Women for Expo 2015 – Interview with Ikal Angelei: Growth is more than just GDP

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In African development, it is easy to get hung up over economic statistics and figures when the most important element should be improving peoples’ standards of living.

 The Gibe III dam is a pertinent example of this phenomenon. Ikal Angelei, founder of the Friends of Lake Turkana and winner of the Goldman Environmental prize, discusses in this interview for Women for Expo, a project promoted by Expo Milano 2015, her advocacy surrounding the dam and how she thinks “it is important how we define economic development”.

The Gibe III dam, currently undergoing construction found on the OMO River, is an Ethiopian government project and poses serious environmental dangers to people in the region. According to the Goldman Environmental Prize, the dam threatens to reduce the water-level of Lake Turkana “”. Such drastic changes would pose very serious challenges to numerous people in the region. After hearing about the dam’s construction, Angelei founded the group friends of Lake Turkana in 2008 to advocate against the construction of the dam.

Could you describe the how Friends of Lake Turkana and your fight against the Gibe III dam came into being?

The organisation was originally a pressure group that looked at the conflicts involving water-access and land-issues surrounding the building of the dam. Over time, we began to move towards more policy-level questions, with grassroots organising and also dealing with international financial institutions. To do this, we needed to have a more formal structure where we could effectively work with and represent the local, arid communities. As for my own involvement, I started out as a local member of the community and although I had never worked on any of these issues before, I had engaged with the local fishing community and witnessed the effect of the dam on the area.

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