Roots of Resilience Episode 4: Africa Rising
Roots of Resilience Episode 4
There is no continent more disproportionately impacted by climate change than Africa. However, its people are systematically sidelined and silenced in international climate change spaces and negotiations. In this compelling episode, through conversations with two exceptional African leaders, Lucy Mulenkei of IIN Kenya and Anabela Lemos of JA! Mozambique, GFC unveils the harrowing effects of climate change and exposes the repercussions of false solutions on the environment, biodiversity, and diverse communities.
Join us as we shine a spotlight on the remarkable women who are at the forefront of this battle, facing issues ranging from escalating sexual violence near monoculture tree plantations to the harsh reality of food insecurity. Our guests have fearlessly championed the cause of their people for decades, taking on some of the planet’s most formidable adversaries: multinational corporations, mining giants, and powerful industries.
Lucy Mulenkei and Anabela Lemos provide firsthand accounts of the devastating consequences of false climate solutions like carbon offsets, and, more importantly, illuminate the genuine solutions involving local communities and Indigenous Peoples. Discover the wealth of wisdom and knowledge rooted in traditional practices – including the vital importance of Indigenous languages to protect forests and biodiversity – and age-old knowledge systems that hold the keys to a sustainable future. Don’t miss this episode; it’s a vital exploration of Africa’s fight for environmental justice and climate resilience.
Tune in to listen now, and please share widely amongst your networks #RootsOfResilience
Available now in the following places and more…
Full transcript available below
Chithira Vijayakumar, host
Coraina de la Plaza, co-producer
Ismail Wolff, editor, co-producer
Cover Art: Ismail Wolff
Lucy Mulenkei, Indigenous Information Network (IIN) Kenya
Anabela Lemos, JA! Justiça Ambiental, Mozambique,
‘Black Catbird’ by the Garifuna Collective
Licensor: Stonetree Records
Link & creative Commons license details: https://shikashika.org/birdsong/artists/the-garifuna-collective/
27 October 2023
Roots of Resilience: On the Frontlines of Climate Justice
Episode 4 Africa Rising
*This is an automatically generated transcript and may not be an accurate representation of original comments
INTRODUCTION: Welcome to Roots of Resilience on the frontlines of climate justice, a podcast by the Global Forest Coalition.
CHITHIRA VIJAYAKUMAR: Welcome back to Roots of Resilience, a podcast where we tackle head-on one of the greatest crises that we face as a planet today – climate change.
In every episode, we speak to environmental defenders all around the world who have been implementing real climate solutions in their regions and protecting forests, all of it through gender-transformative ways.
ANABELA LEMOS: They know the impacts with a big know, impacts we have with the climate crisis. You know, something in the future is yet at this moment and we know and our leaders know, but our leaders still don’t know what’s the solution and we do have solutions. We should be on the front line of the transformation needed to tackle the crisis we live today.
CHITHIRA: My name is Chithira Vijayakumar and I’m from India. I’ll be your host for today. And, as always, I hope that this podcast gives you hope and shows you that not only is change possible, it is already happening today, we are going to talk about Africa, Africa on the whole, the whole continent contributes less than 4% of global greenhouse emissions.
Despite this, according to a report by the United Nations Environment Program, 80% of Africa’s land area has been affected by desertification, land degradation and drought. The African Development Bank has shown that over recent decades, Africa has been experiencing the highest rate of deforestation with 3.4 million hectares of forests lost every year.
One of the main reasons for all of this is that the continent is being used by the global north as a major hub for extract deism and false climate solutions. For instance, millions of hectares of forests are cut down and converted into monoculture plantations for REDD+ projects, right?
All of it is supposedly offset the pollution that wealthy companies in the global north continue to emit to this very day to this very hour, right? Because of these false solutions which are now of course, being widely debunked, the African continent has been ravaged by rising temperatures, droughts and floods causing widespread damage to the environment. And of course to human lives.
In this episode, we will dive deep into what is happening in Africa as a result of these false solutions. For instance, why is sexual violence on the rise in areas that have plantations? Why is hunger on the rise in these regions? We will then also hear about the real solutions that involve local communities and Indigenous peoples who have a wealth of knowledge and experience in adapting to climate, using their traditional practices and knowledge systems. We will talk about why languages, Indigenous languages are absolutely critical to protect forests and biodiversity.
We’re going to discuss all of this and more with two African leaders, two women who have taken up the cause on behalf of their people and have stood against some of the most powerful corporations, mining companies and industries in the world. Lucy Mulenkei and Anabela Lemos.
Lucy Mulenkei is a Maasai leader from Kenya, who is the Executive Director of the Indigenous Information Network and co-founder of the Indigenous Women and Biodiversity Network and the African Indigenous Women’s Organization. Lucy is an award-winning Indigenous advisory member in several global development organizations such as the UN decade on ecosystem restoration and more. She is the co-chair of the International Indigenous Forum on Biodiversity and is recognized and lauded for her work in the advancement of the rights of Indigenous women in Kenya, Africa and worldwide.
