Karibu Rafikis (Welcome friends),
Life in the beautiful city of Dar es Salaam is never boring. There is always something happening; whether it would be new sustainable strategic planning initiatives through ongoing community forums and academic global development conferences or through an actual flash flood that wipe out the road infrastructures, people’s homes, gardens/farms, livestock, and people’s lives.
“‘When it rains, we all prosper. When there is drought, we all suffer.’ – Sahel Saying” (Richmond and Gestrin, 2009, p. 173)
According to one of the local news outlets, on October 26 “At least two people were killed and hundreds of others were left homeless on Thursday after more than 24 hours of heavy rain in Tanzania’s commercial capital Dar es Salaam, police said,” leading to massive flash floods all over the city (Xinhua, 2017).
Although this is the season for short rainfall, as predicted in the Tanzania Meteorological Agency’s monthly weather report for October 2017, the high amount of consistent rainfall that occurred over a 24 hour period further indicates the imperative realities of climate change that continue to haunt us on the global scale (Tanzania Meteorological Agency, October 2017; Chang’a et al., 2017, p. 525). To further this argument, 90% of the world’s major natural disasters were caused by drastic “hydro-meteorological” changes (Chang’a et al., 2017, p. 526). Unfortunately the majority of countries that are strongly impacted by these extreme weather changes are those in the Global South (Willis, 2011, p. 182). Although rainfall is often seen as a cosmic gift from the heavens for many farmers and urban agriculturalists, ironically, such extreme downpours can also have a powerful destructive effect on people’s livelihoods, crops, and clean water supply (Chang’a et al., 2017, p. 527; Willis, 2011, p. 182; Richmond and Gestrin, 2009, p. 173).
So how does a region, or a country socially, economically, and environmentally recover from natural phenomenons such as flash floods?
It is very common for both local and external non-profit organizations to begin mobilizing development initiatives and projects after a disaster or any kind of large-scale event that has destroyed or negatively effected infrastructures and people’s livelihoods (Willis, 2011, p. 125). The social phenomena that binds many of these organizations and individuals together during these states of emergency is social capital (Willis, 2011, p. 125). That said, it is simply not enough to rebuild infrastructure through only social networks, but rather begin expanding such initiatives to external agencies on a global scale (Willis, 2011, p. 125). This is especially true in creating sustainable preventative measures against the increasing number of global warming events that is not exclusive to just the regions of interest (Willis, 2011, p. 125).
According to Willis (2011), sustainable urban development should not be limited to just the local region that is requiring immediate emergency relief, but rather it must take into account the overall global impacts (p. 190). Moreover, it must take into account other socio-economic issues relating to more than simply the environmental impacts such as poverty alleviation, community-based initiatives, and the overall global and local social-cultural context (Willis, 2011, p. 189).
Having come from the West coast region of Canada where it rains the majority time of the year, the downfall that occurred this week in Dar es Salaam was simply another Southwest BC-sort of day, or so I thought. In fact, many of us in the team felt cozy, nostalgic and perhaps a bit too appreciative of the change of weather. After all,this was season of Autumn back at home so experiencing the steady rainfall made us feel like we were experiencing a bit of Fall here in tropical Africa, aside from the increasing amount of insects that decided to join in on the “Autumn party”. The more it rained, the more power-outages we got, thus forcing us to simply go with the flow.
Little did we know, this was just the precursor to a 3 hour flash flood that would negatively change the lives of many residents both near and far, especially those living below the poverty line who continually struggle to sustain their families’ livelihoods on a daily basis (Willis, 2011, p. 190).
But of course not us.
No, not the Western mzungus (foreigners), who were peeking out of the comforts of a gated property, looking out of the living room window onto the traffic chaos of the flooded Bagamoyo Street (which also happens to be the main street throughout the entire city). We began taking pictures of the watered street, while we heard the shouting, screaming, and endless honking as sirens screamed by trying to rescue residents. Yet here we were, taking in all the sights and freaking out about how to ration our large supply of food, thinking that this may just as well be the apocalypse. Yes, I am ashamed to say this was the first thought that came to my mind.
Talk about overreacting!
All we could do was attempt to work on our research with the limited electricity that we did have, chill, and sleep as we waited for the chaos to subside so that we could go on about our day. Little did we know that the flooding would begin to subside around our house and that our lives would go back to normal as if nothing had happened that day. Sure, there was damage on the roads just around our house but we were able to walk outside and even went downtown to see two short films at the Goethe Institut.
Life was back to normal for many of our neighbors, but was it for the majority of street vendors and urban farmers? As we drove into the city later that day, we saw the rushing river and its powerful currents; however, the informal settlements that we once saw on the banks of the river were not there. That is when it hit us, sure the flood was short but it brought about significant life-altering changes to many of our fellow Tanzanian residents.
So here I was, a foreigner from the global West, having had first-hand experience with flash flooding in a developing country. This experience, as horrible as it was for those significantly impacted by the flood itself, has further reinforced my reality as a privileged Westerner. But how long will my security from all that is socially, economically, and environmentally unstable last? After all, these flash floods are just one of the many symptoms of global warming (Willis, 2011, p. 182).
If this flash flood has taught me anything, both the Global South and Global North must actively continue mobilizing preventative and sustainable measures that goes above and beyond simple emergency-based relief/development initiatives (Willis, 2011, p. 190).
Cheers for now!
Chang’a, L.B., Kijazi, A.L., Luhunga, P.M., Ng’ongolo, H.K. and Mtongori, H.I. (2017) Spatial and Temporal Analysis of Rainfall and Temperature Extreme Indices in Tanzania. Atmospheric and Climate Sciences, 7, 525-539.
Richmond, Yale., and Gestrin, P. (2009). Into Africa: A guide to sub-saharan culture and diversity. (2nd ed). Boston, MA: Intercultural Press.
Utabiri wa Hali ya Hewa Oktoba 2017. (n.d.). Retrieved October 29, 2017, from http://www.meteo.go.tz/pages/weather-outlook-for-oktober-2017
Willis, K. (2011). Theories and practices of development. (2nd ed). New York, NY: Routledge.
Yan (Ed.). (2017, October 27). Two killed by heavy rain in Tanzania’s commercial capital. Xinhuanet . Retrieved October 28, 2017, from http://news.xinhuanet.com/english/2017-10/27/c_136708252.htm