More effective than ever! Pawaga Film Shows 2009

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Last week we began our annual environmental film shows in Pawaga division; a fascinating, educational and interactive experience both for FORS staff and our learners (schoolchildren, teachers, and villagers). In the schools we showed three films we received from Nature For Kids last year. The films, which are in Kiswahili and feature young children as the heroes of the stories, highlight three themes that are extremely relevant to our work: overgrazing, deforestation, and living with wild animals. The villages of Pawaga are frequented by wildlife, many people are pastoralists, and there has been tremendous deforestation.

To ensure that the shows were interactive, FORS staff held discussions in the class before and after the film shows, using different approaches to strengthen the important themes and messages from these. Alexander used his best Kiswahili to explain that the heroes of the films are just like the young people of America who helped bring change to their communities by convincing friends and parents to vote for Obama! In the films, students bring about change in their local environment, and we encouraged our students to do the same. New teachers from Ilolo Mpya were particularly happy to see the new FORS video and learn about our teacher’s manual.

Every evening we invited all the villagers to gather at a central location, where we began by showing the FORS video, followed by AEFF films like The Great Ruaha River, Running Dry, and Elephants of Tsavo. All told, we showed films to 7 schools and 5 villages in 5 days and nights, thanks to our trusty Land Rover and its battery, which powered all our shows (see pic of Jackson connecting laptop to battery). We really enjoyed showing these films and discussing the important environmental messages with several thousand students and villagers. We’ll have to wait to visit the remaining 6 villages in Pawaga due to the rains.

-Jackson

SODIS: Solar Disinfection of Water

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Solar Disinfection of Water, or SODIS, is a simple solution to a widespread problem: unclean drinking water. Developed by a Swiss research group in 1991, the SODIS method is as follows: put a bottle of water outside on a piece of black painted metal, and after six hours in direct sun, the UV rays and heat kill all the harmful bacteria, making it safe to drink.

Using hundreds of plastic bottles collected at Neema Crafts, FORS introduced SODIS to all Pawaga schools at our participatory methods workshops last October. Many teachers didn’t know about SODIS, and they were grateful to FORS for sharing this information and demonstrating this useful technology.

Judith, a teacher at Kimande Primary School, told us that Kimande teachers and parents had just concluded that it would be impossible to boil water for their 500 students. SODIS is an excellent solution for FORS schools because in addition to the need for clean drinking water in Idodi and Pawaga, the climate is perfectly suited for SODIS use, and all schools have corrugated metal roofs where students and teachers can put their bottles.

At the end of each workshop, one teacher from every school was given 30 bottles in order to start using SODIS at the school. During our follow-up visits of the Wildlife module in Pawaga, we found that three schools had already painted their roofs black and started using SODIS – only a month after the workshop! We encourage other NGOs on Wildlife Direct to start using this free, easy but effective technology to improve people’s lives.

2009 Head Teacher Meetings

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Hi everybody! Sorry we haven’t written for a while, it’s been a busy time here with field work and fundraising trips to Dar es Salaam. But now that we are back in Iringa, we would like to share with you some positive feedback from our first field activity this year!

FORS begins every calendar year with a meeting for the Head Teachers from all of our 24 schools. This January, we held two meetings, one for Idodi division and one for Pawaga division. We were very pleased that in addition to a 95% Head Teacher turnout, the Environmental Teachers from every school also joined us, making the meetings very productive for all.

The aim of these meetings is to continue to build the relationships with the Head Teachers and to analyze the challenges and successes of the previous year. This year, with a more interactive agenda than we’ve used before, teachers shared their ideas about how the FORS EE program is running in their particular school, and we identified some common strategies and priorities to make 2009 even more successful for teachers and students.

All the teachers showed real engagement and knowledge about local environmental issues; for example, the Pawaga teachers said they benefited greatly from our participatory workshops in October and November, in which they learned about and began to use SODIS water disinfection at home and in their schools. Activities and tangible projects like this – that distinguish their school from non-FORS schools – are something that all teachers from Idodi and Pawaga are enthusiastic to develop this year.

Forests

I’m Kate, the chairperson of FORS.  I have been working with FORS for many years now and have seen it develop from an organization where enthusiastic but busy volunteers did what they could when they could, to a real functioning NGO with paid staff who can carry out a coherent programme.  This has been an exciting time.  In the last couple of years, our environmental education programme has become institutionalized in many of the schools and we have been able to step back and begin to consider other directions.

Last month, I was in Kilwa district, south of Dar es Salaam.  I was with an NGO working in forestry and during the our visits to villages, we were horrified to see European biofuel companies who had come in and acquired thousands and thousands of hectares of dense natural forest, which they were in the process of cutting down and uprooting in order to plant jatropha and sugar cane.  Most villagers we spoke to were unhappy about this – although they were getting a school classroom, a water system, a road, from the companies, their main complaint  was that they had handed over their land and forests without having enough knowledge of the facts to make an informed decision as to whether this was the best thing to do.