So let’s just get straight into it. So you are somebody who started out your life in a different field as a broadcast journalist reporting from different parts of Africa. So what was that experience like? And what inspired you to make the change to the space that you are in now as a leader of some of the most innovative and most deeply connected Indigenous peoples and community organizations in Africa and the world.
LUCY MULENKEI: It was a very interesting transition, but it’s also it came positively in a way it, and though at the beginning, I may talk about it being negative. But in my own view, I as a Maassai, I was born in that rural setting and I live and grew up in a setting whereby a community were very, very important people. And I, all the life I knew was that these are communities that make life move, they make their life, you know, different despite the challenges and the things that I found on the ground.
And so when I started up as a young journalist, actually starting by being trained on the job, I was doing environmental issues, the health and agriculture. Those were my main objective apart from other musical programs and so on. And also ended up to be a supervisor of vernacular languages, whereby we had over 10 languages broadcasting and I was supervising them and helping them, you know, being able to bring the news and also the programs and everything to their own communities.
But the most interesting thing I kept on doing my own production work, even despite being a manager of the section, I was, I always felt that I had to really get those interviews. I had to get information and I had to, to see to, to understand the lives of the different communities because we are all in different geographies. And 80% of Kenya is Sear and that’s where most of the pastoralist communities, the hunter-gatherers, the ones who have self-identified themselves as Indigenous people.
And so, looking and going to those places and seeing the kind of life and the marginalization and the discrimination there in terms of having any services, any human rights, basic services that every human being needed. Like water, we had water, we have everything in the city. But when you go down to the community in the remote areas, there’s basically nothing. The people are just surviving on their own.
I said, hey, how come this, we are dealing with two different worlds and these two different worlds are so much, you know, inequalities is so the gap is so big that you wonder are we in the same country? Are we doing the same thing?
And so that one’s already started even despite the fact that I wanted to bring the positive side of the communities, but there, there is, there was still that problem that I found was really a very crucial problem that needed somebody to sit with the communities and try to have them, you know, have them to be able to manage and you know, be able to adopt and mitigate their own issues.
So when you look at climate issues that we are talking today, we are talking about the loss of biodiversity. We are talking about many things of prolonged droughts and so on. These were things that were there. And the most interesting thing is that when I did the interviews at the community level, remote a level and then I came back to Nairobi and there are, there were meetings in the United Nations Environment Program which is based in Kenya. You could hear also the minister speaking. And one thing that really triggered me was the secretary general at that time, who was also the executive director of UN E and Mustafa to was from Egypt and he kept on giving warnings to the governments, to the different people that the global is the the the the ozone layer is warming is being damaged. He kept on bringing all these problems but nobody kind of listened. But when I compared the two, I could see the link and how the community will continue suffering and what, what is ahead of us there if we don’t take action.
And after doing quite a number of you know, years in the broadcasting over 17 years, I decided no enough is enough. Slowly. By slowly, we were in Geneva talking about the human rights issues, the development of the permanent forum on Indigenous people, the UN Declaration on the Indigenous population, we joined the rest of the world to be able to the rest of the Indigenous people globally to talk and discuss this and bring the recommendations from Africa. So that’s where we evolve.
It’s a history that is a very interesting story and it’s also very good for us because when I look back, I see the struggle, what we had and how we came up and how we have evolved and how we also got involved even focusing more on, on Indigenous women, looking at the SA and also having that as another you know area where we could work and be able to bring the highlight of Indigenous women. And at this, at the same time, on this other side, we are looking at the issues of environment and linking all these with the human rights perspective. All this came together quite well and it was linked very well.
CHITHIRA: Right. And I think the first of all, I think we have to really appreciate the extraordinary bravery of such a decision because even today, the idea of leaving the comfort of a regular job and to set off into the unknown, to set up a network that had never existed before, to connect communities that have never been able to speak to each other before. And to stand up against some of the most powerful and wealthy power structures in the world. You know, even today, it is a decision that I think people would think 1000 a million times about before setting out on and to do it what now 24 years ago. I think that’s such a powerful origin story for this for your work. And for your organization?
So how did, how did the communities that you met with at the time? How did they respond to this idea at the time? Was it, was it a new concept? Was it something that they’ve always been looking for? How did you make that initial conversation? I know you said that you already had links with them personally, but then of course, to bring them all together, you know, how did that go?
LUCY: It’s very interesting. And up to now, II I like the idea that was very open from the word go with the communities and they knew very well that we didn’t have any money. Unlike other NGOs I remember my first proposal for ILN was $500 and we did a meeting in the community.
