Friday, 23 December 2011

Caravan Chat - A Discussion with the Second Oldest Caravanite

Written on the 10th December,2011

‘The whole idea of going to COP doesn’t make sense if we don’t negotiate with nature.’ ‘So how do we do that?’  l ask after hearing such a sweeping statement. ‘ We negotiate with nature by leaving activities that disturb it and nurturing those that encourage it.’ 
This was a statement that Mzee Charles made when l spoke to him about his experiences as the second oldest caravanite.

Mzee Charles right in the middle of Thundering Drums
I am finalizing this story as we go through seriously winding and somewhat bumpy narrow roads on our way to Morogoro.

‘You know,’ Mzee Charles raises his right hand to emphasize his point. ‘Catastrophes don’t have boundaries. COP has lost its sense that we were trying to arouse as we protested on the streets of Durban.’ He then reminds me of Japan and the catastrophe they went through even though they are an industrialized country. ‘It didn’t matter that these people have industries and a lot of money. When natural catastrophes come, they strike the poor and the rich alike,’ he insists adding, ‘These countries should remember that, when they say no to binding deals.’

Caravan Chat - A Spooky Tale from Our Travels

Written on 10th December 2011

Iringa, Tanzania. Courtesy of
A few minutes ago l was sitted next to the driver and catching up on stuff as he drove us to our lunch spot in Mbeya. I got back to my sit to catch a few winks only to realize sleep had eluded me. I then decided to write this piece.A story is told about the power company in Iringa; a strange story that started last night because someone ‘had to show us’ where the graves were.

As you travel, you might have noticed power lines that run along the road. This is a story about those lines.
Now in Iringa there is a story that a power company tried to run the lines over some graves where some old men had been buried. It is said that the power on those particular poles didn’t work no matter how much the technical people tried. And many of them tried. Get this, the power poles that followed the ones on the graves worked just fine.

Caravan Chat - Where Art Meets Science - Part 2

Written over a period of days starting 2nd December 2011, past midnight at University of Kwa Zulu Natal

A few days later in Zambia as we head back home…

Art at its best
Banda is an award winning well known artist in Zambia. To say that Banda is animated is to seriously underestimate his nature. He is also an all-round artist is one of the most active members who works with Kachere Studio. I met him in Zambia.

My first impression of him was that he was seriously soaked in his art that he almost looked like art himself. I have spoken to him on a number of times but this morning, we are discussing his art over breakfast here in Zambia, a place where l found that people eat caterpillars. We are at a beautiful hotel that we just checked in with the caravanites in the wee hours of the morning. I am privileged to write this in Zambia as we do our trip out of Southern Africa and into Eastern Africa. Only l didn’t meet him in South Africa, l met him in Zambia when they displayed their art during a caravan of hope ceremony.

Caravan Chat - Where Art Meets Science - Part 1

Written over a period of days starting 2nd December 2011, past midnight at University of Kwa Zulu Natal

The first time l saw them, in late November 2011, in Zambia, l thought, what great creativity.

About Kachere Studio and their Environmental Campaigns

Banda, busy at work
Since their inception in 2006, this team of experienced artists has created awareness on the impacts of climate change through their art. Their art is double edged; it presents both fun and learning, especially for younger crowds. Part of their art has seen them create figures of endangered species that they take round to schools and other outlets in their awareness agenda. They also do a lot of painting on clothe.

I find myself chatting to Alexas Phiri who is not only the lead in this team works under Kachere Studio but also an environmental activist. This studio has been running award winning environmental awareness campaigns called “HIGHLIGHTING CLIMATE CHANGE THROUGH ART” – GO GREEN – “Tiyeni Tibiliwile.” According to Alexas, ‘This is an innovative artistic campaign to increase public and political awareness and understanding of the need for environmental protection and sustainable utilization of our environment, and natural resources.’

Monday, 19 December 2011


'If you are talking about the African economy you are talking about Agriculture,'  Kevin Kinusu

'We cannot claim to have won, the purpose of UNFCCC COPs is not to emerge any group as a winner and another as a loser, but to facilitate the world to agree, and we had an agreement in Durban. Let’s focus on how the agreement can move as a mile in the struggle against Climate Change and its Impacts on our people'...Kevin Kinusu

Kevin Kinusu addressing a session during the just completed COP17. Courtesy of

Written on the 28th November 2011

Potato Council? That is the first thing l chorused when l first heard about the organization that Kevin Kinusu, the program officer represents. My next question was, ‘what does the Potato Council do?’ It turns out quite a lot. We sat for this interview at around 1am as we had some tea in Durban, South Africa. Yes, The Caravan reoriented our work times so that interviews could take place any time.

