'Climate change should not separate us from our environment'
Edward Porokwa is a Maasai pastoralist and the Executive Director of the indigenous umbrella organisation, PINGOs Forum in Tanzania. He is in Bonn to lobby his government and get them to listen to the voices of indigenous peoples in both local and global Climate Change negotiations.
Below is an interview conducted by Cæcilie Mikkelsen of IWGIA, about climate change in Tanzania and how it is affecting the indigenous population.
Question: Can you please start by telling us about pastoralism, and how it relates to climate change?
Answer: “In Tanzania, the government perceives pastoralism as a major driver of deforestation. Looking at the livestock policy of 2006, the land law of 2007, and at the national REDD+ strategy, what you see is a strategy to ensure that the pastoralists reduce the number of livestock and reduce their mobility. You are trying to force indigenous peoples to abandon their livelihood system."
“You cannot talk about pastoralist without talking about mobility. They have to be able to move. That is a mechanism for them to avoid diseases, to protect the environment. They move during dry systems to allow the riverbanks not to be destroyed and to allow the pasture to regenerate. The indigenous knowledge, the indigenous learning system and livelihood are very much disrupted when you say they cannot move. That means that you are killing one of the very important aspect of what makes them pastoralists, when they are forced to settle.”
“Pastoralism is not just an economic system, it is a livelihood system, full of knowledge and culture and rituals associated with that. Knowledge and information about the climate is generated from one generation to another. That can only be kept by keeping the livestock movement routes, by assigning different land-use systems for different seasons of the year."
“The national policies and strategies to make pastoralist sedentary are killing pastoralism and failing to appreciate the areas that have remained intact by pastoralists. When you talk about all the conservation areas, all the national parks, all the game reserves, all the forest reserves, these are areas originally used by indigenous peoples, and they are the only areas that have remained as forest, as areas where wildlife is found, that have not been destroyed by soil degradation. Now modern thinking finds that people have to live separate from their natural habitat, from their forests. This, I think is wrong.”
Question: Do your people feel the effects of climate change?
Answer: “Climate change is felt everywhere. For the last 10 - 20 years we have had longer droughts and hotter dry seasons. The pastures can only be used for a few months, the river get dry earlier than they used to do, and more floods are coming. The seasons are changing. Right now it is raining in Tanzania. Normally it is not raining at this time. Climate change is making the seasons unpredictable.”
Question: How is this situation affecting your food security?
Answer: “In 2009 for example, indigenous peoples from Longido district lost 80 percent of their livestock. Building a new stock will take a long time and peoples remain poor for very long. Last year, in Ngorongoro, a serious drought killed more than 50 % of the livestock. A lot of indigenous pastoralists are now depending on food from the government and international NGOs.”
Question: What do you think will come out of the climate change negotiations?
Answer: “The negotiations are not going very fast, and not much is being done to ensure that we rescue the situation back in my country. The situation of indigenous peoples is terrible in many places. We need to fast track the negotiations. What we see here is a lot of dialogue between developed and developing countries on finance and so on, but really no action is taking place on the ground to make sure that indigenous peoples are protected.”
Question: Why is your organisation present here in Bonn at the UN Climate Change Conference?
Answer: “We are here because we need solidarity with other indigenous people. We want the world to know that we are not people who are destroying the environment. We are here because we think we need to be given benefits for protecting our environment. And we are here because we want our land security. We don’t think climate change should separate us from our environment. We need the governments to know that. And we think we need to be a part of the negotiations taking place and we need to be a part of all decisions that are taken place globally in the protection of the environment. And we need also to make those destroying the environment to be accountable for the problems that we are having back home. We are not the ones causing climate change and the long drought on or lands. Those who are causing that should be ready to make reparations of what is happening, and also give compensation for the loss we are having because of the changes in our communities."
“There are a lot of benefits from coming here. First, you learn a lot from other indigenous peoples on how they are doing back home and on how to influence the process. And it is also easier to meet our government here than when we are back home. You can simply talk to your minister when you are here, because she does not have a lot of people to talk to, and here we are very few, so it is easy for you to talk about issues and easy for you to be visible. So I think, there are a lot of benefits to get from being in avenues like this.”
Question: Is it easier to talk with the government here than at home?
Answer: “Yes definitely, for example the minister who came here to Bonn last week, I met her for a few minutes. I have never met her before. Had it been in Arusha in Tanzania, - even if I go to Dar es Salaam there is a lot of bureaucracy before you see her. But now they are here they are in an open meeting and it is easy to meet them and talk about your agenda, talk about issues that are happening to you, and even make an appointment to discuss the issues. And it is not only the Minister. We meet the delegation every day. We talk about different issues. So it is easier to penetrate your agenda here than when we are there."
Question: Are they aware of indigenous peoples and issues?
Answer: “There is no acceptance of the term indigenous peoples in Tanzania, but they are aware of the issues of pastoralists and hunter-gatherers. The good thing is, when you are here, they are on the defending side, they are trying to bring their agenda to the developing countries, so definitely they need you as well as civil society, they need you to support their agenda, so that they get more money. But in order for them to do that, we also give them our agenda, that we need pastoralism to be part of the negotiations. We are one the same side when we are here, but when we go home, there will again be struggling and fighting for the rights of indigenous peoples.”