And so they always knew that money was not everything we have to build each other. We have to, you know, we have to work together and bring that community collective that we had from the word go. Where did the money come from? How did people, we used to work together? How did people used to help each other? We instinct that in them and you know, in the community, you had to have an entry point. Do they accept you as very fairly?
You have said because they, they are traditional these are traditional communities, they have to know who you are. They have to know why you are, you want to work with them and we continued working with them thick or thin with problems or without problems. They know those are their resources. They have the knowledge, they have the traditional knowledge, they continue struggling whether with money or no money or no funding, they just need recognition, they need their rights to be recognized and they really need some people or anybody who can be able to stand with them and say this is what is good and this is right to go this direction and this is wrong to do this. And how can we work together even you serve as communities and so on.So this is the way that the community really have been able to come up.
And one thing that is also very happy and I feel always very great about it is that the women groups and the groups that we have had the different areas where we have worked. The the population has even the growth of the population. They have also grown quite a lot in terms of organizing themselves, in terms of creating different groups that they could work together, register them with the social services, which is a requirement in our country and also in other parts of Africa to be rec as an organization that can need support.
So this is something that also brings up a lot of education, not only to one person but also to the community, to the schools, to the girls, the boys in the schools, we work with them with different programs because we want them to know that their communities and their lands are very, very crucial and they are vital for, to protect their own health, to have their own food security and to be able to, to look at their development.
The most interesting thing is that that’s why also it’s really always, we are learning when we’re in the communities when COVID was there 19, the last 2020 21. And almost all the countries of course, were shut down and people went back home. And you, you couldn’t imagine how innovative these Indigenous communities were, they already treated back to the community and started going back to the old traditional way of looking at the medicinal plants, some of them, which they had already the law and they were no longer using them.
They decided to look at the foods that they were there, the women with the exchange programs that we had already started with them, connecting them to the other groups and to be able to work with the other women from other communities and looking at those who have advanced in certain skills and they shared with them even with their own very strong traditional past, who are already changing slowly in terms of looking at alternative like and with that they all went back and the issue what they were doing during COVID is just the telephone.
We are doing this, we are planting this. What are you eating? How is the, you know, the impact of COVID there? What are people drinking? What kind of medicinal plants? There was peace and there was they manage their own life and they manage their own, you know, using their own medicinal plants and eating healthy food and being there to be able to restore their own lands.
So that connection together, as even you have mentioned was very, very crucial because we all know that we cannot do a thing with only one hand, one finger cannot, you know, kill the license as they always say it’s two together, which means you have to always join hands to be able to succeed. So that’s how the communities are and they could share compare.
And the other very good example is those ones who are in the drought are hit by the drought so much. And they were, they didn’t get any food relief or anything, but the women themselves decided now that we ourselves. On this other hand, we have it. Why don’t we everybody contribute no matter how little it is, even if it’s just a kilogram of beans or maize, just let’s contribute to these other people.
And let now Indigenous information network know how to get this food to the community.
And we com immediately just you know, fundraise and got funding from our, our partners who are close to us and we were able to be transporting food to the, to the other women who are also who are being faced with drought and who had stayed for almost a year without rain.
So you see, this has continued to be a sisterhood, a kind of AAA community unity up to date. We still have, we even had to get a storage place for one of the community groups so that they can keep it whenever we go there, we carry the maize and take it to the others. So that unity is very important that they believe that collective, that working together, that collaboration and that partnership among themselves as, as communities is very, very crucial because that’s what we showed them. We told them, we will continue working with you with money or with no money, without resources or without anything. And when we get, when we are blessed to get those resources, then we share it out to different. And now we are even working very closely together through our partners to ensure that they can be able to run their own programs on their own. And in future, we want them to find and raise and get funding directly so that they can also empower and also continue the chain and continue the circle.
CHITHIRA: You know, these stories, especially these stories of these innovative ways of responding to drastically new situations like COVID. I think these are really the stories that we need to hear because one thing that we know is that when something like a global pandemic happened, modern industrialized societies, which are supposedly the pinnacle of developing the pinnacle of human innovation, all ground to a halt. Nobody, nobody was able to come up with things like this. Everyone was dependent upon the state.
You know, if the state blessed you with supplies, you had food. If they didn’t, then you didn’t have food, you know, but that’s where like you pointed out the real magic. The real innovation is actually resting with Indigenous peoples of this planet. These stories are so beautiful and so moved by these stories.
LUCY: Yeah. Yeah. And you know, it didn’t even for the other African region, the other African countries they learned from us because we told them what’s happening and we gave them their ideas. And we also, when we were networking for us, actually, during COVID, we didn’t stop working. We were just working because we were either on the phone, talking to them and sometimes we could travel where possible because even of course it was shut down. But there was that movement and we could do that.
