Beyond Rio +20 rhetoric: Lessons from the nomadsBy MWENDA wa MICHENI | Friday, June 22 2012 at 15:18
One of the most popular key words this week is Rio de Janeiro, I guess.
Among the visitors to the city this week is my president, Mwai Kibaki, who was at the Brazilian capital for the Earth Summit, land especially, to lobby for the Unep upgrade.
President Robert Mugabe of Zimbabwe is also in attendance. True to his character, he took the opportunity to lecture the Weston this and that. Just like the late Muammar Gaddafi and the current Iranian leader, Mugabe takes these kinds of fora very seriously.
In Rio, he got uninterrupted chance to directly speak to the world without having to go through a mediator. Ironically, media back home was at the same time playing big an item on a man arrested in Harare for eating Mugabe's food.
Also at the Rio Summit was a group that many have often ignored, even despised: Koochi.
The group appeared at the Swiss Pavilion, at the event, as featured in a documentary titled Treading through Times: On the Tracks of the Koochi, screened last Wednesday.
Luckily, I got a copy, thanks to Ms Angelika Weller.
Mr Abid Zareef Khan, the two figures behind the movie, who chose to be in Nairobi at the time of the screening as opposed to Rio.
The 20 minutes documentary gives a voice to the Koochi, a pastoral community that lives between the volatile regions of Afghanistan and Pakistan, with cattle and children as their main investment.
Just like most other pastoralists, the Koochis are faced with a new challenges, especially due to urbanisation and the effects of the global climate change, the main theme of the Rio Summit.
The documentary offers several lessons to the rest of the world today.
The Koochis are shy, simple, resilient nomads, just like the Tuaregs of northern Africa or the colourful Maasais and Turkanas of Kenya, or even the threatened Himbas of southern Africa.
In their resilience, the Koochis have lived on their livestock, small scale trade and will not have a problem crossing borders, if that is what will keep them alive.
In other words, it is a community that is highly adaptive to different conditions and issues; a community that is as transit as climate, especially now that climate change is a reality, as the narrator in the movie puts it.
To ease their movements across the vast distances, the Koochis opt for tents. They also have elaborate packaging techniques that enables them to have their lives in one piece as they journey through the mostly harsh reality they face each day.
Even more interesting are their sharp tongues that easily pick different dialects on the way, facilitating their trade.
Interestingly, there are other communities that rely on the Koochi expertise for their survival too. The Punjabi villages love the Koochi mats and trust them with the clearing of silt.
Even when it means waiting for months to access these services, the Punjabis don't mind.
In Urdu, Koochi simply means to move; on the move or nomadic. This is the lesson that humanity needs to pick from the nomads of the world, if they have to survive the pressures of climate change, population bulge in some regions and urbanisation. Move!
The world has changed and things have to be done a little differently.
The community, just like other nomads, easily ignores artificial boundaries, making friendships on the way, especially to boost their trade, complementing earnings from livestock and other sources.
To move, the world must work closely with each other and act humbly. Time for grand standing on issues, especially where national interests are concerned, must stop.
The other options could spell doom. This whole thing sounds naïve, or does it?
Email: firstname.lastname@example.org; Twitter: wamicheni
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