Tuesday, July 03, 2007

Drought Forces Desert Nomads to Settle Down

Desert Nomads

by Richard Harris

Morning Edition, July 2, 2007 · Climate change threatens ice sheets and ecosystems, but it also threatens human cultures.

For centuries, the Tuareg people have lived as nomads, herding their animals from field to field just south of the Sahara Desert in Mali, near Timbuktu.

"Our life is basically the animals we have, so we protect them and we feed them," says Mohamed Ag Mustafa, a herder living the traditional nomadic lifestyle. "Whenever we need tea or grain or clothes, we take an animal to the market and sell it and buy something."

But this way of life has become impossible due to a change in the climate.

Over the past 40 years, persistent drought has forced the Tuareg to give up their wandering way of life. To survive they have had to start settling in villages and cultivating land to secure a food supply which is less susceptible to drought.

Preserving Culture

CARE is an international humanitarian organization working to alleviate poverty. Uwe Korus, director of programs for CARE in Mali, visits the town of Er-Intedjeft near Timbuktu, where he is greeted warmly. He is here to learn what the Tuareg need in order to make the rapid and jarring transition to a new way of life. One of the big questions on Korus' mind is whether the Tuareg can retain their ancient culture.

The Tuareg welcome Korus with a mishwee, a traditional feast like they used to have in the desert. They build a fire in a sand pit, and when the sand gets scorching hot, they bury a sheep carcass in it. After the sheep has roasted, they blow off sand still clinging it and bring it over to straw mats laid out under rust-colored tents they erected for their guests.

As the women look on, the men of the village sit around the main dish along with Korus and the others from CARE. After the men are through eating, the bones are cleared away for the children and women to pick over, and the Tuareg sit down and talk for hours. They tell the people from CARE about their struggle to settle down. The nomads say they need to learn to farm, they need clean water, health care and veterinary care for their animals.

Welcoming Change

Mohammad Ag Mata, the chief of Er-Intedjeft , is in his mid-60s and appears frail. He is resolute about his decision to give up his nomadic ways.

Mohammad Ag Mata says droughts are responsible for the shift in the Tuareg lifestyle. He used to have 200 head of cattle, but they all died in droughts in the 1970s and '80s. "If it hadn't been for a little money I stole from my father and saved, we would have starved," he says.

Jacob Aromar also lives in Er-Intedjeft. Aromar is not a herder like his forefathers, but a school teacher. He points out the changes taking place all around him, such as the Tuareg homes which used to be tents, but are now built with mud bricks they make by the river.

The Tuareg diet has changed from one of meat and cheese to one with more grains and vegetables, and they still have a lot to learn about growing crops. A pump was donated so the town can draw water from the nearby Niger River and irrigate tomatoes, rice and potatoes. However the pump is not working because no one has been trained to use it.

end of excerpt

Africa: Water Is A Right, Not a Business

I am including this link because I believe the essential step to bringing potable water equally to all people in this world is to declare it a human right globally. This will ensure that corporations will not have as easy an access to indigenous water systems in third world countries to take advantage of them for profit. It will also give hope to millions around the world who see their resources dwindling due to privitization and as in Mali, changing rainfall patterns that are resulting in the droughts forcing them to find a different way of life because they depend on rain for irrigation.

Also, on the topic of this article, I am appalled by the attitude of the men in these tribes towards the women and children. It is only through education that the next generation in all countries will be better equipped to deal with the crises this world will face. Women and children should not be spending their days fetching water that is many times a dangerous task to perform in these countries, especially with it so scarce.

Declaring water a human right and truly working to give people the EDUCATION and resources they need and the ability to use those resources without relying upon The World Bank and other "new world order" type organizations that only seek to take advantage of their resources for profit is the way to a better world.

And for the people of Mali and countries throughout Africa, education is really the key to their survival along with water.

Sunday, July 01, 2007

Message In A Bottle

Message In A Bottle
By: Charles Fishman

The largest bottled-water factory in North America is located on the outskirts of Hollis, Maine. In the back of the plant stretches the staging area for finished product: 24 million bottles of Poland Spring water. As far as the eye can see, there are double-stacked pallets packed with half-pint bottles, half-liters, liters, "Aquapods" for school lunches, and 2.5-gallon jugs for the refrigerator.

Really, it is a lake of Poland Spring water, conveniently celled off in plastic, extending across 6 acres, 8 feet high. A week ago, the lake was still underground; within five days, it will all be gone, to supermarkets and convenience stores across the Northeast, replaced by another lake's worth of bottles.

Looking at the piles of water, you can have only one thought: Americans sure are thirsty.

Bottled water has become the indispensable prop in our lives and our culture. It starts the day in lunch boxes; it goes to every meeting, lecture hall, and soccer match; it's in our cubicles at work; in the cup holder of the treadmill at the gym; and it's rattling around half-finished on the floor of every minivan in America. Fiji Water shows up on the ABC show Brothers & Sisters; Poland Spring cameos routinely on NBC's The Office. Every hotel room offers bottled water for sale, alongside the increasingly ignored ice bucket and drinking glasses. At Whole Foods (NASDAQ:WFMI), the upscale emporium of the organic and exotic, bottled water is the number-one item by units sold.

Thirty years ago, bottled water barely existed as a business in the United States. Last year, we spent more on Poland Spring, Fiji Water, Evian, Aquafina, and Dasani than we spent on iPods or movie tickets--$15 billion. It will be $16 billion this year.

Bottled water is the food phenomenon of our times. We--a generation raised on tap water and water fountains--drink a billion bottles of water a week, and we're raising a generation that views tap water with disdain and water fountains with suspicion. We've come to pay good money--two or three or four times the cost of gasoline--for a product we have always gotten, and can still get, for free, from taps in our homes.

When we buy a bottle of water, what we're often buying is the bottle itself, as much as the water. We're buying the convenience--a bottle at the 7-Eleven isn't the same product as tap water, any more than a cup of coffee at Starbucks is the same as a cup of coffee from the Krups machine on your kitchen counter. And we're buying the artful story the water companies tell us about the water: where it comes from, how healthy it is, what it says about us. Surely among the choices we can make, bottled water isn't just good, it's positively virtuous.

Except for this: Bottled water is often simply an indulgence, and despite the stories we tell ourselves, it is not a benign indulgence. We're moving 1 billion bottles of water around a week in ships, trains, and trucks in the United States alone. That's a weekly convoy equivalent to 37,800 18-wheelers delivering water. (Water weighs 81/3 pounds a gallon. It's so heavy you can't fill an 18-wheeler with bottled water--you have to leave empty space.)

Meanwhile, one out of six people in the world has no dependable, safe drinking water. The global economy has contrived to deny the most fundamental element of life to 1 billion people, while delivering to us an array of water "varieties" from around the globe, not one of which we actually need. That tension is only complicated by the fact that if we suddenly decided not to purchase the lake of Poland Spring water in Hollis, Maine, none of that water would find its way to people who really are thirsty.

A chilled plastic bottle of water in the convenience-store cooler is the perfect symbol of this moment in American commerce and culture. It acknowledges our demand for instant gratification, our vanity, our token concern for health. Its packaging and transport depend entirely on cheap fossil fuel. Yes, it's just a bottle of water--modest compared with the indulgence of driving a Hummer. But when a whole industry grows up around supplying us with something we don't need--when a whole industry is built on the packaging and the presentation--it's worth asking how that happened, and what the impact is. And if you do ask, if you trace both the water and the business back to where they came from, you find a story more complicated, more bemusing, and ultimately more sobering than the bottles we tote everywhere suggest.

end of excerpt.

Great article. Worth the read.

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