WDM in East Africa: reports from the World Social Forum and Tanzania

Sunday, 21 January 2007

World Social Forum: day 1

It’s day 1 of the WSF and things are not looking promising. A meeting I am speaking at – on the Tanzania Biwater privatisation debacle - is scheduled in the first slot of the first day of the forum at 8.30am. I am anticipating that we will only get to start at 10am and there will be about 7 people in the room!

But I underestimate WSF-ers – by 8.45am we have a good 60 people in the room and the meeting remains packed until gone 11am. Everyone knows at least a little about what has happened in Tanzania, but many people are shocked when I read out the lyrics from the famous DFID-funded privatisation pop song (you know the one, “privatisation brings the rain”).

Deuss Kibamba from the Tanzania Gender Networking Programme talks about how to really get a water system that delivers for the poor. He tells us, “We need to get the common people to speak. There is fatigue from hearing from just a few voices. Instead we need to get real people to speak out about the problems they face walking to get water from several kilometres away.”

I also go to a climate change event and have the opportunity to talk about WDM’s new Climate Calendar. Afterwards I catch up with Lucy Mulenkei from the Indigenous Information Network of Kenya who was facilitating the meeting. We discuss the calendar and she says, “We are already seeing the impacts of climate change here in Kenya. Our calendar has been disrupted and the traditional early warning weather systems that we used to use don’t seem to work anymore. We are getting both more droughts and more floods. Just recently floods brought Rift Valley Fever to parts of Kenya and many people died.” Frederick Maina, another Kenyan, says that 68 people died from the fever, which is like Ebola and cannot be treated.

People are really interested in our calendar as a way of illustrating the unequal resource use in the north and the south; and various groups are keen to collaborate with us on it.

The sun is beating down and the political discussions are going on all around, mingling with the sounds of chanting and singing as some groups find alternative ways to make themselves heard.

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