Spire & Kisilu Musya – from Mutomo to Oslo to Paris.

WOW!! I can’t believe how quickly the last few months have passed by. Spire’s campaign “The Climate Diaries: from the frontlines of climate change” has come to an end – for now. As campaign manager it has been an incredibly fun and inspiring process, and so much has happened that I would like to sum up some of the highlights! :)

It all started in the summer months of 2015… no, actually it started 4 years ago when former leader of Spire, Julia Dahr, decided to make a film together with the kenyan farmer Kisilu Musya. They wanted to show the impact of climate change on people. For the past 4 years Kisilu has been documenting through video diaries how his farm and thus his family and livelihood are affected by climate change. Based on this material, Julia and her company Differ Media created a film which tells Kisilu’s story. So where does Spire come in? We decided to spread Kisilu’s film and message to the world and all that started in the summer months of 2015.

Spire’s campaign group meeting in Oslo.

Spire’s campaign group meeting in Oslo.

In August a group of young, engaged people gathered for the first time in Spire’s main offices in Oslo to start the planning of this year’s autumn campaign. Earlier in the year Spire voted for the campaign proposal jointly put forward by the climate committee and food committee, which was to focus on climate justice by linking climate change and food security. Spire wanted to put climate justice on the agenda and show how those who have contributed the least to the changes are hit the hardest! We knew that Kisilu’s powerful story would make people reflect and inspire to change. Therefore we decided to create platforms for Kisilu’s voice to be heard – from the frontlines of climate change to the world. We dreamt big and started planning.

We organised a national film tour with Kisilu and Julia, where they traveled the country, visited Spire’s local chapters, shared Kisilu’s story and spoke about climate justice. They visited seven big cities in Norway and reached thousands of people. The first pre-screening was at the beautiful Cinemateket in Oslo. Read an account of the screening here and see the photos from Kisilu’s first event here. In order for the film to reach an even wider audience, we offered it to schools around the country and it has now been shown at 43 Norwegian schools. Activists from Spire visited some of the schools to speak to the youth about climate justice. The media were also inspired by Kisilu and wanted a piece of him.. or many pieces actually. Framtida wrote about him, Klassekampen published a column about the film screening in Ås, NRK invited Kisilu to the studio for URIX and showed the film on national TV.

To accompany the film tour, the campaign group wrote a short, informative brochure in English and Norwegian and promoted the events. The brochure and our promotion material was designed by the talented Jenny Jordahl. Jenny also travelled to the climate conference in Paris as a comic designer to document the negotiations and Kisilu is featured in one of her comic strips.

Jenny Jordahl drawing Kisilu’s family in Kenya.

Jenny Jordahl drawing Kisilu’s family in Kenya.

In addition to the film tour, the campaign group also organised events. In Oslo we invited to a free dinner with inspiring speakers at Kafe Saba in Oslo to raise awareness about the link between food waste and climate change. As part of the “Pole to Paris campaign”, I gave a speech about climate justice at Frognerparken in Oslo, and we put a lot of hours into planning Kisilu’s travel to Paris in order to join Spire during the climate change conference in December.

The Climate Diaries

Instagram photo for our campaign “The Climate Diaries”, designed by Jenny Jordahl.

Spire is one of the few Norwegian NGOs who see the world in totality. We focus on the unjust power structures which are reflected in all aspects of society; from trade deals to food security and climate agreements, but also in terms of ability to influence, be heard and to represent. In a more just and sustainable world everyone must be heard and we work hard to bring perspectives from the global South to the front of international and national debates. That’s why the campaign group invited Kisilu to Norway – and also arranged for his travel and program at the UN climate change conference in Paris.
After what seemed like an endless and nerve wrecking visa-process, many phone calls between Kenya and Norway with bad connections, applications for financial support for Kisilu’s travels and a circus of logistics, I was extremely happy to welcome Kisilu to Oslo on the 13th of November. His visa application had been accepted, his trip to France covered with the help of the Norwegian Forum for Environment and Development and we had several events already lined up for him during his visit; first in Norway and then in Paris at the COP21. One of the highlights for Kisilu’s travel to the negotiations was to speak at an official side event inside the negotiating zone. In order to access, he would need accreditation which we managed to secure through good contacts in the international NGO world.

Kisilu Musya, first panelist on the left, speaking at an official side event on the topic of “Climate Smart Agriculture in Africa”.

Kisilu Musya, first panelist on the left, speaking at an official side event on the topic of “Climate Smart Agriculture in Africa”.

