Life on Kilimanjaro

An ancient way of life threatened by climate change.

By Ephemera documentary

Angelo Chiacchio

Mount Kilimanjaro (2018) by Angelo ChiacchioEphemera documentary

Mount Kilimanjaro is the highest mountain in Africa and the main source of water for the 40km2 wide area of the Pangani river basin in Tanzania. Known for its incredible biodiversity, Kilimanjaro is also an important source of food, fuel, and building material, as well as a place of great significance for locals.

Despite being a UNESCO World Heritage Site, this natural wonder is under threat. Summers are getting hotter and dryer. Winters colder. The level of rainfall on the mountain is decreasing, as is the amount of water flowing down to nearby villages. 

Aerial vie of Shimbwe (2018) by Angelo ChiacchioEphemera documentary

In February 2018, photographer Angelo Chiacchio - on his journey to the world's most fragile places - visited Shimbwe, a small village that sits on the slopes of Mount Kilimanjaro.

LIFE Photo Collection

Mount Kilimanjaro in 1930

Between 1912 (Klute, 1920) and 2000 (Thompson et al., 2002), the snow cap of Mount Kilimanjaro lost 82% of its volume,  It has continued to shrink ever since. According to recent scientific studies, you may no longer be able to see the cap of Africa’s highest mountain by 2033.

Kilimanjaro map by Angelo ChiacchioEphemera documentary

Sunrise in Shimbwe - aerial view by Angelo ChiacchioEphemera documentary

Sunrise in Shimbwe
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At sunrise, the village wakes up as daylight gradually reveals houses immersed in dense vegetation. 

Aerial view of Shimbwe fields by Angelo ChiacchioEphemera documentary

A fertile land

Local tribes have been taking advantage of the favorable microclimate to work the land for centuries.

Shimbwe's main street by Angelo ChiacchioEphemera documentary

Just after sunrise, the main road bustles. The dusty drive connects the regional capital of Moshi to the National Park’s southern border.

Moto taxi in Shimbwe by Angelo ChiacchioEphemera documentary

Moto-taxi

At the bus station, young drivers wait for the day’s first riders.. Cheap motorcycles from China have made it easier for them to start their moto-taxi businesses. 

Woman from Shimbwe by Angelo ChiacchioEphemera documentary

The Chagga

Shimbwe is home to the Chagga tribe. Their life depends on the mountain.

Breakfast at Mama Clara's (2018) by Angelo ChiacchioEphemera documentary

Daily life

Mama Clara and her family are having breakfast. The Chagga live a simple life centered around taking care of their land and household.

Daily life in Shimbwe (2018) by Angelo ChiacchioEphemera documentary

Chagga song by Angelo ChiacchioEphemera documentary

A group of Chagga women and men sing while celebrating a marriage. 

Materuni Waterfalls by Angelo ChiacchioEphemera documentary

The water problem

The Chagga lifestyle embodies the relative abundance of water they have compared to other parts of the region. Access to water in the village has traditionally been managed by canal committees, but this has become a difficult task as the population increases and water becomes scarce.

Materuni falls by Angelo ChiacchioEphemera documentary

Materuni falls near Shimbwe

Assessing water streams on Kilimanjaro by Angelo ChiacchioEphemera documentary

Local institutions organize regular expeditions into the Park to assess water resources and plan for improvements.

Bertin (2018) by Angelo ChiacchioEphemera documentary

A night in Shimbwe by Angelo ChiacchioEphemera documentary

A night in Shimbwe
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The night brings calm.  After a simple meal, everyone retires to bed, as they will be up again at sunrise.

Shimbwe primary school by Angelo ChiacchioEphemera documentary

Conclusion

The education of new generations plays an important role in civic life. At Shimbwe primary schools, students learn as much about math as they do about agriculture and the environment. These children provide hope for the future of this fascinating and endangered region. 

Terra by Angelo ChiacchioEphemera documentary

Explore more

To learn more about Tanzania tribes, see also the story about "The last Maasai in Maji Moto"

Partnership by Angelo ChiacchioEphemera documentary

This story was created with the support of Art Works for Change, a nonprofit organization that creates contemporary art exhibitions and storytelling projects to address critical social and environmental issues.

Credits: Story

Written, shot and produced by Angelo Chiacchio
Copy editing: Al Grumet, Rajesh Fotedar

With the support of: Google Arts & Culture, Art Works for Change

Thanks to: C-re-aid, Freya Candel, Fleur Weber, Bertin Mkami, Viktor Kinyaiya

Credits: All media
The story featured may in some cases have been created by an independent third party and may not always represent the views of the institutions, listed below, who have supplied the content.
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