CHITHIRA: I think it’s incredible. And you know, you mentioned the work the, the, the way Children are getting involved in this work a couple of times. So I just wanna ask you a little bit about that because the, the present generation, your Children now are going to be the people who face the increasingly worsening impacts of climate change, right? And that is the sad reality of where we’re headed in the next few decades. So how has the younger generation responded to the work that you are doing around the climate crisis or in agroecology? Taking, taking stock of the environment around them. How are they involved where you are?
LUCY: Yeah, I, I think the, the, the, the most interesting thing I did and we did and I’ve always encouraged my colleagues is to make sure that we involve them as early as possible. Because I believe that I, I’ve also gained all this knowledge because I was totally involved and the communities accepted me as early as possible. And I always had that listening, you know, way of my life to listen to them and to learn and to just keep an eye and an ear so that I could be able to digest it and see how we can move forward and what in the community we say.
And that’s always my motto is that even those the Children in the compound, the Children in the community have to talk, be sitting somewhere also to listen and involve them in every single thing that we do. What we also do is that in schools, the different schools from those community areas.
We have a program whereby we every holidays, they are, we have our volunteers from the different areas who run two day, three day meetings and trainings with the girls, especially young girl from 10 years old. They start already learning to know and learn about sexual repros about their bodies, about their everything. Because you remember, we are in a traditional setting and there is that there is no longer that possibility of these kids going to talk to their grandmothers as we did or to their aunties, everybody is like a busy world.
It’s like a digital world moving from somewhere to nowhere. And so we had to make sure that at least we can be able to catch up with them and all the ladies, young ladies employed and who come for internship, we train them in that, that is one of one of their responsibilities.
And we, we started with the girls, then the boys who are able to join also to have their own training. And then we make sure that even in schools when we talk about any activity, we tell the teachers and everyone, we kind of involve everyone in the community so that everyone can be involved and be able to, to look at it. And my, my, my best thing is that as we started doing that, we also starting, started holding the young people from that society from that community to remain back in the villages to be able to work with them.
I really insist on having these young people also being involved fully in different development activities from different countries. So long as I’m given recommendations and so on, and I’ve worked very closely with my colleagues also and the other partners from the different Indigenous you know, networks that I have mentioned, the African Indigenous women, the Indigenous women and Biodiversity International Indigenous Forum on biodiversity on climate change and on others. And we have made sure that let the young people be involved.
Even if you look at this year’s cop 28 we have put youth as a priority. We want them to understand so many issues that are already being discussed there. You do environment but you know in colleges, university and you know it very well, it’s just theory, practical thing is happens in the community. I think the youth, especially in Africa, we had the African Climate Summit which was here in Nairobi and the number of youths who were there, we ourselves, we we supported a number of about 35 youths from Kenya Africa and other places. And we found that there were many others out there.
Of course, we have also a problem that we have quite a number of youth born in the urban centers in urban cities. They don’t have their villages. But we say you can also go out there and learn from the different communities, not necessarily to be a family, but also to be friends and learn just like what you learn in different areas. So slowly, by slowly, because we have found that’s a very, very big issue. If you don’t involve the youth, you get substance abuse, you get them crime, you get them all sorts of things happen. We have to do that.
CHITHIRA: Absolutely. And it sounds like you are creating a whole generation of leaders, you know, not just for Africa, but also beyond. And that’s incredible. I’m glad you brought up the the Climate Change Summit that just concluded the African Climate Summit that just concluded in Nairobi. I, I would love to hear your take on it, right? Like so the first time that something of this scale has happened. So is it a step in the right direction, do you think or is it old wine in the new bottle? Are there any tendencies there that we need to be on the watch for or is it really is really a step towards a, a positive change?
LUCY: There are two different and many faces about this. There is a positive and also the negative and also a good direction that this was done in Africa. It was done in Kenya, it brought a different face and also opened the minds of many Kenyans, many youth who are here and they could see that it’s something like that could also be really it was a different kind of conference because we’ve had world conferences come here, regional conferences come here.
But this was unique in a way. And even despite the fact that it was positive and going another direction, there was also the negative part of it. In fact, the fact that the discussions that were there, many were left like wondering and this was the topic and you can’t blame Kenya alone. But this is something that we need to look at it even globally, even in our own continent and others is that we there was a discussion of this carbon credit and carbon whatever it is about the carbon issues, which were really something that many of the communities, many of the people do not understand it again, they did not understand it and grasp the whole discussion that was there and it was high level.
And by the end of the day, when you try to ask the people, they were all the time, say even the youth, the majority, as I said, when we had brought and what they were trying to, to understand bit and parcel of it, which is still a a missing link there. We need to really create awareness and hence enhance the capacity and let the communities who are going to be involved in this to understand.
CHITHIRA: Yeah, and you’ve actually, you know, raised a very political question, right? The question of language and the question of who it excludes and who it’s meant to include. And I think one thing that I think we can all say with complete confidence is that even for people who have been working for like decades in the climate change space, the terminology around it can be incredibly confusing and complex and because it keeps changing, there are more and more short forms.
