Feb 14, 2017 |
What is the relationship between a poor mother in Africa trying to feed her children and the environment she lives in? Would she even know the environment is something to consider in her life. With growing demands of staying above the fray to simply survive her poor conditions, would she even know when the very issues that effect her environment is something she needs to consider just like the water that needs fetching and the food she needs to feed her family.
In Somalia I asked a mother of five why there was so much trash and so much plastic bags and plastic containers everywhere in the rural city of Ceergaabo in the Sanaag region. Her reaction to the question was bewilderment: This is trash and people have trash because that is just how its. When I further took my Western ideas of trash collection to her and asked how is trash sorted, she was dismayed I was asking how she manages her trash. Everything goes into the trashed fields. Plastic and all. Her face confirmed my questions were peculiar to her. People in her neighborhood were considered good if they didn’t discard everything in front of their house. The fact they walked the trash to the depilated collection area of the city earned enough praises. In this small town the collection and separating of trash was something beyond her comprehension. She had more pressing issues to worry about. The business of trash wasn’t one of them.
A few months after our conversation the on going drought in Somalia became so severe pastoral nomads lost their livestock and fled to the small city to safe what was left of family. This is still the most pressing issue in the Sanaag region of Somalia. When I asked some locals if they knew what was causing the drought, they all agreed it was because enough rains haven’t fallen for the season. The drought exasperated local families who had to share shelter, water and food with relatives who have lost livestock, family and any affinity to their villages. They were forced to move to the city because there was nothing left of their mere existence in the pastoral life in the village.
These pastoral nomads and small town dwellers who depend so much on the livestock in neighboring villages wouldn’t have the luxury of connecting the drought to the severe tree cutting, management of trash and overall awareness of their environment. To them the rains didn’t come and that is that.
It’s always easy to point to the environmental issues and the need to stop using trees for charcoal. But to bring these ideas in a cultural acceptable way to the locals needs effort and awareness campaigns, neither of which is available.
Locals haven’t simply made the decision to connect their lost livestock to the trees and the charcoal and the fire they use to cook their meals. That mind set is simply not there. The challenge to bring this mindset to the fore is as follows:
Environmental issues are not even an idea in the daily struggle of local residents. People deal with droughts, diseases and deforestation totally in a separate way. They don’t connect being environmentally aware and stopping certain practices could help the situation.
Poverty in their lives creates desperation to burn more wood for survival
Trash and its aftermath to the environment are not considered problems that directly affect daily life.
Local owned locally produced awareness solutions must embarked on
Embark on environmental campaigns
Create local partnerships to make campaign successful
Keep culture and local norms at the center of campaigns
Don’t discuss campaigns in terms of foreign ideals but concentrate on tradition and cultural norms
Solution’s that bring issues such as water borne disease and deforestation is a way they can see how the environment directly affects them.
Educate young people who are from the area to carry the awareness forward.
Let community see the benefits the awareness campaign has for its community
Let there be incentives for community to make the changes