoil to find cleaner methods for fossil fuel extraction. I’m not sure if I buy any of these arguments – in the grand scheme of things, they spend next to nothing on these sustainable initiatives, and in the end, the extraction and combustion of fossil fuels is always going to produce more GHGs (greenhouse gases) than we can afford for the stability of the climate.

 

Norway has a flourishing youth Climate movement with many exchange programmes and global volunteering opportunities, as well as a strong lobbying initiative to government, organisations and youth groups in Norway. I am inspired by the extent of success of the church in raising awareness of climate change in Norway. Unlike in the UK, the church seems to be playing a really pivotal role in climate campaigning, lobbying and activism. I believe that there is much I can learn and bring home from this huge Norwegian delegate!

 

The next session included presentations from school and youth groups in Kenya, which was incredibly inspiring. The first speaker was from Lake Victoria Wetlands Preservation, speaking about efforts on research, agroforestry, education welfare and volunteering. The “Lake Victoria Sunset Birders” (formerly Kwekwe) is a youth organisation working on birdlife conservation there. There was a water hyacinth project, and a papyrus project, to sustainably harvest these plants and use them to make things like mats, which the community can then sell for livelihood. Straight papyrus can be sold for 2000 Kenyan Shillings (KSH), but a mat from this amount of raw material can be sold for KSH 20,000! In 1999 the “Birders” joined Nature Kenya to monitor bats, since Lake Victoria is an Important Bat Area, with many unique and endangered species. There are also community engagement and awareness projects, to educate and involve the people living in the Lake Victoria region, and value the ecological importance of the papyrus swamps, and how protection and conservation of these natural resources can lead to clean and sustainable livelihoods as an alternative to damaging forests or living in poverty. This group also installed an “Eco-San” toilet, which uses only ash to neutralise urine, making it totally safe to release back into the environment after 6 months. Also, research has shown that diluted urine can safely be used to water crops. Tree nurseries are planted and

Seedlings are also collected, to lead to positive reforestation projects in the region. Also, Eco-tourism (supported by Nakumat and Kenyan Airways) is increasing in this area to aid poverty alleviation.

 

In addition, there were several impressive presentations about waste management and creative use of waste (“Cash via Trash”), by a school next to the second largest waste dump in Kenya. There were so many ideas and projects, but some of my favourites include:

 

  • using organic waste to make compost or feed pigs or rabbits (veg peelings etc)
  • making things from plastic bags and bottles
  • making jewellery from varnished & rolled scrap paper beads & jewellery boxes from the inverted silver inside of milk packages and tetrapacks!
  • making toys and baskets from bottle tops (my personal favourite):

 “We need to make the community aware that waste is a resource.”

One of the schools had an incredible portfolio of projects and environmental activities, in an area where there is severe food and water shortages, showing that there is very strong resilience in areas of Africa, and real initiatives from communities to take responsibility for sustaining themselves and their lifestyle. Some of this school’s projects include:

  • The Rabbit Project: School organic vegetable waste (from cabbages etc) goes to feed rabbits (no extra income needed). Rabbits bred and meat very healthy (low cholesterol). Rabbit droppings go to compost, and provide rich, fertile soil for growing trees and own food. Rabbits can also be sold from ~KSH1500 each.
  • Rain water collection: October to December rainy season, but very dry at other times of year, meaning drought and food and water shortage. Aim – to store as much water from the rainy season for use in the rest of the year. Using water ponds and tanks, purification and use for irrigating crops. Also incorporated with a bio-filtration project – water left to settle in open ponds, drained through different grains of sand and gravel to filter and charcoal added to adsorb gases and other bad chemicals.
  • Tree planting – Tree nursery planted from seed, pupils taking individual responsible for each tree, watering twice a day, leading to a successful increase in tree numbers in the community.

“The environment IS our life & it is our responsibility and obligation to protect it”

The key to success of this story is multiplication – these fantastic initiatives need to be shared, replicated and implemented in as many communities as possible, via open days, collaboration, networks and partnerships, a theme that becomes more and more apparent and important in all environmental efforts. The Wildlife Club of Kenya is taking brilliant action on mobile education, to take these ideas to new pastures, particularly to help areas of famine and drought. Also, government lobbying needs to increase to bring our national policies and funding pools on board with addressing these urgent global issues. Every sector of society needs to be involved, from the producers and consumers, to the big markets, industries and law-makers.

There has just been an interesting debate on Biofuels, with one side arguing: “The fuel of the future will be fruit, seed, sawdust, and anything other that is free in nature.”

And the other team saying, “No, this is our food and our natural world – it must be sustained, not diminished, and biofuels aren’t the answer on GHG reduction!” Wind, solar and renewables provide a clear source of energy that doesn’t interfere with our food source, and this is certainly my position.

Nevertheless, both sides call for attracting youth back to agricultural entrepreneurship, advocating the use of IT to encourage youth to engage in this. I think this is very important for youth to find new and sustainable ways to grow our food, and promote these successfully in their communities. In the UK, this issue is even greater, since as soon as transport fuels are unavailable and the supply chains fail, our supermarket shelves will be empty, and the majority of the population will not have the skills to feed ourselves. Energy, water and food security and rising and rising on the global agenda, and I think people are right to be nervous. I am glad to have a nice conference lunch prepared for us here, but I know that food will not be so readily or diversely available in my future and following generations, unless we act swiftly and effectively to address the world’s broken systems.

