Over the past six years, a group of twelve African civil society leaders have undertaken a transformative training process, blending wilderness experience and desk-based learning, western and African philosophical and legal traditions, advocacy strategies and practices for reviving indigenous knowledge systems.
Developed and led by Gaia and recommended by United Nations Harmony with Nature initiative, the transformative message of the course is that reviving and enhancing Earth-centred approaches to governance that comply with Nature’s laws is the way forward for Africa and globally.
“The training for Earth Jurisprudence Practitioners responds to the growing realisation in Africa that the continent has a rich cultural heritage of ecologically rooted traditions that it needs to draw on to forge a viable future before it is too late”, says Gaia’s Director, Liz Hosken, a co-facilitator of the training.
The course is part of wider global efforts to transition humanity from a destructive to a mutually enhancing relationship with the Earth. Rights of Nature cases, campaigns to recognise ecocide as a crime, work to revive eco-literate cultures and indigenous peoples’ struggles to defend their sacred territories are all part of this shift. These initiatives are underpinned by Earth Jurisprudence (EJ) and indigenous/traditional conceptions of law in Africa and beyond, which hold that humans are part of a lawful planetary system and must live by the laws of Nature.
Centuries of colonialism, globalisation and the expansion of the industrial growth economy have been and continue to unravel ecosystems and ecological knowledge and governance systems. These processes have brought us to our current dire situation of massive biodiversity loss, climate breakdown, pollution and food insecurity.
This course promotes Earth-centred laws and our traditional cultures that recognise the rights of other beings in Nature as a way to address these crises. Human beings are part and parcel of creation. When we recognise the rights of other beings in the web of life, to be, to enjoy their habitat and participate in evolutionary processes then we can begin to address these crises”
Dennis Tabaro an EJ practitioner from Uganda.
The 2017 graduates- from Kenya, Benin, Uganda, Ethiopia, South Africa and Zimbabwe – are each working with communities in their home countries to bring back indigenous seed diversity, protect sacred natural sites and revive the systems of Earth-centred governance that have enabled indigenous and land-based peoples to live in harmony with Nature for millennia.
The graduates are also playing a new and pivotal role in advocating for Earth-centred laws and policies at the pan-African level. In 2017 they successfully encouraged the African Commission to pass a radical new resolution calling on all African states to recognise and protect sacred natural sites – places of critical ecological, cultural and spiritual importance for the whole African continent, and a source of ecological knowledge and governance.
For each of the newly graduated practitioners, the course has been a journey ‘back to roots’; to their home villages, families and elders as well as the wider Earth community.
“We are all born barefoot lawyers for the Earth, but as we grow up we become so consumed by the so-called modern world, by the city, that we easily forget. As Africans many of us are born in communities that are embedded in Nature. This course has helped me to become myself again”, says Fassil Gebeyehu, one of the new graduates from Ethiopia.
Connected to one another and wells of deep knowledge, both new and old, Africa’s first Earth Jurisprudence Practitioners will now act as mentors to the next group of EJ students.
Hailing from Zimbabwe, Benin, Cameroon, South Africa, Ethiopia and Uganda, at the graduation ceremony in Nanyuki in July 2017, the women and men of the new group were welcomed to the path by the graduates. They are now on their own unique journey back to roots, whilst the graduates deepen their work for transformation, bringing new energy and momentum to the African Earth Jurisprudence movement as it continues to grow.
“We are not lacking in the dynamic forces needed to create the future. We live immersed in a sea of energy beyond all comprehension.”
We live in a time of multiple, complex crises. There are no easy answers. Working to uphold the health and diversity of our living planet is always rewarding, but we think you’ll agree it can sometimes feel like swimming against the stream. And yet like salmon we leap, and more often than you might expect, we make it. We invite you to make the next leap with us by making a donation of any size. Thank you for your solidarity.