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MAPA voices

The challenges facing the Most Affected People And Areas – and how you can help
A young Maasai smiling at the camera in Tanzania

This article first appeared in our World Environment Day issue of My Green Pod Magazine, published on 02 June 2022. Click here to subscribe to our digital edition and get each issue delivered straight to your inbox

We reached out to youths from MAPA to find out what immediate challenges they face and how they are tackling them.

We also asked what they need, and in many cases it was as simple as getting the message out. Please read and share these stories and help to raise the support and awareness they so desperately need.

Nyombi Morris, Uganda

What’s your biggest challenge?
The biggest issues we currently face are the capitalist projects that have forced hundreds of people to evacuate. Uganda is blessed with minerals and oil, which has attracted all countries from the global north to come and start investing here with a promise to reduce unemployment opportunities.

One of the projects is known as EACOP, an oil pipeline from Tanzania to Uganda. Ever since it kicked off in 2015 the project has caused thousands of activists to lose their lives; many have been arrested and others have decided to go silent.

Many landowners are unhappy because of their mistreatment and the lack of transparency; they say they were not consulted about this project before work began, and today they are being forced to sell their farms at a cheaper price to allow the money makers’ pipeline to go through.

Last year at COP26 we all agreed that the only way to keep below 1.5 degrees is stop investing in projects that are not supporting a green transition. Today countries that acknowledged that fact are failing to condemn the companies financing human suffering in East Africa. TOTAL is one of the giant companies financing the EACOP project.

How are you trying to fix it?
I decided to mobilise and set strikes to put an end to this project. We visit schools and make sure people understand what is happening in the western part of Uganda and why the costs of living in Kampala, our capital city, are so much higher now than they were a decade ago.

People forced to sell their land migrate to Kampala; some now beg on the streets and others with connections are looking for jobs to start a new life.

Are you making an impact?
What I am doing has an impact I strongly believe, but it’s not enough and we can’t do it alone. We need a global voice in this. No one is safe until we are all safe.

What else could be done?
We don’t have any organisations supporting us – all of them don’t care. We are doing this for the love of nature and humanity. Sometimes we run out of funds and resources to strike – even when we are arrested we don’t have immunity. It is risky but we keep trying because it is our future that is at stake. 

What do you need?
We need to make sure that the ordinary people in the global north get to know about this mistreatment and help us to pressure their governments to take responsibility or be held accountable. These people have access to television, internet and radio – they can’t be kidnapped, raped and arrested for speaking up.

We also need support from the media; all these perpetrators watch the news and have access to the internet so they can read articles online. We need the press to amplify our pain, our voice and our struggle.

Fazeela Mubarak, Kenya

What’s your biggest challenge?
I am an environmentalist who has become a climate activist. I have been volunteering with communities and wildlife-related causes for over eight years.

The biggest issue is that, because of the climate breakdown, we are seeing an increase in human-wildlife conflicts, dried-out crops, injuries to communities and girls in schools lacking sanitary pads.

How are you trying to fix it?
We have worked on climate mitigation projects where we work on providing water for wildlife. This greatly reduces the conflicts. We are also working on nature regeneration projects and climate education with school children to educate them and inspire them to preserve the environment. On a larger scale, I raise awareness about these issues whenever I get the platform and take part in NDCs.

Are you making an impact?
In the field, yes. We have seen how, when given a chance, nature can revive incredibly. School children are excited about the regeneration work they are a part of – the reduction of conflicts and girls not missing
out on school due to period poverty.

What else could be done?
My work is on a small scale and the climate crisis is affecting us massively. We need mitigation measures to be put in place. We need more resilient crops and more access to water systems, as relying on rain
is becoming rather difficult.

What do you need?
We need cooperation from governments, in the global south and the global north. There’s also a huge gap in funding for the grassroots organisations where all the work happens.

Grassroots activists are also absent from conversations in climate conferences because, let’s be honest, having access to the internet is a privilege. I know some amazing grassroots activists who simply don’t have this privilege.

Chile Kangwa, Mpika, Zambia

What’s your biggest challenge?
We face increased floods, crop failure, droughts, water scarcity, soil degradation and the rapid loss of biodiversity and forest cover.

There is exploitative and inhumane treatment by some international conservation organisations and no flexible access to funds for youth-led organisations to participate fully in the fight against climate change.

There is a lack of adequate institutional and technical capacity for research and scientific projects, and a lack of coordination and policies at community levels in addressing climate change and its impacts.

How are you trying to fix it?
We are implementing a project in forest regeneration, and forming clubs in sensitive ecosystems to watch and report destructive human activities, which is amplifying youth voices for climate justice.

We conduct agroecology and sustainable development education for a healthy and productive environment and advocate for the creation of a national climate fund to enhance adaptation and mitigation programmes.

We also advocate for the rights of Indigenous people living in protected areas who are being ill treated, and for access to clean water for women and people with disabilities.

Are you making an impact?
Regeneration dialogue action among local chiefs and Indigenous people is doing very well. We are measuring impacts in two forms: interest from the local chiefs to give the organisation management rights and the number of hectares projected to be planted.