Genesis of The National Potato Council of Kenya

Caravan Dispatches - Flashback - Organized Chaos Border - Part 2

Part Two
Written 7th December 2011

Beitbridge Border. Courtesy of
So that stamped we go back to the buses and hear that we will leave as soon as we are done inside. Hope rises. It is now past midnight and we are really tired. We wait while some of us get inside the buses to continue with our naps.

Believe me, 5 hours later we were still waiting to be cleared. Problem? There are some manifesto documents that didn't come in copies from the south African border but are needed as a set by the Zimbabwean officials.

Caravan Dispatches - Flashback - Organized Chaos Border - Part 1

The Beitbridge Border – From South Africa Into Zimbabwe
Written on 6th December 2011 at Night

Photo of Beitbridge Border. Courtesy of
Oh my word! Who has been to this border at night? I am talking of the Beitbridge Border that we got into right from South Africa. I can’t believe it. There must be thousands of people at this border a caravanite says a loud to which l readily agree. As far as my eyes can see, there is a sea of both humanity and some very high tech buses.

These people are all coming through from South Africa to places like  Zambia, Zimbabwe, Namibia among other places. My friend warned me as we started out, ‘Maria, this is the busiest port within Southern and Central Africa if not all of Africa.’ We kept wondering, how busy can it get? Oh! well we are here and for real l have no idea what time we will clear out. The bus queue is so long that l have no idea if we will be here till next week. No l am not kidding you.

Caravan Dispatches - Flashback -Leaving Durban

Written on 5th December 2011

Durban. Courtesy of
I am writing this as we leave Durban and head into Pretoria. It has been a wonderful week full of activities. I sit here and think  to myself how beautiful to have gotten involved in such a historic moment…a road trip through 10 countries.

 The Trans African Caravan of Hope is indeed first of a kind in this continent. To be part of history, is to know you contributed to something positive in the continent. I have heard people say on several occasions, we wondered if you would ever make it. I guess when we started out we didn’t think how engaging this trip would be. I have seen people at their lowest and their best. I have witnessed kindness from caravanites one to another that was not expected.

One of the most beautiful thing is to witness a melting of the different communities into one African melting pot that is the Caravan of Hope. Last night one of the caravanites told me how they will miss everyone and how going  back by road will give them time to appreciate all that participated. See that is the thing. This morning someone told me, ‘l feel so sorry for you guys and the distance you have to cover.’ ‘Well ,’ l quipped knowingly, ‘it is shorter compared to what we covered on our way in.’

What people don’t get is that we almost are unaware of the distances. We are glad that we did this. The distance is long but we are glad that we were part of history.

By Maria Wanza

Caravan Dispatches - Flashback - Of Big Malls and Well Maintained Roads

Some flashback ....

Written on the 29th November 2011

Hibberdene, South Africa. Photo Courtesy of 
Today it is sunny in Durban. The kind of sun that you wish you had time to go for a deep swim. We are on the road heading into town in what will be a one hour plus journey. Our hosts have  been gracious at Hibberdene, the area we have been putting up.

Today we change places and get nearer to the International Conference Centre, where the Climate Change Conference is taking place. What has not stopped amazing many of the caravanites is the road network here. The roads are so well done. 

For Kenyans especially it is a culture shock to be driven around on roads that have no potholes. The drive we have is one of the longest l know yet if it were in Kenya it would take us more than 3 hours to maneuver through traffic. The lanes here are also a shocker. They are mostly four to six lanes. No not 3 for each direction but 6 for one direction. And no, it is not just for one road like that of Thika road in Kenya. It is most roads. The minimum lane road is like the one we are on right now. It is two lane. Compared to Kenya cars here move fast. Sometimes it is all the six lanes coming at you.
Courtesy of

I remember wanting to cross the 6 lane road yesterday from the conference centre and asking one of the policemen, ‘how do you cross these lanes?’ He simply answered, ‘ Wait until the robot stops them.’ The traffic light that is.Seriously, well done and maintained.  The country side is beautiful and clean. You should be here to see it.

Then we noticed something yesterday. The traffic police are mostly women, beautiful women in pretty uniforms and white hand gloves. Oh my recipe for accidents in Kenya. No seriously. These women are pretty. Just noticed them especially yesterday when we were leaving the conference centre. Oh and they stop the cars and the motorists stop. 

Can that happen in Kenya seriously? Yesterday we went out to print some documentation we needed at a mall that is near the centre. It was fully packed. I wondered aloud, ‘Don’t people have anywhere to go other than sit around and have coffee?’ To which the local who was taking around said, ‘well this is a popular bus stage hence the big number of people.

This place is big on malls.Oh they are big and splashy. While in Kenya we have just a few and others coming up, South Africa is way ahead. Indeed a culture shock for me. Note to self-Kenya needs to attract more investors.

