Protecting the environment with intelligence

Pallavi Shah reports from Mbeya in Tanzania on EIA’s capacity building projects

A few days ago I watched with intrigue as ‘Dada’ (sister in Swahilii) Mwakalukwa handled the digital camera with uncertainty and curiosity and such tenderness as if it may just break in her hands. With deliberate care, slowly she snapped a photo and her face beamed with pride.

Pallavi Shah shows Dada Mwakalukwa how to handle a digital camera for the first time in EIA's capacity building project in Tanzania

Dada Mwakalukwa, like most of her fellow participants, had never used a digital camera before this day. Yet, here in Mbeya, a small town in the Southern highlands of Tanzania and a 13-hour bus journey from Dar es Salaam, we had the challenging task of training Dada Mwakalukwa and 19 other representatives of local NGOs to use stills cameras, video cameras and GPS systems.

The training is part of an innovative three year project by EIA to empower NGOs and communities across Tanzania with skills and equipment to enable them to visually document the issues that affect them; to capture visual evidence of the violation of their rights and the destruction of their environment; to use the power of visual media to advocate for change by taking to the decision maker compelling testimony of the reality of their situation on the ground. The same techniques used by EIA.

Over the last two years, the journey has taken EIA and its three Tanzanian partners (Wildlife Conservation Society of Tanzania, Journalists Environmental Association Tanzania and the Lawyers Environmental Action Team) from the Southern most wilderness of Tanzania to its central mountains to the shores of Lake Victoria.

The five training workshops we have held have given new skills and equipment to 83 local activists, working on a range of issues including natural resources, HIV, gender and community rights. Eighteen camera kits have been distributed across the country, creating, for the first time ever a national network of cross-sector organisations sharing equipment and collaborating together to achieve similar goals.

Despite its many challenges, this year the project has begun to bear fruit and we have witnessed the first outputs and successes.

In a country so vast, so varied from region to region, every training offers a unique experience. The training is intense for both participants and the partners. Over ten days participants are taught to undertake research, use cameras and GPSs to collect information, to write press releases and access media and develop strong advocacy strategies. The days are long. Living conditions are often very basic with only a bucket of cold water to bathe.

In Mbeya, as the temperatures drop to 4°C, the evenings are spent huddled under starry skies at a roadside joint blaring local ‘Bongo Flava’ tunes; the local gin brings some warmth.  Kerosene lamps cast a dim glow as the team tucks into ‘nyama choma’ (barbequed meat) and chips – a staple diet in rural Tanzania. Being vegetarian, as usual, I settle for roast bananas and a little treat from my Tiffin box.

After a gruelling ten days, Dada Mwakalukwa presents the footage, photos and a campaign strategy of a local issue she focused on during the course of the training. The visuals are outstanding. From not having used any of the technology before, the transformation is remarkable. I feel so proud. She speaks with a newfound confidence, she speaks with determination; she speaks with the voice of change.

Pallavi Shah, Project Coordinator, Reporting from Mbeya

Find out more on EIA’s capacity building projects

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10 Responses

  1. Alex D says:

    Great stuff. And say Hi to WCST from me. (I do miss Tanzanian roast bananas – and there’s also chipsi mayai too!)

  2. Valentin Olyang'iri says:

    Good Pallave Shah
    Actually it was a very nice and profoundly training on the use of GPS, Video Cameras and press releases, we really enjoyed the training but the skills we received will never be deleted from our minds, therefore we hope to put them into practice so as to have a equal Tanzania that use its resources sustainably.
    Thanks Pallavi and your team
    God bless you

    • Pallavi Shah says:

      Dear Valentin,

      Asante sana for your comments! You produced some great visuals at the last workshop in Mbeya. Keep up the good work and I look forward to seeing your campaign footage when I am next out in Tanzania.

      Best wishes

      Pallavi

  3. wonderful workshop!

    Visual documentation for advocacy it was a revolutionary workshop indeed. It collects participants from different regions and get a good opportunity to learn, practice, know each other, share ideas and experience and builds networks for future communication and cooperation.

    The value of this training was not only learning technology (GPS and Cameras ) but advocacy, lobbying, campaign and building CSOs capacity for making positive changes in our Tanzanian societies on environmental conservation and fight against any other social evils deteriorating our community welfares.

    After being trained participants now can come together, act and vanquish withal.

    • Pallavi Shah says:

      Dear Tumaini,

      Thank you for your positive feedback on the workshop. It is encouraging to hear that you found the training practical and valuable. I hope to see you now apply these skills to advocate for women’s rights and strengthened gender equality within Tanzanian society.

      All the best,

      Pallavi

      • Dear Pallavi & Paul Redman

        Yes, Now it is 5 months after Visual training for advocay, I was able to apply skills acquired from training to document Gender and development seminar series, arts work and other TGNP events and produce short video and photo stories to share through mailing list and TGNP website. Find our video series at TGNP website (www.tgnp.org).

  4. Thanks for a continuity recruitment to the EIAs members.
    Its my hope not only Mwakaluka but also a lot of female need the capacity building regarding our project
    I am trying to let you know that, the demend for the project capacity building is very high, so let all together work by cooperation in order to extend the project scope and sustainability in Tanzania

    Am suggesting for the project refresher training to the CBOs and NGOs in the lake zone
    Thanks

    SAULO M. MIHIGO

    • Pallavi Shah says:

      Dear Babu,

      Hujambo? Asante for your posting. I definitely agree with you – women across Tanzania should be encouraged to get involved in issues relating to the protection of their environment and natural resources. Women should be empowered to have stronger voice in society and I would certainly like to see more participate in our training workshops.

      Last August we provided provided a few organisations in the Lake Zone with field training and ground support and hope to return again.

      Best wishes

      Pallavi

  5. [...] to August 2010; Pallavi Shah reported back from a capacity building workshop in Mbeya, Tanzania. Participating in that workshop was a young activist, Tumaini James, fighting [...]

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