Many years ago a man and his wife lived in a forest. They had three children, one boy and two girls.
There were many trees in the forest and most of them formed a canopy. It was hard to tell when it was sunrise or dawn. The canopy also covered the beauty of the forest. Inside the forest were many types of plants, with flowers, others with fruits, big and small leaves and many types of animals, insects and streams.
The family lived on fruits, honey and meat of animals hunted from the forest. The roots, leaves and bucks of some types of trees provided medicine for them. The branches and leaves provided materials for making a small warm house.
They lived in harmony with the environment. No pollution of any sort. The air was quite fresh. It had a pleasant and distinctive smell, quite aromatic. It was a sweet scented forest. The sounds of birds singing different melodies and chanting, wild animals made different sounds too. They were used to the strange noises made by them. The woman created lullabies from the birds’ sounds. She sung for their children when they were babies. Her voice was amazing, a stunningly beautiful sweet voice pierced through the forest. She proved there was life in the forest.
After many years of living in the forest, one day things changed their lives. One morning the man and the son went to hunt. They heard a strange sound. A sound they never heard before. They stood motionless to listen, the earth shock. “Father, what could that be?” the son asked. The father replied in a rather shaky, hoarse voice “I…I..do not know” he said to his son. “Perhaps if we moved closer to where the sound is from, we could tell what it is.
Soon they were following the direction where the sound came from. It sounded closer every time they kept moving. As they walked a few paces they would mark their path so they don’t lose their way back home. At last they saw a glimpse of light. A ray of light from the sun shone. They walked on and on until they came out of the forest.
“Father, look!” Shouted the son, what animal is that and who are those strangers? “What could they be doing?” The father had no answers to the questions. He was now murmuring.
It was hard to believe what they were seeing. The father kept rubbing his eyes and widening them to make sure what was happening was real.
The sound of the rumbling and shaking of the ground was heavier now. The trees were falling one after another. They had never seen an animal so strong and with strange legs and body like that. Where were these strangers from? And why were they helping the animal in cutting down the trees? What will the forest look like without trees? These and many other questions ran in their minds.
At last the son asked the father “what if they destroyed our home too? What shall we do?” It was hard to apprehend to what they were witnessing. So many trees were cut down and carried away.
After a long time they decided to go back home. They got a ‘catch’ of an antelope on their way back home. They prepared their meal and ate silently. When they finished, the wife asked why they both looked unhappy. The men looked at each other without responding.
After a short while the father narrated to the rest of the family what they saw. It was hard for the wife and daughters to understand what they were being told. The father promised to go with them next time.
One day the father took them and they witnessed the cutting of more trees. The felling of trees went on for days, weeks, months, and even years. The forest was being destroyed. The felling of trees (deforestation) decreased the rainfall in the area. Due to less rainfall new trees could not germinate and grow, production of humus and fertile soil (topsoil) reduced drastically. The soil became eroded.
After the forest area decreased, the animals decreased in number because they moved out of their natural habitat, could not reproduce in the absence of their natural habitat, died due to absence/ scarcity of their favorite food plants, thirst and heat stroke.
It became hard for the family to get food easily. The animals moved away from the forest. The family moved out of their forest home to a new place which was very different. The area was hot and dry. It was a semi arid land. Food was hard to find and adapting to the new harsh climate was more difficult. They referred to people they met as ‘strangers’ or ‘the others’. Communication was difficult. They used sign languages and eventually started learning the language of ‘the others’. They also learnt their culture and eventually were forced by circumstances to adapt to their new environment.
The new land was different from the forest home. The land had no flowers, no bees for honey, no animals for food, the trees and shrubs were few and scattered. It was hard to find shade, materials for making a house or home was difficult. The climate was extremely harsh unlike the forest. It was not beautiful.
As years passed on, they came to understand that the strange animal they saw was called a tree harvester which the strangers used to cut trees. They laughed at the thought of it. They also learnt that ‘the others’ were called people and that they were like them.
The people kept a few domestic animals while others did not. Most of their animals had died from the long dry spells. For alternative livelihood the people depended on cutting the few trees remaining burning them for charcoal for sale at the markets. They also learnt to do the same for survival. They used donkeys to carry the charcoal. They mercilessly overloaded the donkeys with sacks of charcoal. They tortured the donkeys. Many of them had wounds caused by the friction from the tight ropes tied on them to hold the sacks from falling off. Most charcoal selling was done by women.
In the evening people gathered around the fire, the family told them stories about the forest and how the forest provided for them. They talked of the ready fruits, honey and meat they had when they lived in the forest. The beauty of the forest, the sounds of birds and other animals and the general peace they had. The air was fresh and the smell was very nice.
They loved the stories. They needed to listen to more stories from them. After narrating the stories, one woman asked “can we plant trees and other plants again? If we have the forest again will animals join us? These and many other questions were asked and discussed by the people.
They agreed that forests are good places and they decided to take action. Word spread like bush fire, people heard and learnt more about the forest. They spoke about the forest to anyone they met. The story became famous.
People held meetings and agreed to look for seeds and seedlings from the few remaining trees. They shared the responsibility of planting and watering them. It was not easy but they managed to put up trees everywhere although not as many as those found in the forest. Women were happy about the work. Most of the planting was done by them. The number of trees and plants increased, there were flowers, bees, beautiful butterflies everywhere and animals increased in number, the earth became beautiful again. Men started talking of the good work the women were doing, the stories spread. Women in villages joined in advocating for the climate change they also planted trees.
Action was taken from villages (grassroot) to nations and eventually to the whole world. The women were named “women for climate justice”
and were known through World Pulse Community and their partner Women's Earth & Climate Action Network. The women were trained on better and easier ways of environmental protection and were supported in terms of economic development, they became empowered. There was no more cutting of trees. The climate changed. The air became fresh, the earth was beautiful again, no health problems brought on from the smoke by using firewood. It was a good place again for generations and generations to come.
Therefore let all generations carry on the story and take action by joining Women of climate justice to make the earth a better place for all.
Story created by: Rosemary Ntoipo
The United Republic of Tanzania
In the United Republic of Tanzania as in around the world climate change is being experienced. It is a concern that needs urgent attention. The government and the civil society organizations are working towards supporting the course. However, a lot is yet to be done other than having them on paper work. Action is needed. We all have a great role to play by putting more and relevant strategies that will help educate our communities on the importance of engaging in more environmental friendly activities that are more sustainable through research, mobilization, raising awareness, advocacy and women economic empowerment especially to those from the indigenous or marginalized communities (grassroot). Many women at the grassroot sell firewood and charcoal to feed their families. This is not only happening in Tanzania it is also a problem in many nations in Sub-Sahara Africa and other part of the world. If supported to engage in alternative economic development activities then it will be a sure way of them supporting and managing the environment. It will also be easier to implement the same at all levels (from grassroot to International level)
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