Newly released video shows man believed to be last of tribe

In this 2011 video frame released by Brazil's National Indian Foundation, an uncontacted indigenous man is seen amid the forest, in Rondonia, Brazil. (AP)
Updated 21 July 2018
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Newly released video shows man believed to be last of tribe

  • The foundation’s policy is to allow such people to live their lives in isolation
  • Brazil is home to several “uncontacted” peoples whose lands, like those of many indigenous groups, are increasingly under threat

SAO PAULO: No one knows his name. No one knows the name of the people he came from. And he appears to have lived alone in Brazil’s Amazon for 22 years.
Video released for this first time this week by Brazil’s Indian Foundation shows rare images of a so-called uncontacted indigenous man who is believed to be the last surviving member of his tribe. The footage was shot in 2011, though a team that tracks him says it last saw evidence he was alive in May.
The shaky images taken from a distance through foliage show a man chopping down a tree. The sound of his ax hitting the trunk and bird calls can be heard.
The video’s release followed a press report that noted there existed only one image of the man, captured by a documentary filmmaker in the 1990s in which the man’s face was hidden behind foliage.
Altair Algayer, coordinator of the team that monitors the man, said the foundation was reluctant to release the video because it could not ask for the man’s consent. But he also noted that such images help to draw attention to the plight of people who are struggling to maintain their distance from the outside world.
“Lots of people are seeking out (this video). They want to know what is he like, how can he be seen, is he still alive,” Algayer said in a phone interview. “I think this ends up helping to protect the territory.”
Brazil is home to several “uncontacted” peoples whose lands, like those of many indigenous groups, are increasingly under threat as the scramble for the resources of the Amazon intensifies. Last year, 71 people were killed in conflicts over land, the most since 2003, according to the Pastoral Land Commission, which tracks the violence.
The Indian Foundation has been monitoring the man since 1996, when it found him already living alone in the forest in Rondonia state. It believes encroachment and attacks by farmers and loggers that began in the 1980s decimated the man’s tribe. The last of his fellow tribesmen appeared to have been killed in an attack in 1995 or 1996. In recent years, though, no one has tried to enter the protected area where lives, the foundation said.
The team that tracks him calls him “the Indian of the hole” because of an unusual hole that he dug, Algayer said.
“We don’t know who he belongs to,” Algayer said, who adds that the man appears to be in good health and between 55 and 60.
The foundation’s policy is to allow such people to live their lives in isolation, but members of the foundation tried initially to make contact with the man since he was alone and they believed him at risk. The man made clear he wanted no contact, and the foundation has not tried again since 2005.
About every other month, a team enters his territory to look for signs that he is still alive and well. They don’t always see him — the last time they did was in 2016 — but they are able to tell he is still alive by traces he leaves behind. A mission in May found fresh footprints and a newly cut tree.
They have left tools and seeds for the man, and they have seen that he has planted corn, potatoes, papayas and bananas.
“This man, who is unknown to us, even after losing everything, including his people and a series of cultural practices, proved that, even like that, alone in the forest, it is possible to survive and resist joining mainstream society,” Algayer said in a statement distributed by the foundation. “I believe he is much better off than if, way back, he had made contact.”


Women bring light to remote villages on islands of Zanzibar

In this undated photo provided by XPRIZE, a child in a village in the Tanga region of Tanzania learns to read from a tablet using open-sourced software that would easily be downloaded by illiterate children to teach themselves to read. (AP)
Updated 21 May 2019
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Women bring light to remote villages on islands of Zanzibar

  • Women are almost twice as likely as men to have no education, and are less likely to own a land or have access to a bank account, according to a Tanzania-wide government survey in 2016

KINYASINI, Tanzania: A s a single mother, Salama Husein Hajja was low in the pecking order in her village in Tanzania and struggling to eke out a living for her family as a farmer.
But now she hopes to gain status and a stable income after being trained as a community solar engineer for a project bringing light to scores of rural villages where no homes are connected to electricity on the islands of Zanzibar.
Grandmothers and single mothers — many of whom have never learned to read or write — are among those being trained under the program which they say could transform lives in their poor fishing and farming communities.
“We struggle a lot to get lighting,” said Hajja, 36, a vegetable farmer and mother of three children from a village on Unguja, the largest and most populated island in the Zanzibar archipelago.
“When you don’t have electricity, you can’t do many things like teaching children. It forces you to use a lamp. The smoke is harmful, the eyes and the chest are affected.
“When the electricity is there, it’s better.”
Life is challenging for women in Zanzibar, a semi-autonomous region of Tanzania made up of numerous islands where half the population lives below the poverty line.
Women are almost twice as likely as men to have no education, and are less likely to own a land or have access to a bank account, according to a Tanzania-wide government survey in 2016.
Many poorer and rural families also lack access to electricity, compounding the challenges they face.
The island region’s entire energy grid depends on an underground cable connecting it to the mainland which was damaged in 2009, plunging it into darkness for three months.
Furthermore, only about half of houses in Zanzibar are connected to mains power, with many of the remainder forced to rely on polluting fuel lamps for light.

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“We only use a lamp inside,” said Aisha Ali Khatib, a mother of nine, training as a solar engineer alongside Hajja at the Barefoot College in Kinyasini village on Unguja.
“The lamp uses paraffin ... Buying one spoon of paraffin is 200 shillings ($0.09) but I can go for two days without making 200 shillings.”
Solar power offers solutions to connect rural villages with little prospect of getting mains power and increase resilience and sustainability.
Millions of people across sub-Saharan Africa are getting access to electricity through off-grid renewables, the International Energy Agency said last year, which forecasted strong demand to boost growth in the sector up to 2022.
The solar training scheme offered by Barefoot College, a social enterprise that began in India and is now working in East Africa, also focuses specifically on training women.
The project was designed to address the fact that women are much less able to leave their villages due to poverty and family links while also empowering women in Tanzania’s male-dominated society by offering them decently paid work.
Communities in participating villages are asked to nominate two women aged between 35 and 55 to leave their families and travel to the college to train as engineers.
Many of those chosen lack formal education, but they are recognized as people who can command authority and who are deeply embedded in the life of their villages.
“When you educate a woman, you educate a whole community,” said Fatima Juma Hajji, a solar engineer trainer at Barefoot college in Zanzibar.
“When you educate a man, he will not stay in the village, he will go away but when you educate a woman, she goes back to her village and helps improve.”
Women on the project spend five months living and training at the college, after which they return to their villages and set up solar lighting systems for their family and neighbors.
Households pay a few dollars a month for power – a cheaper option than buying paraffin or electricity from the grid.
Some of the money is used to pay the engineers a salary in return for maintaining the village’s equipment and funds raised can also be plowed back into community projects.
Women on the scheme said they had benefitted by gaining a stable income stream, and a new sense of independence and respect within their villages.
“We have been given a better life because after we leave here, we will be engineers and will go back to teach others,” said Hajja.
“When I go back I will have status. I will be knowledgeable and I will be proud.” ($1 = 2,300.0000 Tanzanian shillings) (Writing by Sonia Elks @soniaelks; Editing by Belinda Goldsmith Please credit the Thomson Reuters Foundation, the charitable arm of Thomson Reuters, that covers humanitarian news, women’s and LGBT+ rights, human trafficking, property rights, and climate change.