The road to Durban: youth caravan highlights Africa’s changing climate

25 Nov 2011

imageYouths campaigning for decisive climate action (Photo: UNDP)

New York - On 27 November, completing a two-week drive from Nairobi, a convoy of 150 youths campaigning for decisive climate action will be greeted by Archbishop Desmond Tutu, UN officials and African performers in a large inter-faith rally in Durban, South Africa.

During the rally, African journalists, students and artists on board the “We Have Faith: Act Now for Climate Justice” caravan will be greeted by world renown artists like Ladysmith Black Mambazo and Yvonne Chaka Chaka.

The caravan held a series of concerts and rallies in Kenya, Tanzania, Malawi, Zambia and Botswana. Along the way, the convoy gathered thousands of signatures asking for a solid commitment in the upcoming climate negotiations to tackle climate change and shield the most vulnerable from its consequences.

The 17th Conference of the Parties (COP17) to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) will take place in Durban, from 28 November to 9 December. The negotiations will seek a global agreement to tackle climate change.

Five  journalists from Cameroun, Ethiopia, Kenya, Nigeria and Senegal, who were on board the caravan to undergo a training in reporting on climate change, covered climate change issues and its impact on local communities on every stop of the caravan.

Their training was financed by UNDP’s Africa Adaptation Programme, a USD 92 million scheme financed by the government of Japan that is helping 20 African countries to develop climate change adaptation plans. The scheme provided the fellowships that allowed the journalists to join the caravan.

Africa will be the continent hardest hit by climate change because it faces more severe climatic effects  than other regions, its economies rely on climate-dependent sectors such as agriculture and its capacities to cope and adapt are generally limited.

In Tanzania, Bernice Atabong, one of the journalists, said she engaged villagers near Mount Kilimanjaro on the consequences of malaria in their area.
“Mosquitos have invaded these places and malaria is now common in these localities as it is in the coastal provinces,” she said.  “The disease has affected people, many of them fall sick and have to go to the hospital, spending the little money they have; others die due to the disease.” 

In Dar es Salaam, the Tanzanian capital, a second journalist, Audrey Wabwire, wrote:

“Unpredictable weather patterns have led to economic strain on the residents of the city.  Food prices have gone up and people tend to avoid eating rice nowadays, even though this is a favorite food in the coast. Many now opt for Ugali – a stiff paste made out of maize flour.” 

In Malawi, a third journalist, Lily Mengesha, spoke of changing landscapes: “Malawians themselves are feeling the effects of the immense changes which have occurred within their country. Rain doesn’t come on time as it used to. Drought is not a rare occurrence anymore.”

In the capital of Malawi, Lilongwe, church leaders and the Malawian Minister of the Environment attended a concert organized by the musicians on board.
Upon arriving in Durban, the journalists will cover the climate conference. The fellowship “provides a unique opportunity for African journalists to report on events of crucial importance to their countries and to do so with access to those directly affected by the issues,” said Jacqueline Frank, coordinator of media activities in the Africa Adaptation programme.