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.’

Mzee Charles stands tall at about 6feet and is 62 years old. He has energy of someone way younger than he is. ‘I have missed by family of 4 children and 4 grandchildren and my mother,’ he says of his participation in the caravan. Even though he is not a farmer, He has continually told his family that they needed to love nature and to take care of it. Mzee Charles is glad that one of his children is working in the agriculture industry. ‘That makes me happy because he took after what l have taught them,’ he says proudly.

He is a social worker who worked for the last 12 years as a Public Relations officer with Iringa civil society organization ,ICSO an umbrella body in Tanzania that works to rebuild capacity of Civil Societies administrations, gather and disseminate information, and to assist civil society to have a common face.
He tells me that Durban was important to him because of the advocacy and networking aspects that are key to his organization that he is keen to share once he gets back.

Advice to his government

He tells me that there is a big problem in Tanzania. Felling trees is big in Tanzania. He explains, ‘Other countries are depending on Tanzania to get their logged trees.’ Consequently, ‘trees are growing at a low rate. The technology of felling trees has grown greatly so it means one person can fell a lot of trees that won’t be replaced,’ says Mzee Charles. He also notes that felling trees has also exposed land which has become bare. ‘It has led to drying up of sources of water,’ adds Mzee Charles. He says that this exercise has led to women having to travel for long distances to get water for the household use.

His advice? ‘Our government should do away with duty on electrical goods so that many people can use electricity in their houses and this will stop tree felling.’ He has observed that most people in rural Tanzania use firewood as their source of energy. He believes deforestation will be curbed greatly if this is adhered to. He also wants the government and well wishers to, ‘Promote local artisans to promote energy saving stoves.’


‘Two things, ‘ he tells me. ‘One, let all who are elected into public office know they are there to serve the electorate. They should hold public interest first including protecting natural resources.'

‘Secondly?’ I prompt him. ‘Secondly, The caravan was a great idea that brought many African countries together. People sat together, sent one message out and had one song.’ He says this even though not perfect, was a historic event. He adds, ‘All of us should take away from this lessons learned and improve on everything we learned.’ 

By Maria Wanza

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