Yeah. And it’s hard to keep up even if you are a like a scientist in the space. And so I think, you know, there definitely, yes, there absolutely needs to be more awareness, creation in communities and everything. But I think it is also it’s also language that is meant to exclude, it’s meant to exclude people who are the most impacted by it.
And I think that that’s something that we have to, you know, we have to address. in fact that actually I, I was listening to one of your listen, if you’re speaking on another podcast on the role of women in the revitalization of Indigenous languages. And there’s a lot of research now that shows that Indigenous languages are very important, right? When it comes to preserving forests, biodiversity, ecology, right?
So even the UNESCO Universal Declaration on cultural diversity, clear, it’s clear that safeguarding diversity of languages is crucial to protect cultural and biological diversity, right? So could you speak a little bit about that, about that connection as to why are women particularly important when we talk about language? And therefore, as a direct result about protecting climate and biodiversity.
LUCY: Let me tell you, you know, when you, you live in the community and look at that setting, the woman is the one that educates the whole world because that woman is the one who gives birth to that child is the one who nurtures the child. When the child starts speaking a single word, it’s, it’s the mother and the language is kept by that mother and the grandmother and people in the community.
And the one important thing is that for traditional communities, the words we speak the, the the songs we sing and the way we, we promote our language, our not really promote but identify our language. It’s our own identity and why the women are very important because they are the ones who nurture the child, teach the child what to do and how to speak and the right words, they matter matter a lot.
And that’s the language is in everything is in the food, is in the clothes, in the bes, the colors of the sees that we make and the different beauty and name it. And when it comes to conservation, to protecting the resources and the nature and everything. That language is part of it.
Because the trees, they know the different kind of trees they know the, the different kind of medicinal plants. What do these trees? What role do they play? What are the kind of medicines we need? What are the kind of foods we need? The food, the food is from the plants, from the seeds, from everything. And at the same time looking at all that, it’s the fact that if they have to look at the food, positively nature based solution originated from their own communities because that’s the way the women looked at everything from nature. And then those were solutions in the community. And so all these, the, the the language you speak is very crucial.
And in Africa, actually, they say the one who doesn’t know their own language is a slave. Because if you don’t know how to speak your language, then you will become a slave because you will always not know what’s going on. But the words explain a lot, the sayings, the riddles, the values that we have, they are all made out of the language that we do. The word that comes out from where it’s the stories they tell us are the stories that also help us to conserve. Sometimes you are told, oh you know that bird, the way it’s making noise, it’s sending this message and you, you take it very, very crucial and you say, oh that, how come we did not hear those birds in the morning? What is happening?
And they tell you different stories about maybe birds, about animals, about everything and the seasons that they come, when you see all these birds moving this way, this is what it means when the rains will come, when they move that way. No, this year we are going to, you have a lot of drought, you know, a prolonged drought because there will be no rain coming, this dust that is you know, coming and blowing that side and blowing this side, you know, all these things that they do and when they see the plants, the way they behave and the way they look like, then they will be able to tell you and they will say it in their language, the different plants are named in the different languages. And so it’s really a way of trying to tell you how to protect it.
CHITHIRA: That’s incredible. And to hear that, you know, your work is simultaneously also working on not just preserving, but also making sure that local languages are thriving, Indigenous languages are thriving. That’s, that’s really incredible to hear.
MEGAN: You’re listening to Roots of resilience on the front lines of climate justice, a podcast by the Global Forest Coalition.
CHITHIRA: Our second guest for today is none other than Anabella Lemos, who was a founding member and vice director of Livan Ino, which was Mozambique’s first environmental organization. Way back in 1998. In 2004, Anabela moved on to start Justica Ambiental and she has been the director of the board of the organization since then.
Anabela was awarded the 2022 Per Anger Prize by the Swedish government for her fight for farmers, forced to leave their homes to make way for gas and coal extraction. Anabela also received the Mozambican National Environmental Price in 2005. She is also one of the founding members of Gaia, which is the Global alliance for incinerator alternatives, which works as an alliance between individuals NGO S community based organization, academics and all working together to stop incineration globally.
Welcome to the pod Anabela. So good to have you here today, Anabela. We are so so excited and so honored to have you here today on Roots of resilience at the Global Forest Coalitions podcast. So before we get into, into all the thorny issues, would you like to tell us where you are joining us from and what it looks like around you right now? Do you wanna, do you wanna take our listeners to Mozambique?
ANABELA: Sure. I’m Anabela Lemos. I’m an environmental justice activist for many, many years and I’m from Mozambique. Mozambique being one of the current co countries most effected from climate change. And we have many struggles and we try as much as possible to make changes so much needed for my country and around the, the global climate. And of course, for, for us climate links everything, the struggle for food. So revenue, the struggle to maintain our forest, the struggle for water rivers and all that. It’s the core of everything around us at this moment.
