Roots & Shoots: As told by the mountain

This is a documentation of the sustainability efforts of the Mamas of Mweka (indigenous female elders of Mt. Kilimanjaro), who have developed a successful sustainable tourism excursion model through Roots & Shoots with the help of the Jane Goodall Foundation. I had the privilege of working alongside PPT Media House & Dr. Laura Johnson to document and witness the amazing work that Roots & Shoots have done for these mamas and the surrounding environment. This video highlights the Mamas and that work.

Roots & Shoots as an organization has made a tremendous impact on a number of lives and communities worldwide, however, what they are doing on Mt. Kilimanjaro is beyond belief. By providing the Mamas of Mweka with a foundational structure of sustainable eco-tourism (much similar to the Australian Aboriginal Peoples Inclusion in Eco-Tourism Model) and more connections than most can imagine, Roots & Shoots has created a lucrative business that benefits all parties. It is much similar to any excursion company, that allows visitors to partake in different cultural or adventurous activities, however, this is directly benefiting the Mamas. 

By pairing visitors with each of the Mamas, these female Elders welcome their guests with a large traditional mill on the mountain, accompanied by some traditional dances that the visitors are welcome to join in. Though the majority of the Mamas cannot speak English, through partnerships with local universities and youth development programs, young people come to help and translate for the participants and the Mamas. Through stories and songs, visitors learn about the history of the mountain, the lives of the mamas, and various other proponents about tribal culture on the mountain. Upon completing this portion of the excursion, visitors are welcome to assist in the creation of school buildings, much like the one my group assisted with. Through a combination of bendable branches and hard labor, each group builds a different portion of the house upon each visit. However, worry not, if one does not enjoy physical labor, anyone is welcome to join members of the organization or tribe in the conservation area where anyone can plant their own tree, watch the intricate manmade watering system, or simply gaze at the beautiful trees that span among the magnitude of trees along the mountain that has been planted over the years. After leaving the campgrounds, each participant is again paired with their Mamas and their translator, where they follow the Mama home. Once at their mama's location of living, they are given traditional food, stay in a designated location of the Mamas home, and have a translated conversation with the Mamas. The amount of time each visitor spends with their Mama is determined by the excursion program they sign up for. Mine was only one night, whereas others we met were for a week. Either way, each person leaves with a different understanding of life, and Tanzanian tribal culture. 

Upon conclusion of the program, each Mama receives a portion of the payment from Roots & Shoots that provides their portion of the household income. I believe this system is perfect and amazing in a number of ways because it is an opportunity for a group of women, who would otherwise potentially not have the opportunity, to provide for their household by doing something they love. By sharing their culture and meeting thousands of people each year, these women have found economic sustainability through an organization that does so much good. This is Roots & Shoots.

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