The Maji ni Uhai (Water is Life) project was focused upon the Great Ruaha River in Tanzania. This major river used to run all year round, from central Tanzania, to the coast. It goes through the heart of the Ruaha National Park, the second largest in Tanzania, whilst also providing almost half of the country’s electricity at the hydroelectric dams downstream from Iringa. However, problems in the catchment for this river have meant that despite no real decrease in rainfall, the river now dries up completely for most of the year. The surrounding area, the industries, the people, the National Park and the environment are all suffering as a result of this. In the surrounding area there are many signs of desertification, drought and environmental degradation.

The primary project in Tanzania has been based in the central region of Iringa. The partner organisation for this project is the Friends of Ruaha Society (FORS) – a local NGO previously concerned with the running and conservation of the Ruaha National Park, but now has expanded to work in the surrounding communities.

There are a number of critical issues facing the region. With water being so integral to many of these FORS and the Brock Initiative decided to work first on a film addressing some of the issues.

The major environmental concern surrounding water here revolves around the Great Ruaha River. This major river used to run all year round, from central Tanzania, to the coast. It goes through the heart of the Ruaha National Park, the second largest in Tanzania, whilst also providing almost half of the country’s electricity at the hydroelectric dams downstream from Iringa. However, problems in the catchment for this river have meant that despite no real decrease in rainfall, the river now dries up completely for most of the year. The surrounding area, the industries, the people, the park and the environment are all suffering as a result of this. In the surrounding area there are many signs of decertification, drought and environmental degradation.

There are said to be three primary causes for this. Firstly, massive deforestation on the catchment.Secondly, massive agricultural development in the wetland directly below the catchment, which syphons off most of the water.And thirdly, also on the wetland, massive grazing activity, which has drastically reduced the wetlands capability to retain water. Therefore, in the wet season, massive flash floods rage down the Ruaha, causing much damage and soil erosion. And then in the dry season, nothing.

FORS were also concerned that attitudes to water on a local level were rarely concerned with using it efficiently or carefully, and much was wasted. They wanted a film that would educate people about the importance and fragility of our water resources, whilst also offering practical and positive steps that everyone could do to improve the situation on a local level.

FORS currently works on developing teacher packs to initiate, encourage and facilitate teaching of the new Tanzanian primary school environmental syllabus, which is currently widely neglected by teachers. They saw a film as being a fantastic, and potentially highly effective addition to this pack.

Obviously not many schools have the facilities to use videos. However, FORS has a manageable remit area and therefore were willing to find ways of delivering and showing the film, as part of its work, in its designated schools. With this large yet tangible target audience we decided to move ahead with the project. It is however hoped that beyond this, others will request to use the film, thus slowly increasing distribution of a slowly increasing library of films, including the Ministry of Education, who have been very interested in developing teacher resources such as this in the coming years.

FORS’ work, though restricted to a particular area, is however relevant on a national level as it deals with the national syllabus, therefore the options to increase and expand distribution will come in the future.

The Brock Initiative’s primary aims were to:
1) Undertake a pilot project in Tanzania
2) Work in conjunction with a local NGO, ensuring the films’ local relevance, active use and ability to assess results.
3) Receive film contributions from both professional and non-professional sources, and encourage others to see the value in it.
4) Promote the practical and cost effectiveness of using film as a conservation tool.
5) Encourage and facilitate similar projects to be undertaken by others in the future.
6) To produce a film that would have real practical value as a conservation tool.

FORS’ primary aims for the film were four fold:
1) Reduce water wastage in these local communities.
2) Educate the local community about the major problems surrounding the Great Ruaha River.
3) Increase the impact of their environmental education.
4) Using practical examples, to inspire children and the local community to actively care and take responsibility for their local environment and water resources.

The Tanzanian Ministry & Institute of Education’s broader aims were to:
1) Enrich the diversity of teaching methods and resources used by teachers.
2) Encourage teaching of the new environmental syllabus in primary schools.

Production Process
Ben travelled to Iringa three times as part of this project. First, over a period of four days, to formulate the project, to film in the dry season and to plan for a second trip. The second trip was over two weeks and involved the bulk of the filming: interviews, songs and narration. A week was given to initiate the edit process there and to receive preliminary feedback. The final trip was after an extended stay in the UK, completing the edit, and was used to review the edit, review the different versions, and to make any resulting changes. With the final edit agreed upon, copies of the master tapes were left with FORS and the product was sent for manufacture in Nairobi at a special rate for conservation films before being shipped back to Iringa.

The process is ongoing however, with the evaluation of the success of the film, which will be on-going from early 2005, and with the production of future films that will enrich the body of material available to FORS. As more material comes into existence it is hoped that other organisations / outlets will come forward to use this resource. To this affect, FORS are currently holding meetings with the Ministry of Education.

The Films

The main film was completed in November 2004. It was aimed at primary school children in the Ruaha area and is presented in Kiswahili but with English subtitles. As a result of feedback from our Madagascar project and earlier research conducted by the Brock Initiative, the film was intentionally quite long, at 45 minutes. Emphasis was placed on children’s perspective of water, as mostly it is the children who work with water in the local environment. The film is music rich, all written and performed for the film by local school children. The entries from a local drawing competition about the importance of water were also used, as well as a short animation.The film was narrated by a well known and respected Tanzanian called Godwin Gondwe . He is a radio presenter and news reader on national networks and is currently studying in Iringa.