CHITHIRA: Absolutely. Well said it is work that connects everything, you know, and sees the interconnectedness of this work. It cannot be isolated, it cannot be just climate work, it cannot be just gender work. It has to be interconnected and absolutely. And you and Mozambique are great examples of you know, entities that really see that interconnectedness. So we’re very, very excited to, to speak to you. Let’s begin with sort of placing Mozambique in context in a sense, right?
So Mozambique like much of the African continent and like you mentioned, has experienced some of the worst most severe impacts of the climate change crisis, but not only from the climate change, not only from climate change, but also from many false solutions, right?
Such as monoculture plantations, offsets and everything. At the same time, it is also Mozambique is a, is a country and Africa is a continent which has had some of the most ingenious and real solutions to climate change, right? A continent which has really championed the idea of climate justice. Do you think the world is finally starting to look towards African countries as potential leaders of the climate justice movement? in a sense, is the world ready for African leadership in climate change solutions?
ANABELA: No, I don’t think so, I think the northern countries and looking to Africa as a continent to grab everything from land to gas, oil and coal exploration and on top of it, with the false narrative or climate solutions, the carbon credit and the red and all those problems that clear show there is no interest whatsoever to really make the change needed. Not only for Africa for for the all of us. we should look into decentralized small and see how our assess live for, sorry for my English for so many years and find locally solutions. And that’s not happened.
Even on the issue of food Africa. It’s a country, there’s many peasant agriculture, it is mostly rural, talking about Mozambique, 70% of our people or rural people that depend of the land for their livelihood, not also to depend, but also they can feed the country and there is no support whatsoever. There is no willness to support or needs to be supported to end poverty, to find solutions that are more friendly with the climate impacts. The only way, the only thing that has been pushed to us.
And of course, let’s say let’s be clear, our leaders are part of it, of the what is wrong? We can’t just blame one side and they just think agribusiness plantations, exporting fossil fuel because there’s this narrative of it’s our right now to develop. We’re not gonna develop with fossil fuels. We’re not gonna develop I business. No, nothing of that will make Mozambique people going out of poverty or have less impact on climate.
Yes, we didn’t work towards what we live now with the climate crisis and we have very little emissions will be our fault of the situation. But nonetheless, because of that, we do not have right to start exploring fossil fuels and accept the narrative from the north. Because what they want is that the resource from Africa and then come with the solutions that are not solutions to maintain our forests in exchange for cut emissions emissions on the north.
I always say that emissions do not have border, they don’t have passports to authorize them to go from one country to another. So whatever emissions happen in whatever part of the world, the impacts will be severe to all of us. And Mozambique is already on the front line of climate impacts. We have a Cyron in 2009 that destroy infrastructure’s life still today. People are suffering because of that bus and it’s much more, it’s a constantly fighting, it’s floods in this province. It’s drought on this and and it’s no way to try to talk about solutions for the climate crisis.
If you don’t change your mind setting and realize that we cannot carry on living the way we live, we cannot carry on with the system of capitalism and injustice. We need to change and changes sometimes are difficult. But on my view and many of us on a Global South, we do have solutions because the way you’ve been moving for so many years is a solution in the way of, of course, there is more need, it doesn’t need to have energy in rural areas. But it’s not with mega projects or fossil fuels or mega dams. It is local solutions for local people and must be just for everyone.
And it’s not that the world we live in today and in Mozambique, another thing that’s happened, we, we have exploration of fossil fuels. Suddenly we have plantation that grab the land of the people and it’s not only the grabbing the land, they exhaust our water source, the plantations of fighting for water for the people, they live in the rural areas. There’s human rights violations. That’s shocking and I think is done. It’s a complete capture of the corporate power towards our government and towards many other African governments.
CHITHIRA: That was fantastic. You captured the entire sort of geopolitical structure there, the and, and the the violence that is built into the structure in your response. Thank you so much for that. So what would be different about a climate movement led by Indigenous peoples, by African Indigenous peoples and communities? How is that? What would be the main points of difference?
ANABELA: I think we have a few pillars here of a pass is the right word that can make and change this narrative support is needed for the peasant communities to carry on doing what they’re doing and what they know. And another important issue, energy is very important as we all know for the develop. But the energy for the developer is not, it’s not mega dams or mega infrastructures or fossil fuel decentralized and just for everyone, everyone should have the right.
Another thing is that how should we look to the north as this is development instead of looking and finding ourselves, what is develop for us, develop, development for us can be just feeling good, having food, not worry to go to sleep and don’t know what you’re gonna feed your kids in the next day to have all the necessary goods to have a good life bon vivre as many call and above everything, the right of common goods. Our water is our common goods.
