Only two more days to go and everyone involved in the preparations are busy like bees. I am in Bujumbura together with Ugandan photographer James Akena to work with the Burundi team preparing for the launch of the Pan-African Climate Caravan of Hope on November 9th.
View The Trans African Caravan of Hope in a larger map
T-shirts are being hand-printed in one end of town, banners made in the other end. TV- and radio adverts are running to drum up everyone’s attention for the launch.
In a hall in the centre of Bujumbura half a hundred women farmers from all over Burundi have gathered to prepare a charter. It is not ready yet but judging from the debate among the women the charter will build on the women’s experiences andviewpoints on the changing climate and how further damage can be prevented.
The women will hand the charter to the vice president during the launch of the Caravan. It is supposed to remind the Burundian government of its obligations to represent the farmers’ – 90% of the population - interests at COP17 in Durban in December
Caravan of Hope is a huge mobilization and awareness-raising campaign ahead of COP17 to highlight the challenges climate change poses to Africa.
Travelling through ten countries from Burundi to South Africa the Caravan and its participants from all over Africa will tell the African story about climate change – the continent that pollutes least but suffers most from the changing climate.
The message of the Caravan is clear and directed to Africa’s and the rest of the world’s leaders; Keep Africa and the world safe, prevent catastrophic climate change impacts and ensure that the rich countries – the extreme polluters- sign up to legally binding commitments that reduce emissions and limit global warming to well below 1.5°C
It has become afternoon and the atmosphere in the hall of the Women Farmers Assembly is intense. One after another the women raise their voices. Every one of them has a unique life experience but their immediate concerns remain the same:
The weather patterns have changed dramatically during the last 10-15 years in Burundi. They can no longer rely on the two wet seasons when farmers would normally produce food for the rest of the year. Dry spells in the wet seasons are followed by heavy rain and sudden hailstorm. Soil erosion is depleting the nutrition from the earth, and food production has reduced noticeably. It is hard to feed their families.
A Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations representative backs up the women’s stories with newly gathered facts. 50% of all households do not produce as much food as they did five years ago.
Burundi is one of the poorest countries in Africa, 73% live under the poverty line and in ActionAid’s newly released report “On the Brink” it ranks second out of of 28 countries in overall vulnerability after Congo. The changing climate does not make it any better.
Two more days to go before the launch of Caravan of Hope – but how much longer to go before the world’s leaders take smallholder farmers concerns in Africa seriously? How much longer before they sign up to a binding agreement reducing the rich countries emissions.
Could it be at COP17?