By Maria Wanza

Saturday, 10 December 2011

Somewhere in Tanzania at a Roadside Cyber Cafe

The bus is hooting.We are in Tanzania just having eaten good fish and ugali for lunch.I have to run.I have so many updates to do but internet has been bad. So l  will keep writing.Expect to do a lot of reading....cheers and thanks for the support

Sunday, 4 December 2011

Caravan Brief - 71 Candles Lit In Honor of Prof Wangari Maathai

Prof Wangari Maathai. Photo courtesy of
A friend of mine said the other day of the Prof Wangari Maathai night that was planned for Kwa Zulu Natal, ‘Wangari Maathai belonged to all of us. This is because to all of us she meant something different to all of us.’
Last night over 500 people gathering from different nationalities gathered to commemorate the life and times of Prof Wangari Maathai. As 71 candles were lit several people gave testimonies of who Prof Maathai was to them. 

Professor Karanja, CEO of the Green Belt Movement was the master of ceremony. During a light moment he said that Prof Maathai was most beautiful at her angriest especially because how she went all out to make sure that things worked. 

High Profile Actress Visits With The Caravanites

When it was announced that an actress from China was going to be part of those people who would visit and have a chat with caravanites, we didn’t know what to make of it. We had not heard her name before. So we waited. I waited. Eagerly. Seeing that l have done some acting back in Kenya. I wanted to meet her. And so she visited with us. Hai Qing is an Oxfam ambassador and travels the world creating awareness on various development issues.

That afternoon, outside the Howard dome at the University of Kwa Zulu Natal, we shared our experiences from across Africa. Hai heard about women in Zambia through Milus a woman farmer who was part of the caravan. She told of how the rural woman suffers because of lack of access of modern facilities. She urged Hai, ‘to send the message to the right people in China that they needed to cut emissions.’ A woman from Lesotho who l will call Mama Anna had a request. She requested Hai to let the leaders at the COP 17 know, ‘that the group knew they were talking on their behalf but could they ask us directly what we think since we can talk for ourselves.’

Thursday, 1 December 2011

Caravan Dispatches - Farmers Wow At COP17

I have been debating for the last few hours or so whether to sit down and write this entry in the midst of drowsiness and fatigue. Don't forget sleepiness. Hmm! that is an English word seeing it didn't go underlined red at the bottom:-) Anyways,l have to tell you this even though it is a few minutes to middnight here in University of Kwa Zulu Natal, South Africa.

Caravan Brief - I Am Not Here For Sympathy But For Justice, Former Ireland President

Her Excellency Mary Robinson
Her Excellency Mary Robinson, former Ireland president met with Trans African Caravan of Hope caravanites yesterday at University of Kwa Zulu Natal. Her Excellency was there as she put it, ' to listen to the caravanites and help them articulate their voices on the floor of negotiations.'


The Pan African Climate Justice Alliance, PACJA, will host an African Farmers Kamukunji where farmers from more than 10 countries will be discussing the impacts that climate change has on their livelihoods, and their hopes for the future as African farmers need to adapt to the catastrophic effect that climate change will for future generations.

The kamukunji will be divided into two sections. First farmers will share experiences and reflect on the topics that are being discussed at the UNFCCC. Farmers will review a new publication by PACJA with Oxfam Interational and Kulima Overcoming the Barriers How to ensure future food production under climate change in southern Africa. Farmers who have read the report state that it has important recommendations for the entire continent for African leaders to build on in their country adaptation plans. The report presents interviews with over 200 farmers in five countries (Malawi, Mozambique, South Africa, Zambia and Zimbabwe) and their knowledge about the climate change they are experiencing which is largely backed up by scientific data. 

The kamukunji will be made up of 60 farmers from across Africa. Many are travellers on the Trans African Caravan of Hope, organized by PACJA, a historic campaign trail from Bujumbura, Burundi to Durban, South Africa passing through Rwanda, Uganda, Kenya, Tanzania, Malawi, Zambia, Zimbabwe and Botswana.
The meeting will be attended by other Caravanites, farmers, civil society, policy makers and leaders from around the world.  

The Trans African Caravan of Hope is an awareness road trip that went through 10 countries covering over 7000 kilometres to get to Durban, South Africa for UNFCCC COP17 meeting. This Caravan started from Burundi, Rwanda, Uganda, Kenya, Tanzania, Malawi, Zambia, Zimbabwe, Botswana and into South Africa. Other countries that have joined the caravan include Lesotho, Mozambique, Swaziland and Nigeria.  
Media will also get interview opportunities with farmers who will participate in this event.

Date – 1st December 2011   Venue – University of Kwa Zulu Natal   Time – 5pm – 7pm
For more information please contact
Maria Wanza @ +277 3910 9263 / Or Katy Mcdermott @ 0027796965332