I spent last week in Kenya on an assignment for the Dutch NGO Wilde Ganzen. Now that the drought in this country, Somalia and a part of Ethiopia is so much in the news, and many people have given generously for emergency support, they want to emphasize that what is needed just as much is support for structural development of the region.
A multi year drought prevented Turkana pastoralists from growing crops on their arid yet fertile land after all their livestock was stolen by cattle raiders.
So I travelled to two regions in the East and in the North of the country where farmers and pastoralists have suffered from serious drought for the past 3 years, but have actually not had a normal harvest for almost 10 years. Food support for them is useless. They have to be able to adapt to changing climatic patterns. So development of a more efficient water supply, modern irrigation and advanced agricultural techniques are what is needed.
In the east in the area of Mwingi I visited several water catchment areas where a small dam of just a few metres high can store enough rain water in the wet season to support several communities throughout the long dry season, even during a drought. Pilot projects where greenhouses and drip irrigation manage to dramatically reduce water consumption showed how it is possible to sustain life in this arid region.
In the north around Isiolo no projects like this support the poor Turkana families I visited. Traditionally they were pastoralists with big herds of goats. Several years ago the small community I spoke to was visited by cattle raiders that, in one night, stole thousands of pieces of livestock leaving the whole community in devastation. The 78th Tank battalion in the army base just a few hundred meters away was not able to prevent this.
After losing everything they tried to turn to agriculture to get back on their feet, but the continuing drought has made every attempted crop fail. They now survive by collecting firewood and making charcoal to be able to buy a little flour and sugar each day on which their children survive.
It's cynical to be here knowing that two years ago I spent weeks trying to get some Dutch and international media interested in a story about the drought that was already internationally known of at the time. Oxfam International had issued a press release warning for the serious implications if nothing was done a the time. While I was trying to convince media I also tried to get permission to visit Dadaab refugee camp on the border with Somalia, by now the main media 'tourist' centre of the crisis (as a colleague I met here described it). Road access was impossible without an armed convoy and the many relief agencies and UN departments could not help me with a place on a relief flight unless I had a serious media outlet that was interested in the story. In the end I had to give up my attempts. The crisis was not urgent enough, other news was more important.
So now it is important enough and the circus has landed in Kenya. It's sad that this is how the media work. But I will keep trying to attract attention for the lesser known or approaching crises of this world like we're doing in 'Disputed Waters'. And I'm happy to work for NGO's that focus on structural development that will not forget about a region after the emergency is over in the eyes of the world.
Just discovered I won second prize (Merit of Excellence) in B&W Spiderawards in category photojournalism with this image I took in the Central African Republic.
Caption: Rebels have used a small school in Patcho in the centre of the country as their headquarters for a while. They decorated the walls with their graffiti. The building is now used as a school again but the community has no money to paint the walls....Right in the heart of Africa, surrounded by Chad, Sudan and the Democratic Republic of Congo is the Central African Republic (CAR). In line with its neighbours this country is ravaged by internal conflicts. Several rebel groups are engaged in a permanent war with the government. Army and militias have burnt down thousands of villages. The population fled into the bush where an estimated 100,000 still live. ..The Central African Republic has many Internally Displaced People (IDP's). Nobody knows how many. It is almost impossible to register them. There is only one IDP camp in a country the size of Texas. Many crossed the border to Chad, but the majority lives spread out in the bush. Whole communities live in small huts trying to hide amongst the barren trees. Small patches of land are cultivated but don't produce enough to feed the population. The main crop is Cassava. The shortage of food and the unbalanced diet result in children with swollen belies, malnourished babies and a rate of death amongst children under the age of five which, at 167 out of 1000, is one of the highest in the world.
Disputed Waters is a multi media project of a group of freelance photographers and journalists. We explore stories about transboundary rivers where water may become a source of conflict due to climate change and an increasing world population.
Disputed Waters is all about slow journalism. We take the time to produce in-depth stories, something that is getting more and more difficult in the current media where there’s less time, less editorial space and less money available. We decided to create our own platform:www.disputedwaters.com. The website has been designed and developed together with www.xlab.nl to experiment with formats and content types.
We’re interested in what effects climate change and a growing world population will have on our globalised society. Many specialists predict that the wars of the future will be fought over water. Well, we believe that’s pretty likely. And rivers will play a big role in them because they’re often the most important water source for countries and they have to be shared. We’ll focus on the big geopolitical stories, but will also zoom in on the personal stories of how rivers impact the life of the common man.
The website is a work in progress. The first river, the Colorado, is mostly covered on the site, although we’ll keep adding more stories. We will visit the next river, the Nile, for the first time next week. We will publish updates during the trip on our blog, Twitter and Facebook page.
Publications in international media are used to cover some of the expenses of the project. This is not enough for this type of journalism, so we try to use alternative means of financing like crowdfunding and the sale of other publications.
Disputed Waters is initiated by photographers Ronald de Hommel and Johannes Abeling. Journalists Jeroen Kuiper and Olivier van Beemen have been involved from the beginning. Soon several colleagues will join us to cover the next rivers.
Ronald and Johannes won the second prize in the prestigious Dutch photo contest ‘de Zilveren Camera’ with one of the photo series from the project. See them on the site: http://www.disputedwaters.com/river-colorado/col#slider2
Features of the website:
-Visual navigation by scrolling around on an abstract map to find stories and images.
-The big story is told in a non-linear way through many different items that can be viewed in a random order.
-The site has space to experiment with video and webdocumentary.
-Disputedwaters.com was designed to work with computers and iPads. Especially on touch screens the possibility to scroll around to follow the rivers gives a natural experience.
-The site has been built to exploit many of the new possibilities of HTML5. (Unfortunately older browsers like Internet Explorer may not perform perfectly).
-The site runs on the Wordpress Content Management System. The possibilities of this system have been stretched to the limits to give the makers the freedom to publish lots of different types of content on the interactive maps.
-Through our Facebook Page visitors can interact with the makers and suggest subjects. Also through crowdfunding, supporters can indicate a preference for specific rivers.
For more information about the project, or for the publication of stories contact Ronald de Hommel: firstname.lastname@example.org.
For publication of an announcement about Disputed Waters or a referral to our site we have some free images available.