Across generations, ethnic tribes, religions and nationalities, the human race continues to derive vital lessons from ancient stories or prophesies, some of which use animals’ characters. An example of such a prophecy is the ‘Prophecy of the Condor and the Eagle’ whose nativity can be traced to South American communities. This prophecy has featured in a myriad of blogs written by authors such as John Perkins, Danfung Dennis, Ryan Andersen, just but to mention a few. The condor and the eagle are two different species of birds with different feeding necessities. The condor mainly feeds on animal carcasses whereas the eagle feeds on live animals such as rodents, fish, snakes and other small birds. The prophecy can be reviewed here (full read, Andersen, 2017).
Narrowing down the prophecy to the African Great Lakes context, we can use the eagle to refer to the upstream dwellers together with their activities, such as agriculture, mining, urbanization, deforestation and wetlands encroachment. The condor on the other hand can be interpreted to signify the downstream people and species (fish, insects, reptiles, other aquatic animals and plants) and whose activities and subsistence primarily depend on the existence and good health of the lakes, such as fishing, and those whose waters are relied upon for domestic uses. In this case, the upstream signifies the human activities undertaken on the upper catchments or zones of the lakes which negatively affect the lakes in a myriad of ways. In upstream zones for instance, high urbanization rates within the riparian zones of the lakes coupled with inadequate sewer systems across most regions results into discharge of raw domestic and industrial effluents into the lakes. Increased agricultural activities is characterized by increased soil disturbance and this increases the soil's susceptibility to erosion during rainy events. The eroded soil sediments get deposited into rivers emptying into the lakes. In addition, the conversion of wetlands into agricultural fields coupled with clearing forests to create more space for farming also contributes to more soil being deposited into the lakes during rainy seasons. The Mara, Yala, and Nyando wetlands are examples of wetlands which have been converted in some areas for agricultural activities. Wetlands in particular are known to be hotspots of biodiversity, huge carbon sinks and natural filters of river waters as they empty into lakes. All these activities have been associated with increased concentrations of pollutants into the lakes, increased greenhouse gas emissions and biodiversity loss. The downstream activities that can be linked to the condor and include fishing, tourism, trade and reliance of lake waters for domestic uses. The activities in upstream zones can easily lead to the impoverishment of downstream people by altering their source of livelihoods in that increased pollution into the lakes can lead to loss of some aquatic animals and plants, dwindling fish catch, growth of aquatic weeds such as water hyacinth which hampers navigation thereby limiting trade, and fishing and health complications on consumption of polluted provisions from the lakes and rivers. The encroachment of wetlands would lead to greenhouse gas emissions, and loss of habitats of some species causing biodiversity loss. These will in turn negatively affect the millions of people who depend on these lakes for their livelihoods.
It’s also interesting to note that in some cases, some African Great Lakes can also be the upstream zones to other lakes, rivers and communities. This means that increased levels of pollutants in those lakes will have a ripple effect to other lakes and rivers downstream as well as the subsequent millions of people and species which depend on them. For instance, increased levels of pollutants in Lake Victoria will cascade downwards all through the Nile river, affecting millions of people downstream in Uganda all the way to the Mediterranean Sea in Egypt via South Sudan and Sudan. Since the Victoria Nile feeds into Lake Albert from Lake Victoria, the people depending on Lake Albert too would be affected by pollution from Lake Victoria in both Uganda and Democratic Republic of Congo. The same would be realized in Lake Malawi in that the River Shire snakes out of the lake, draining her waters into the Zambezi River all the way to the Indian Ocean. For Lake Kivu, increased pollutants would be transferred to Lake Tanganyika via the Rusizi River, whereas the same would be transferred to the Congo River from Lake Tanganyika via the Lukuga River, a tributary from Lake Tanganyika which empties into the Congo River which snakes through to the Atlantic Ocean. On her part, the Semliki River would transfer pollutants from Lake Edward to Lake Albert.
However, both categories of people have the opportunity of coming together and walk together for posterity. This includes both upstream and downstream communities adopting a range of interventions. Upstream communities can for instance adopt interventions that are geared towards: minimizing soils and sediments from being discharged into rivers and lakes; protecting, conserving and managing natural wetlands in riparian zones of the lakes; channeling industrial and domestic effluents into sewer systems for treating rather than directly into rivers and lakes; curbing deforestation and planting more trees to sequester more carbon and reduce soil erosion and; reducing habitat losses at all levels. On their part, the downstream communities comprising of fishing community, recreational boating service providers and trading ships can avoid dumping wastes such as chemical wastes, plastics or metallic refuse directly into the lakes. The fishing community should also maintain on catching mature fish only to guarantee sustainability and diversity of fish species. Where possible, the fishermen and boat owners can switch to electrically powered boats to mitigate on discharge of fossil fuel particulate into the lakes. Finally, they can help manually remove floating plastic waste and other solids from the lake and dispose them at designated waste dumping bins within the riparian areas of the lakes. Such interventions when adopted at a local scale can result into huge positive impacts to the entire African Great Lakes spectrum. Perhaps, the Prophecy of the Condor and the Eagle is a timely reminder on the need for the people who are living either as the eagle or the condor to bring their minds and hearts together, for their interests, and also to maintain and improve the health of the African Great Lakes. So, is this the right time?
1. Andersen, Ryan. “The Eagle and The Condor Prophecy.” Pachamama Alliance, 05 Aug 2017, https://blog.pachamama.org/the-eagle-and-the-condor-prophecy
2. Danfung, Dennis. “People of the Condor and Eagle.” Institute of the Environment & Sustainability UCLA, https://www.ioes.ucla.edu/news/23932/
3. Perkins, John. “The Eagle and Condor Prophecy and The Virus.” John Perkins Blog, https://johnperkins.org/blog/latest-news/the-eagle-and-condor-prophecy-and-the-virus