The side event was a result of early planning, co-operation with international actors, compromising and plenty of communication across continents in the months leading up to the UN negotiations. This side events took place inside of the negotiation areas, which made it a valuable space for getting our message out to the people who are influencing and carrying out the negotiations. It is also extremely difficult to get hold of one such space and I am proud that we were able to secure a space for Kisilu to speak and where we also showed the trailer of his film. The voice of farmers tends to be missing when big NGOs, companies and leaders discuss small scale agriculture. Kisilu therefore added high value to this side event, set the context for the discussion and pulled a big audience, so that there were not even enough seats for everyone. Read an account of the side event here.

Kisilu being interviewed by Natacha Butler from Al Jazeera.

Kisilu being interviewed by Natacha Butler from Al Jazeera.

In addition to the side event, Spire and Kisilu did lots of other cool stuff together. We organised a screening of “Kisilu: The Climate Diaries” at Cicero’s big pavilion inside the negotiating space and invited people to attend. Kisilu also had an interview with Al Jazeera Newshour, which he aced! Furthermore his film was screened on Al Jazeera Witness and is now available for all to see for free! I highly recommend it! Differ Media has worked for a long time to get the film on Al Jazeera and it is a really big deal to make it happen. Julia and Julie from Differ Media also followed Kisilu during his stay in Paris, in order to document his travels and make a longer version of the film, which will be screened at cinemas and festivals hopefully already next year. To make this happen we need your help. Support the making of the film and share the trailer by visiting www.kisilumovie.com.

Kisilu with Julia and Julie from Differ Media, who have been documenting Kisilu's travel to the COP 21

Kisilu with Julia and Julie from Differ Media, who have been documenting Kisilu’s travel to the COP 21

In addition, Kisilu spoke at several events including at the climate strike day and at an event for the commonwealth youth. He gave interviews almost every single day, to various media outlets and to young activists. Kisilu was also invited to attend a live talk show together with Stuart Scott, which I recommend seeing. Kisilu also had the chance to meet and talk to former Norwegian prime minister, Gro Harlem Brundtland, as well as the founder of 350.org, Bill McKibben.

Kisilu and I spent many hours networking with various NGOs and country delegates, and we were always on the lookout for the Kenyan delegation. This resulted in Kisilu being allowed to attend a closed meeting with the Kenyan delegation at the negotiations. This was a truly eye-opening experience for him and he is now in a much better position to understand the responsibilities of the government, both towards the international community and towards its own people. With our help Kisilu has now been linked up to Kenyan researchers and networks working on climate change in his local area, and he will continue to strengthen the voice of the small scale farmer upon his return to Kenya.

Kisilu meeting Bill McKibben, the founder of 350.org

Kisilu meeting Bill McKibben, the founder of 350.org

In between Kisilu’s interviews and meeting and Spire’s hectic schedule at the negotiations, we found time to keep Kisilu posted about what is going on behind closed doors at the negotiations. It was challenging to try to explain why leaders are unable to find an ambitious and strong solution, when they know the risks which are at stake for the world’s population. Kisilu met with many people who are going through challenges similar to his own, such as people from small island states as well as indigenous communities in the Amazon, whose very existence is under threat. I found that one of the most amazing things about Kisilu is his relentless optimism. In spite of being deeply disappointed by the leaders at the COP, he was inspired by the unity across borders and the strong international civil society movement against climate change. He realised that he is not fighting alone. See Kisilu’s reflections on URIX at the end of the COP21.

Are, climate coordinator in Spire, explaining to Kisilu that some countries are blocking progress in the negotiations.

Are, climate coordinator in Spire, explaining to Kisilu that some countries are blocking progress in the negotiations.

As the negotiations came to an end I look back at three crazy weeks in Paris. We came here with clear demands and Spire has had a strong influence on making the Paris agreement as just and ambitious as possible. Kisilu has played an important role by sharing his story in the negotiating space and to inspire people to take action and stand together. He has made valuable contacts to continue working for the farmer’s rights in Kenya, and personally I will work hard to stay in contact with him and to make Spire be a part of this important process in the best way we can. I have also been deeply moved and inspired by Kisilu and I am more certain than ever that I want to devote my life to climate justice.

Kisilu and I on the Eiffel Tower in Paris.

Kisilu and I on the Eiffel Tower in Paris.

Spire has a tendency of planning big, ambitious campaigns which are bound to have a profound impact on politicians and the wider public. Rarely, if at all, have I heard anyone say; “that idea is not possible to carry out because we do not have the capacity.” Spire, with its few but very active members, magically always manages to carry out its plans and never let its humble size determine its ideas. It is an amazing organisation to be part of and there is room for everyone. If you are not a member already, support us and join us for a more just and sustainable world now.

Text written by Nina Taugbøl, pictures taken by Spire members

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