There is no right for any corporation to come and a plantation and drown all the water or do a dam and take the rivers. Yes, it’s a common good and sandy water is becoming a business when I say waters have any impact on that you don’t live with, you don’t have water, you don’t live also another very important thing thing that we still far away from that, but there’s already starting the pollution of rivers, the pollution on the air and we don’t need that. We can live with those resources. They are being taken from us to be exported. Nothing stays here, only stays. There is the pollution, the human rights violations.
And another thing that’s very important to understand and a lot to do with the plantations as you know, plantation takes a huge amount of land and they create this monoculture of trees because you can’t say it’s forests, you can’t say it’s not. And then the young ladies and the women, they stop going to schools if schools are far away and they stop having a lot of rape cases.
This is happening in Mozambique and because it’s something very sensitive, not much is spoken about only when are the meetings and in the middle of the woman when the conversation comes and this is one impact that’s very hiding from the problems of plantations. And you know that the same with anything that’s businesslike or exploration in the rural area. The impact is horrible.
So the way we we live and the rural people live for many, many generations w what they only need, they have, it’s to support, to better a bit like have energy after sport, to take the goods, to different places, to have schools, to have health support, but not, not saying that you should put doctors and should we change our culture way? Because many of our medicine comes from the plants. And we should support those culture knowledge and ancient knowledge to carry on trying to have the boat words if possible.
And another thing that we need to destroy a forest and you put a plantation, all the medicine, medicine value disappears. And with the times that goes by, we’re gonna lose all that knowledge that comes from generations, generations. I know that looks a bit a dream.
But it is possible it is possible to have centralized energy, it is possible to support and have agri for the communities. It is possible to maintain our forest. We don’t need plantations of exotic trees to destroy our environmental.
Then we have corrupt government leaders, they’re not leaders at all, they’re just businessmen and then we have the corporation that today in today polls are much powerful than many governments, if not all of them. So it’s a contradiction for what is a way of living and how should our rural people have the same right? And everything that people that live in cities and now that all that can be possible.
And when I look at the, how Mozambique is for countries like Mozambique, I think it’s much more easy. Let me move to a country in Europe, the big cities, how can you maintain that type of life?
So those are the questions that I make because when you think about decentralized, small, localized, I can see that in Mozambique and in many African countries than the global suit.
I’m sure you can see that in India too. But then when you look to the North, you see how much difficult that would be.
CHITHIRA: I appreciated several points you made. And I want to come back to the question of gender. But I also want to quickly say that as you rightly pointed out the question of overconsumption in the global North is never addressed, it always, you know, it’s always deflected onto global South countries like us by saying, oh, it is because of the population that you have so many that it’s causing so many ecological problems.
But when you actually break down the, the number, the numbers for how much consumption, how much is your average citizen in each country in the global North Northwest is the global South consuming? You see that there is no comparison between African countries or countries like India with the global North, you know, and, but but they always like to pinpoint the blame onto the global South for sure.
But I want to, I want to come back to a very, very important point you raised about the increasing rates of sexual violence in communities where these false climate solutions like plantations offsets are being implemented and how they are not issues that are discussed openly because of a variety of issues. Of course, we see this everywhere, everywhere that there’s field work that where where I’ve done field work or done interviews in places whether whether sexual assault or where some project, some infrastructure project has caused gynecological problems in the bodies of women.
We never hear about this. So it’s never studied, it’s never accounted for and nobody is held accountable for it. So I really want to hear from you. And because a lot of people struggle to make this connection, you know, between, how does, how does a project like a plantation lead to more violence against women and other gender minorities? If you could speak a little bit about that, I think that would be that would be great.
ANABELA: In my experience in Mozambique is to do a lot of power players like the people that work on a plantation have all the power and the people that the communities that lost their land because of the plant plantations, hoping they will be well compensated. We don’t have any example in a big any compensation that was just, just make a point although it’s a lot talking about and the the issue of those land that it’s fenced most of the times, sometimes there the ways the the woman can cross the plantation.
But the violence comes many times from the workers and also too, with the break of the structure you live in a community, everyone, one knows, everyone, everyone respect and they have the same culture. They know, even if he’s not saying anyone is perfect, there will be problems for, of course, we all women, but there is a strata, there is a respect leaders and everything is there.
And then the plantation owners, the company coming in, the first thing they do with the government in Mozambique, they come together so they show power because they are the government and then then they make false promise.
So the they look to them as powerful and then the few that leaders and members of the community, they usually the strategy is to push the most vocal people and the most powerful like the leaders. So they buy them sort of, you know, so they start breaking the respect to each other and in flow of money and sometimes many foreign when I say foreign can be a Mozambican or from the country but from not from the local.
And that’s when the problem comes because you mix you break the culture net of the community and you bring workers from outside. Because when it’s a project, there’s at least the plantations in the beginning, there’s a lot of need of many ends to plant the trees. And of course, even if they decrease, there’ll be people staying there, that’s not from the community.
