A few meters from Avani Hotel, the venue of climate action hackathon, is an old baobab tree. They say it’s about 2000 years old. From a platform made in the branches, you can just see the misty smoke from the Victoria Falls. The tree is etched all through with names and dates. Some old others new.
On the banks of the Zambezi River, at the place called the boiling pot, a permanent whirlpool under the Victoria Falls Bridge, there are a great crop of basalt rocks, probably older than 2000 years. In some of these rocks, I noticed names and dates scratched on surfaces. One that stood out for me, because of the early date, was one for a J. Renn .. supposedly etched in 1912.
There are two ways to look at resilience and resilience program development that can be illustrated by the story of the baobab tree and the rock. If you think about it, on these two places, you find the story of endearing human urge to leave a mark. Somewhere. Anywhere. For the few days we were in Zambia, we also wanted to leave our own marks, by assisting with resilience development.By creating tools that would help communities adapt to the climate change. Two lessons that we learned, and which are analogous to the resilience of the rock and the baobab tree, were that:
We need to choose problems to tackle carefully. The Choice of problems has everything to do with how successful we will be. Albeit J. Renn who etched his name in basalt rock in 1912 took some time and a little more effort to write his name on that rock. This cannot be said of the thousands who etch their names on the baobab tree. Resilience development takes time and oft solutions that endure (like the etchings on the rock) take a while (and effort) to craft and execute. We should be courageous to see these through.
Are our solutions sustainable. Listening and interacting with the many stakeholders at the hackathon, one overarching theme was how sustainable are our actions/solutions. One perspective of sustainability that is easy to overlook is the long term effect of our solutions on the targeted population. Again, thinking of the baobab tree, etched all over, you begin to wonder whether while trying to leave our own mark we are actually killing the tree with so many solutions. You start getting the feeling that sometimes the best solutions for certain problems (baobab problem), is to do little.
Overall, the hackathon was an eye opener and an awesome opportunity.