Blown away by first full day in Africa!

The end of my first full day in Africa is drawing to a close, with much laughter, dancing an merriment from the whole conference and caravan delegate, as darkness falls on the Multimedia University. I really love it here: Everyone is so welcoming and kind-hearted. I am enjoying conversations and meeting so many new people. The conference centre in Nairobi is also very comfortable.Warthogs roam carelessly around the campus, and the heat of the sunny day begins to fade. The people here are so free, and spirited! I have never seen such enthusiasm and passion for life 😀

This morning, we had the session in the main conference from which I posted the jumbled ramble from my iPod (apologies for such a scrambled message)! I’ve got the wifi working on my laptop now, so hopefully this will get more comprehensive..! We were given the brilliant opportunity for a Q&A session with a lady from the Global Climate Advocacy group, speaking about everything from partnerships and teamwork, to Carbon markets and intellectual property rights hindering effective technology transfer to developing countries.

The key points that interested me were to hear real debate in the conference hall about issues surrounding forestry and reliance on selling charcoal and wood for livelihoods (see video below), exploring the difficulties of alternative solutions such as briquets and implementing more efficient cooking equipment and methods. There was much interest in renewable energy and methods of improving sustainability in all fields, and the diversity of interest here is proof that Climate Change touches those in all walks of life.

People have come to this conference to learn, to share experiences, to find solutions to community and regional problems relating to the changing climate, and spreading advocacy for action on these issues. What struck me most was the importance of networking and sharing ambitions globally. “Sometimes we choose to work alone. This is why we are not achieving change quickly or effectively enough.” For these planet-scale issues, we certainly require a planet-sized movement for action. Nothing less is acceptable. I realise that this has applied quite notably in my own life – that the more I separated from my colleagues and social circles, the less I was able to achieve. Whereas with partnerships and support from many people and organisations, the transition to sustainability will succeed. I will take this lesson back with me to the UK, and definitely work and partner more with all the green initiatives growing there.

The second part of the morning saw the caravan participants break away from the rest of the conference to introduce all the different groups and nationalities represented. The largest group, quite naturally, comprises Kenyan nationals – young people from the Kenyan Youth Climate Network (KYCN) – a hugely energetic group, with equally huge ambition for Durban. They have already managed to collect an astounding 30,000 signed petitions, out of our quarter-million target to present to the world leaders at Durban for the We Have Faith campaign (http://www.wehavefaithactnow.org). The second largest group is the Norwegian delegate, including many subgroups, with various connections to Norwegian Church Aid (NCA), an organisation running projects in Kenya:

– Change Maker Norway is NCA’s youth organisation;

– Cities and Climate Change Initiative (CCCI) aims to equip and encourage municipal authorities to act on Climate Change;

– Y Global & “Go CY” – an 8 month youth internship on Climate Change;

– Communication for Change (CFC)  is a YMCA/YWCA global volunteer programme for youth to work for positive change; and

– Tensing Norway is a fantastic initiative, bringing music, dance and entertainment to our Climate Change message.

Then there’s the wonderful media crew, from the USA and Canada (Ruth, Karmen & Ryan), many youths from other African countries, some involved with the AYICC (African Youth Initiative on Climate Change), and me! 160+ in all, travelling in 6 trucks as from Monday, all the way to Durban, promoting the petitions and amplifying the African call for Climate Justice! We also had a logistics talk, revealing a few more details about our camping arrangements (2-man tents on large campsites, with showers and loos!), the cooking equipment in the trucks and our typical schedule for the long-drive days (waking at 4am, leaving at 6am, and driving through to 6-7pm, some days!). We also set ground rules, expectations and a group code of conduct, to bond the group together, and recognise our need for teamwork and tight time management on the journey! At the end of this long meeting, a lively song burst out and people sang and danced!:

I can feel the excitement building in the atmosphere here, and people are certainly firing up to make the caravan’s impact as significant and far-reaching as possible. We see our own potential and opportunity to influence the UN process in South Africa at the end and goal of our journey.

Today, I have secured my new Safaricom phone and data on my simcard for use with my USB modem (my planning paid off!), so news, stories and media coverage will be flowing at least until we cross the Tanzanian border and change mobile network 🙂

I am really looking forward to this evening, and the continued celebration of the group we are building here. There’s such a buzz at the conference tonight! Tomorrow will bring more insight into the African cause, and continue to prepare and build the group ready for our epic journey. My aim is to balance talking to plenty of people, with giving myself enough time to reflect on what I hear. While people are amazed at my education, I am amazed at their diverse experiences, culture, and broad smiles on every face. I know this is going to be the opportunity of a lifetime, both for broadening my own horizons and for securing the future of our climate. We have BIG ambitions for the Climate Justice Caravan – we hope to get 250,000 (a quarter of a million!) petitions signed, recognising the equivalent number of African voices and experiences of Climate Change to present to our world leaders at Durban. Very exciting times…