So you have a community that’s broken, then you have a community that suddenly loses their livelihood and all that ends too sometimes is the father that gives away the daughter for because they can’t afford to maintain. There’s marriage is 15, 14 years old and then there’s the ropes when you go to cross the plantation is not more community after community or forest. If you go and find things in a group, it’s something different. And I think all those three things, the breaking of the culture, breaking of the community and inflow of outside doctors that create this type of environmental thats very prone to ripes.
And the, and the problem is that very rare womens, talk about because they’re scared and because they’ll be put like in the sixth century north, in the north countries, that’s their fault. It’s always someone’s fault, not a really person that did the crack.
And another thing that’s very, very interesting that the mothers, they stopped not allow their daughters to go and study because the school, if it’s far away and if they cross, they have to cross the plantation, they not wanted to because they know they’re gonna be raped also, they’re not gonna be ripe, they’re gonna have some type of violence or some be treating like really bad.
So the women are affected also because they cannot go anymore to the school, right? So those things, it’s a lot to do how the project comes and destroys the net, the stress, everything that maintains the community living together and their livelihood and everything.
CHITHIRA: Absolutely. Like you pointed out I mean, aside from the psychological, , trauma that women who would go through this sort of assault, you know, that you can, we can imagine how many years it might take for them to overcome something like that. On top of that girls and women who are being denied education, how many generations are we now condemning? How many years will it take for them to come out of that cycle? You know, and so it’s not even just the women or girls that we can count. Now, it’s, it’s innumerable generations that are yet to come.
What are the solutions, real solutions and projects to stop deforestation, biodiversity loss, gender injustice and all of that, that you that in Mozambique for instance, has been working on?
ANABELA: There’s a lot of solutions like with the forest to stop plantation, it’s to maintain our forest to create community forest management. We have a law and we’re trying for the last maybe 13 years to have an authorization for a community forest. But with trade and carbon credits, they want to take the forest to be a counterbalance.
We are fighting that, but I don’t know if we win because we are very small compared to the powers of corporations and government. But Mont Babu, it’s an amazing forest and we’ve been working since 2009 and we post authorization for, we did the environmental path that says everything for the forest to we manage the right from the communities, they maintain the forest enemy.
The only thing we are going to help them to put in pipeline and we didn’t manage it five years, they didn’t give the author. But then a mega project comes, you know, in six months is approved and everything. So that’s the reality we live in. It’s difficult. And another thing we do, we raise our voice against every human rights violations. We do publications. We, we bring the voice to like with the Mozambique.
There’s two companies, one of them was green resource. We went to, to Norwegian to raise the issue. Of course, when you go there, no one knows everything. They don’t think it’s that bad. We had a lot of problems. We did a study to show and we’re still fighting. It’s an ongoing fight, an ongoing fight to demand the plan to be given back to the community is an ongoing fight to raise the woman’s voice. It’s constantly working on a field, put the communities at the same time capacity them of their rights because they have the right to raise their voice. They have the right to do what they want in their land.
So it’s a lot to get and show alternatives. We’re also trying to, to raise the profile of agriculture and agro forestry with the communities and raise that to the national level and international level to show solutions for climate crisis we live and those are the solutions that we should be raised.
At the same time, we fight, we take the court as much as we can. We never mean anything but at least when we take command a complaint to the general tribunal.
ANABELA: In Maputo about the violations, it stopped for a bit but it’s a constant relation with the communities, networks with fund anything like that. But we need to be aware to go there and help. But at the same time empower them because the worst thing that happens with this mega project, they make the people believe they don’t have any rights. We make the changes that need to be because we are not governments, but we can make changes if you become more and more and the movement start growing and the voice be the same in every country. It doesn’t matter the situation. And I believe that we can do that. What came out of Kenya show that we don’t have leaders, they have businessmen in our place.
Yes, they know the impacts. Who’s the big knows the impact we’re having with the climate crisis. Kind. Of course, you know, something in the future is yet at this moment and we know and our leaders know, but our leaders still don’t know what’s the solution and we do have solutions. We should be on the front line of the transformation need to tackle the crisis we live together.
CHITHIRA: Absolutely, Anabela and we are in full agreement here because that is really the whole point of this podcast too is to say that we urgently need to divert resources and time away from false climate solutions, which are only making things worse and put it towards real solutions like the ones you’ve been championing for decades and glad to hear that that’s already happening and the fight will unquestionably continue. Thank you so much for joining us today, Annabelle.
MEGAN: Thank you for listening. Roots of resilience was produced by the Global Forest Coalition with support from Bread For the World. Our theme music is by the Garifuna Collective with permission from Stonetree Records. Editing was done by Ismail Wolff and Chithira Vijayakumar. I’m Megan Morrissey.
Be sure to join us for more episodes of Roots of Resilience and visit our website at Global Forest coalition dot org.