I have already heard whispers of biofuels coming to Iringa and since the areas we work in have huge swathes of beautiful natural forest, I believe that it won’t be long until biofuels and their massive environmental destruction (despite their so called ‘green’ credentials) arrive in Idodi and Pawaga.  We have formulated a proposal to start Participatory Forest Management (PFM) in the small woodlands behind some of our schools, and then subsequently to expand it to the wider community.  Participatory Forest Management (PFM) has been enshrined in Tanzanian forest policy as the way forward for protecting the nation’s forests.  It involves local people creating village forest reserves and managing them for their own benefit.  However, until recently, forest management for conservation has been promoted rather than using the forests sustainably as a commercial resource.  People value their forests, but when there is a financial alternative, they will pragmatically agree to their destruction.  But crucially, what has not been made clear to people is that through PFM, they can harvest their forest on a sustainable basis, sell the timber for a good price and build their own school or road.  In this way, they can make money from  their forest while keeping it with all its biodiversity and rainfall/water conservation/carbon sink/wildlife habitat value.

We want to communicate this to the people of Idodi and Pawaga, emphasizing the financial aspects of PFM, so that when the biofuel companies come with their “sweet words”(according to an angry Kilwa woman), the people are ready and aware, and understand that they have the power to push them away if they don’t want them in their villages.  So at the moment, we are working on finding funding for this proposal and hope to be able to start sometime this year, because time may be running out …

FORS Video

A video is worth at least a thousand words…enjoy!![kml_flashembed movie="http://www.youtube.com/v/a44C1gAKsTc" width="425" height="350" wmode="transparent" /]

Training in South Africa & Grafting Workshop

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Jackson Ngowi, FORS Program Manager

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Hello! My name is Jackson Ngowi and I work as FORS program manager. From 1st September to 25th October 2008 I had the opportunity to attend an environmental education course in South Africa. The course was highly participatory with participants from all over Southern Africa

It was very inspiring to visit different primary schools, secondary schools, municipalities, a community training centre and an organic farmers’ association. At all of these sites people are doing important activities that really have a positive impact on the environment.

When I came back to Iringa, it was great to start implementing some of the participatory methodologies that we had discussed in the course. Last month FORS organized a one day grafting workshop as a reward for three Idodi primary schools that had done an excellent job in creating and maintaining tree nurseries. The teachers appreciated the opportunity to learn about grafting and were eager to start practicing their new skill both in the schools and at home.

Mr. Elia, Head Teacher of Tungamalenga Primary School, said:
“We would like to thank FORS for organizing this workshop, for sure this training came right on time; this knowledge can help improve our lives in different ways. We have learned a lot today and we are hereby promising you that next year we will raise even more tree seedlings and we would like to transfer the knowledge of grafting to our students.”

Environmental Film Shows

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Hello everybody! I am Magreth Fadhili and I work for Friends of Ruaha Society as Program Manager. I want to share with you one of the most productive activities FORS did this year: environmental film shows. This year we conducted film shows at 23 primary schools and villages in Idodi and Pawaga divisions, and more than 10,000 villagers and 15,000 students attended the shows! It was amazing to see the big group of villagers that gathered to see the evening film shows. Because there is no electricity and few televisions (run by generators) in Idodi and Pawaga, villagers rarely have the opportunity to enjoy cinema and learn about local and global environmental issues through films and shows. So it was a big encouragement for me to conduct these film shows because I felt that our environmental messages were reaching many people.

Villagers really enjoyed the films and said they learned a lot about current environmental issues by watching the films. After showing The Great Ruaha River, one villager from Tungamalenga said: “I didn’t know why the Ruaha River dries up every year and I didn’t understand how important the river is for people and wildlife. But now I realize why water scarcity and temperature increases in our areas are damaging for both people and wildlife alike.”

I want to thank one of our fellow WildlifeDirect bloggers, Tanya Trevor Saunders from the African Environmental Film Foundation (AEFF), because many of the films we showed, including The Great Ruaha River, are environmental films Tanya and the AEFF team donated to us. Check out their blog: http://filmingwild.wildlifedirect.org/

These environmental film shows are an annual activity part of our EE program in Idodi and Pawaga and I’m already looking forward to next year’s film shows!

Welcome to the FORS blog!

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Hi everybody! We are Friends of Ruaha Society, a small NGO based in Iringa, southern Tanzania. There are currently four of us in the office, two “watanzania” and two “wazungu,” and we regularly go out into the field to conduct environmental education in the schools and villages that border Ruaha National Park, the largest and most beautiful (sorry, we’re biased!) park in all of Africa.

We’ve just gotten back from some intense and HOT days in the field: Magreth and Jackson took one of our aging Land Rovers out to Pawaga district, where they visited 13 primary schools in 4 days, and Anette and I (Alexander) took the other Land Rover to Idodi district, where we visited 10 schools in 3 days. Our goal on these trips was to assess students’ knowledge of wildlife, one of four modules in the FORS environmental education curriculum.

In these pictures, Anette is doing her best hippo impression to the delight of Standard I and II students at Kitanewa Primary School, and a group of Standard III students from Mafuluto Primary School are holding up a picture of an elephant in response to a wild animal riddle game. We were pleased to see that most students are knowledgable about local wildlife, and did well on the questionnaires (for Standards IV, V and VI) that we gave them.

All of these schools are located in villages that have Wildlife Management Areas bordering Ruaha National Park. Of course, the animals don’t stay within the boundaries of the park, so villagers get regular visits from elephants, impala, kudu, hyena, wild dogs, etc. Human-wildlife conflicts are an issue in these villages, which is why it’s important for us to start early and cooperate with local teachers to ensure that primary school children learn to value wildlife.

We welcome you to our blog and would love to hear your comments about our work. We will try our best to post once a week, even when we’re in the field, and we would be very grateful to receive your donations. Every little bit helps!