Campaigners calling for justice for countries already suffering the impact of climate change will next month embark on a journey by caravan across 10 African countries to draw attention to the issue.
Departing from Burundi, the Caravan of Hope will transport up to 200 African farmers, pastoralists and youth campaigners to Durban in South Africa where the UN climate talks are being held.
Launching on 9 November 2011 with backing from the President of Burundi, Pierre Nkurunziza, the caravan’s historical journey will continue across Rwanda, Uganda, Kenya, Tanzania, Malawi, Zambia, Zimbabwe, Botswana and into South Africa. Thousands of people are expected to join rallies and marches along the route of the Caravan of Hope, organised by the Pan African Climate Justice Alliance (PACJA).
The caravan will draw attention to the impact of climate change on the countries through which it passes. A global temperature rise of 0.74 degrees since the start of the 20th Century, which most scientists attribute to human activity, has contributed to the depletion of water resources, soil erosion, reduced crop yields and heat stress in livestock.
Global warming has also increased the vulnerability of crops and livestock to pests and disease. Farmers in a number of countries through which the caravan will pass also report that rains have been more intense, but increasingly erratic. Scientists warn that drought is expected to become more widespread across the region in the near future.
Along the route, “caravanites” will be collecting support and signatures for the African People’s petition. The petition calls for the richest countries, that bear overwhelming responsibility for causing climate change, to stick to their legal commitments. Heads of State are attending the rallies and will be invited to sign the petition, culminating with a handover of signatures to President Jacob Zuma of South Africa, host of the Durban talks.
At each rally, local people will share their stories and mark their support in a show of hope that the world will act. Organisers hope the caravan will put pressure on global leaders to donate 1.5 per cent of their GNP to adapting and pursuing low-carbon development.
Samson Shivaji, chair of the Task Force for the Caravan of Hope commented: "Communities from Eastern and Southern Africa are joining forces to make the demands of the people of Africa known to its leaders and the rest of the world. So many people in Africa have a story to share about how climate change is damaging their lives and livelihoods. This show of solidarity from African civil society demands climate justice now."
Mohamed Adow, Senior Advisor on Global Advocacy at the UK-based global development agency Christian Aid added: "The climate crisis affects people living in poverty first and worst, and Africa is exceptionally vulnerable to its devastating impacts. Without strong action, crises such as the one in East Africa will become more common."
"The Caravan of Hope will highlight the challenges that changes in rainfall patterns and extreme weather pose to Africa’s fight against poverty and attainment of the Millennium Development Goals. That an international climate deal is reached in Durban is absolutely imperative. Only then can the world’s poor look forward to a better future," said Adow.
Recently, Christian Aid called upon the European Union to lead the world at the climate talks. It believes the extension of the Kyoto Protocol, the world’s only existing law on climate change, is vital if the global temperature rise is to be kept below two degrees.
The consequences of not cutting global emissions far and fast enough would be disastrous, for people across Africa and the rest of the world, the charity says.