Youths are very willing to be mobilised; they fully participate as volunteers or active players in the watchdog service to act in defence of their communities and environments.

What else could be done?
There are two types of climate change in the world: one is called environmental and the other is called economic. The two are linked together and a good fight must target both to have a long impact.

The lack of adequate financing makes it harder to effectively invest in sustainable livelihoods and agroforestry activities. Alternative livelihoods are critical to lowering dependance on forestry, which has massive negative impacts on our environments. It also protects our wildlife from illegal poaching by enhancing tourism and ecosystems.

Smallholder farmers must be given climate-smart skills and capacity to produce more food through sustainable agricultural technologies. This too is difficult to achieve without sufficient funding.

Olopiro and the Maasai in Tanzania
Olopiro with the Maasai in Tanzania

Transitioning to green energy is another critical area that would ensure the forests we generate are safe from destruction for energy by surrounding communities. We could engage them in smart energy such as solar and wood stoves for their daily energy needs.

We need more advocacy and awareness if we are to achieve justice. Elected leaders must act and polluters must take responsibility for their damage to our planet.

We must invest in the local people who suffer the adverse effects of climate change and engage them through dialogues for solutions.

What do you need?
We need access to flexible funding to implement programmes aimed at the transformation and regeneration of our lost environment. We also need the capacity to effectively implement scientific programmes including technology transfer, and an institutional capacity to undertake major projects, such as development of transport and infrastructure projects.

In addition to this, we also really need more collaborations and partnerships, including linkages to the higher learning institutions that offer technology for environmental and habitat conservation in more practical terms.

Olopiro, Ngorongoro, Tanzania

What’s your biggest challenge?
The life of the Maasai is in jeopardy. Fear and uncertainty are bigger than life right now because we face a point where the military could be deployed to Ngorongoro to assist the oppressor to remove original inhabitants so the oppressor can take their place and exploit the resources protected by the natives.

What else could be done?
There are a lot of things happening that mean we need help and support from the rest of the world. If you can leave your own daily trappings, please join the Maasai in this movement.

What do you need?
We need support for lawyers helping the Maasai by bailing out those arrested for standing for our ancestral land rights. We are also organising community meetings, events and demonstrations, and need journalists to cover our stories and travel to meet other powerful leaders who don’t want to see human rights violations. All these need resources and we can’t do this alone.

Rahmina Paullete, Kenya

What’s your biggest challenge?
Climate change and pollution.

How are you trying to fix it?
I am growing trees with my organisation, Kisumu environmental champions. We have also initiated our own campaign – #LetLakeVictoriaBreathAgain – to restore Lake Victoria through clean-ups, making eco-friendly products from water hyacinth and promoting climate literacy to the community around Lake Victoria.

Are you making an impact?
Yes, my community has been able to come up with different initiatives to venture into the green economy, and provide solutions to support the transition from charcoal to biogas.

What else could be done?
Countries in the global south could help to support people from the grassroots – like me, an Indigenous climate activist – in making a large-scale impact on the climate crisis and amplifying the voices of MAPA. 

What do you need?
I need funding to run my projects on climate change and the environment, and more outreach to amplify our voices in as many places as possible – social media, news and events – to spread information about the negative results to Africa and other continents with countries in the global south.

Farzana Faruk Jhumu, Dhaka, Bangladesh

What’s your biggest challenge?
In Bangladesh, climate change is seen everywhere. People are losing their homes due to the sea-level rise. Flood and cyclones are regular here.

With sea-level rise, the drinking water became saline so there is now the issue of water scarcity. We are losing our crops due to the monsoon shift.

Bangladesh has one of the largest internal migrations so people have to come to the city and live in the slum. In the slum, they have water scarcity, less electricity and a bad hygiene system. Children can’t get an education because they need to help their parents to earn a livelihood.

How are you trying to fix it?
We, as Fridays For Future MAPA (Most Affected People and Areas), are asking the government and companies to start taking the climate crisis seriously.

We are locally working on climate education and plastic removal projects, and we try to work with the government on new policies.

Are you making an impact?
We have seen the impact of our work within our community. Students are joining us and trying to understand what is going on.

The government is also listening to our ideas and with NGOs, we are reaching them and asking for a seat at the table as youths.

What else could be done?
We as youths need to be at the policy-making table. It’s about our future and the present, so we should be the ones asked about it.

We also need other movements, like the Indigenous movement and women’s rights movement, to work together with us.

What do you need?
Media attention is very much needed both in our situation and also in our work. If we could reach more people, and get more people to join us, it would be easier. For that, we need proper climate education.

Together with Fridays For Future, MAPA, Greta Thunberg and more, a music video and cover version of Swedish House Mafia’s hit song Save The World was released at an event at Stockholm+50. The song is a fundraiser; the more you play it, the more money you will raise to support MAPA.

Click here to play Save The World (Jarvis Smith feat. Rita Morar) on iTunes, Spotify or wherever you listen to music – each play will raise money to make a difference.

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