The VHS cassette will come with a short booklet linking the content of the film to the educational pack produced by FORS. It will contain some practical lesson plan ideas for teachers to use in conjunction with the film.

Overview of the main film:
Introduction: the presenter introduces the film, explaining what it is about and what is going to be covered Talking about water: children discuss the importance of water (early primary syllabus).
The Water Cycle: a mixture of archive footage, animation and local examples (later primary syllabus).
The Great Ruaha River: putting the water cycle into context locally through the eyes of a local child.
The large scale problems: using the problems to reinforce educational goals about the water cycle – looking at what happens when you disrupt aspects of the natural water cycle.
The local problems: children discuss the local effects and causes of water shortage
Children’s solutions: positive ideas that young people are putting into practise to address these issues
Summing up: a positive message from the presenter and children, with music written especially for the film.

In addition to this, a number of other versions have been produced. Some look at particular topics within the larger film, for example: trees’ importance in the water cycle, whilst others have been designed to provide variety for FORS when
it comes to a screening, looking at animals or “a view from the air”. Another has been produced as a short film for the delegates and decision-makers who attend the up-coming conferences focussed on the problems surrounding the Ruaha.

Other versions:
Trees in the Water Cycle: Asks and tackles the question “Why are trees important?”.
The Ruaha Problem: Aimed at decision makers. Short and to the point. Also giving visual evidence of current situation.
The Great Ruaha River: As above but aimed at general audience, with more background.
Talking about Water: Children talking about water. Lower primary syllabus.
The Water Cycle: Upper primary syllabus material..
Animals of Ruaha: Fun film looking at some of the animals.
Flying over the Ruaha: Fun film going on a plane journey over the Ruaha
Website clips: for the FORS website
Music Video: One of the songs recorded for the film made into a music video
Evidence footage: Footage from the flights made available to WCS.

One of the Brock Initiative’s objectives was to work directly with local NGOs and the local community to co-produce films. This ensures that the films we make will be useful and will be used. So often people make films that are handed over freely but then are never used. To ask organisations to invest, not money, but time, logistical support and creative energy, we add so much value into the project. In this respect Friends of Ruaha Society (FORS) have been truly fantastic.

We chose them because they were genuinely excited by the project and saw the potential for a film to directly benefit the work they were doing. In return they willingly contributed their time, local logistical costs and facilities. They were involved in every stage of the film development; from initial conceptual discussions, to script writing, filming and then post production. FORS now have the final product and are even talking about additional ways in which the films could be useful. The FORS employees are trained in project evaluation and so we look forward to the feedback that will be gained as screenings the commence in 2005.

As production began, through combined interests with FORS in Iringa, the Wildlife Conservation Society (WCS) also became involved in the project, providing and funding two exciting opportunities for us to film over the Great Ruaha River in both the wet and dry seasons. For this very significant contribution to the project, we are very grateful.

The Brock Initiative and FORS will be monitoring the response and impact of the film over the beginning of 2005.

Click here to read to the report made in Tanzania on the Premiere Screenings of Maji ni Uhai in the local community where it was filmed.

Part of the Brock Initiative’s remit is to encourage film-makers to contribute their footage to local projects such as this, where their footage can make a real difference on the ground. In this respect we were very happy and grateful to receive free offers of footage from a number of commercial and non-commercial sources.

Television for the Environment (TVE):
Based in London, this NGO acts as a distributor and producer of environmental films all over the world. They have a large archive of material from their films that they offered us access to. Although not specific to the area, we were able to get some of the more general shots for use in the water cycle section.

African Environmental Film Foundation (AEFF): This NGO specialises in making excellent feature length documentaries in East Africa focusing upon important environmental issues. They had made a film on the Great Ruaha River and therefore had a number of rushes, not used in the final production, that were invaluable in this project. We made specific requests for film on particular topics to which Simon Trevor kindly responded.

Katelina and Mtemi: As filmmakers based in Tanzania, Katelina and Mtemi are well equipped to tackle specific filming jobs. When given the opportunity by WCS to fly over the Ruaha, we decided to enlist a professional cameraman with a high-quality camera to take the footage. Although our budget would not normally allow for this, Katelina and Mtemi kindly stepped in to offer their time and skills for free in return for us setting up a filming opportunity for them in Iringa.

Sue Stolberger: Sue is a trustee of FORS and an artist living in the Ruaha National Park. As such she has first hand access to many of the issues and events that happen in and around the area and has an excellent archive of footage taken on her personal miniDV camera. She kindly made this available to use in this project.

Alan Root: As one of the foremost natural history film-makers in the world, Alan has made many fantastic films. For many years now he has also been translating and making copies of these and distributing them for local educational use around East Africa. He was also recently the winner of the Wildscreen Filmmakers for Conservation Award. So we were very pleased when he
agreed that his footage could be used by us in this, and hopefully other future projects.

And Richard Brock: As founder of the Brock Initiative, Richard offered up all his footage for use in all Brock Initiative projects. Although not specific to the area, it has proved invaluable, covering virtually any ecosystem and animal around. This flexibility means, for example, that you can edit-in international examples within a local film, thus really enriching the final product. Needless to say Richard has also, except for local logistic costs, financially backed the entire project. Without his support and vision, this project would have never have happened and so we are eternally grateful to him.