Posts Tagged ‘environment’

Every tourist has heard the rule: only drink bottled water in foreign countries. That maxim is especially true for travelers in Tanzania, a still-developing nation where lack of infrastructure often means bottled water is the only safe drinking water.

But the reliance on bottled water comes with one significant drawback: huge amounts of plastic waste in a nation that is only now taking the first steps towards recycling.

One group, however, is turning trash into treasure for their community. Meeting Point Tanga (TICC), a community development organization with a particular focus on education, decided to build an internet café for students entirely out of discarded bottles.

bottle house tangaThe building in progress. Photo: TICC Meetingpoint Tanga

According to TICC director Rugh Nesje, the decision to build using bottles served two purposes: showcasing a better alternative to burning plastic waste, tossing it in dumps, or simply throwing it along the roadside (all of which are common practices in Tanzania); and creating a community space where students can gather safely outside of school hours.

The group used a total of 3,450 bottles of different sizes to create the structure. It’s a small dent in the worldwide issue of plastic waste—the US alone goes through a staggering 29 billion water bottles a year—but it’s a start in a country where thousands of bottles are used every day.

Best of all, the building has some structural advantages; the relative flexibility of the bottles means they can take heavier loads and withstand shocks more easily than rigid building materials like brick.

This low-cost project will have a huge impact on youth in the community, who will be able to freely access the internet outside of school hours, now. Hopefully it can also serve as a model throughout Tanzania, and the rest of the developing world.

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STEPS Solar is a renewable-energy company based in Dar es Salaam.

Several public institutions and medical dispensaries around Tanzania will soon benefit from free solar energy systems, thanks to a new partnership between the Tanzania Renewable Energy Association (TAREA) and STEPS Solar, a renewable energy company founded in 2013 and based in Dar es Salaam.

Both groups focus on bringing renewable energies to Tanzania in an effort to preserve its beautiful landscapes and wildlife populations (TAREA’s efforts include expanding the use of biomass fuel and wind energy in addition to solar).

In addition to installing solar fixtures on schools, orphanages, police stations, government offices, and medical dispensaries throughout the country, the program aims to educate locals about the benefits of solar energy, which is actually the most cost-effective energy option in much of Tanzania, but nevertheless has failed to gain significant traction.

Beyond the environmental benefits of opting for solar energy on these buildings, there’s a very real quality-of-life improvement; many of the buildings that will be receiving the systems are currently without electricity of any sort, due to their remote locations and general infrastructure problems throughout the still-developing country.

A representative for STEPS Solar indicated that the first installations would take place in the Temeke district of Dar es Salaam.

Installations began April 5 on public institutions in the Kigamboni Ward.

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The International March for Elephants, held last Friday, October 4, in 15 locations worldwide (and in any number of remote locations, as supporters who couldn’t attend a march were encouraged to show solidarity with pictures and posts online), was a huge success by any measure. An estimated 10,000 people joined marches in various cities, drawing the eyes of their communities and of international world leadership to the ongoing poaching crisis in Africa.

In Arusha, Tanzania, around 5,000 supporters came out to march, carrying signs and trailing behind a handmade, nearly life-size elephant float.

Video from the Arusha march, showing the impressive elephant float supporters there crafted.

Several hundred demonstrators converged on Parliament Square, in London, where several speakers addressed the crowd.

Marchers outside the Houses of Parliament in London, England. Photo: the David Sheldrick Wildlife Trust

Marchers outside the Houses of Parliament in London, England. Photo: the David Sheldrick Wildlife Trust

In New York, celebrity activists, including Christie Brinkley and Kristin Davis, spoke to the many hundreds of demonstrators who arrived wearing black, white, and red, something the iWorry campaign encouraged as a further sign of support for the anti-poaching cause.

Christie Brinkley shows her support for elephants at the New York march.

Christie Brinkley shows her support for elephants at the New York march.

But perhaps the most impressive marcher of the day was Jim Nyamu, a Kenyan who traveled to the United States, trekking from Boston to Washington (where he joined the D.C. march), raising awareness along the way.

Jim Nyamu, speaking at the Washington D.C. march

Why America? Nyamu said that Americans are not only less aware of the severity of the issue, because of their distance from poaching sites, but that “America is still the second leading consumer of ivory” in the world.

Hopefully, thanks to Nyamu’s trek and the widespread participation in marches worldwide, the plight of elephants will start receiving the attention it deserves.

To see more images from the many marches that took place worldwide, visit the links below to each city with a planned march:

Buenos Aires
Cape Town
Los Angeles
New York City
Washington DC

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Poaching has been a problem that has plagued African nations for years, now. The devastating effects it has had on elephant populations, and by extension, on the ecosystems they inhabit, has become so pronounced that President Obama recently pledged additional US aid to help combat the problem, and just last week, the Clintons announced plans to donate $80 million to help fight the ivory trade and reduce poaching.

But donating vast sums of money isn’t an option for most people, and it’s certainly not the only way they can help.

For anyone who wants to get involved, the International March for Elephants will take place this Friday October 4th. Individuals can sign up to join one of fifteen official marches worldwide, taking place in cities as far-flung as Arusha, Tanzania, and as close to home as New York City, Toronto, and Los Angeles.

international march for elephants

March organizers have estimated that elephants are currently being killed for their ivory at the rate of one every 15 minutes, which would lead to the total extinction of wild populations by 2025.

The marches, organized by the David Sheldrick Wildlife Trust (DSWT), were designed to promote awareness of the ever-present issue of elephant poaching. Anyone interested in helping can sign up for a nearby march online, donate to the DSWT online, or even just promote awareness of the march digitally by spreading the word on social media and the web on Friday.

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There were many highlights during President Obama’s recent tour of Africa, but possibly the best moment for conservationists was his announcement in Nairobi, Kenya (accompanied by Tanzanian president Jakaya Kikwete), that he had signed an executive order increasing the United States’ involvement in fighting illegal poaching and animal trafficking in the region.

The executive order will provide $10 million in assistance to African countries in order to combat wildlife trafficking and poaching. It also establishes a task force and an advisory council on trafficking issues, and enhances regulations against trafficking elephants and rhinoceroses. Additionally, a U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service official will be assigned to the U.S. Embassy in Dar es Salaam, Tanzania, to support Tanzania’s wildlife security efforts.

Presidents Obama and Kikwete jointly announce the executive order on July 1. Photo Credit: AP

Presidents Obama and Kikwete jointly announce the executive order on July 1. Photo Credit: AP

Though many African countries already work to fight poaching, especially in National Parks and on game preserves, the reality is that many of these nations simply don’t have the resources to combat the problem.

In Tanzania, poaching remains a concern, and the amount of protected land in the country is so vast that it’s difficult to fully patrol. This aid from the United States, as well as the efforts to make exporting the illegal goods more difficult for poachers, will boost Tanzania’s own efforts to address this problem immensely.

As a consumer and a tourist, you can do your part, too! You should never purchase souvenirs that contain coral, plant matter, or any kind of animal matter, even if you’re assured it’s from a non-endangered species. Antiques with any of these items should also be avoided; not only can you not be certain of the age of the item, sale of antique animal products only ups demand for current trafficking.

Learn more about trafficking, and what you can do to help, at If you’d like more tips on sustainable tourism, check out our suggestions for sustainable travel.

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