Charles Gahire doesn’t look like the sort of man who often sports a matching T shirt and baseball cap. He wears his specs perched donnishly on his nose and is a distinguished naturalist and leader of the Rwandan caravan delegation. But today, like the rest of us, he is happily sporting a bright green cap - in the interests of raising climate change awareness.
‘If you are not aware, anyone can step on you,’ he tells me. ‘Once you are aware you can demand your rights.’
He is a charming, incredibly knowledgeable if rather depressing bus companion, often leaning across to point out how climate change has affected the Ugandan countryside, flashing past the window outside. And though he prefers to speak in measured, scientific language, he’s not above issuing the occasional dire warning. ‘If we continue burning fossil fuels, it will bring us to the brink of extinction,’ he says.
Rwanda and Uganda are among many of the countries on our route experiencing temperature rises due, in part, to climate change. In Rwanda, he explains, this is baking the marshland dry and causing insects and diseases which destroy staple crops to flourish.
Meanwhile, there is already anecdotal evidence from farmers of the kind of changing rainfall patterns that scientists have predicted will affect Africa in the future. When the rains do come they are sometimes too heavy or interspersed with periods of fierce sunshine, wrecking the harvest.
But though he paints a bleak picture, Charles sees both the Caravan and the UN talks as a source of hope and he is hoping to make his mark at Durban. Africa’s farmers couldn’t hope for a more formidable champion.
Listen to Ally's podcast
The Concert for Climate Justice strikes a chord for the Caravan of Hope in Kampala, Uganda. Ally reflects on how African musicians inspire activists before the caravan moves on to Kenya. Listen to this podcast here.