A better world is possible



In the wake of the World Social Forums, especially the one celebrated in Nairobi, Kenya, this episode witnesses the work of organised civil societies which try to improve the living conditions of millions of human beings around the world who are condemned to exclusion. Who are and what the beliefs are of the thousands of men and women that fight to eradicate hunger and promote human rights world-wide.



Voice over

We arrived in Africa with a sense of nostalgia overcoming us. This is where our journey was to end after two years of travelling through all the continents, camera in hand, portraying the poor farmers of this world, gathering testimony of their desperation but also of their dignity and their tireless struggle.

Our journey had followed the path set by social movements and by the World Forums organised by civil society as essential platforms for reflection, debate, and the presentation of cooperative alternatives for the building of a better world. We had filmed in Istanbul, Caracas, Porto Alegre, Athens, Rome, Riga, Valparaiso, Almeria, Zaragoza, and Hong Kong, among other places, and now the filming of our documentary series THE BEATS OF THE LAND was coming to an end here in Nairobi, Kenya, where the seventh World Social Forum was to take place.

Koliang Palebele – CNCPRT president, Chad (World Social Forum, Nairobi)

They are capable of fixing the problem, of contributing to the management of this country. They are capable of resolving the problem of poverty with the resources we have. So I think the World Social Forum is a place where we can really build this world.

Pedro Zerolo – PSOE Federal Secretary of Social Movements and NGO Relations, Spain (Karatu, Tanzania)

The problems that different parts of the world experience are not exactly the same, say those of sub-Saharan Africa and those of North Africa. Nowadays, the problems in Africa are not the same as those in Latin America, or Europe, therefore the fact that there may be forums addressing different territories, different problems, is not a bad thing, as long as there is dialogue, sharing, it’s always enriching. But we shouldn’t forget that if these forums have been set up as channels with large assemblies of militant men and women fighting for a different and better world, we must keep meeting, at least once a year, somewhere in the world, to share these ideas, to get together, to listen to each other.

Carlos Taíbo – Professor and writer (Universidad Autónoma de Madrid)

The World Social Forums have two distinct facets. One very healthy, in the sense that they offer a very interesting venue for exchanging ideas and experiences, as well as a mirror for worldwide media, but I’ve also always stressed that they have another more delicate dimension, which is that they end up substituting many social movements. In other words, the World Forums, or anti-summits, only make sense if beforehand there are active social movements. We run a great risk of favouring this type of structure, forgetting that the future of these activist movements is not to be found in Nairobi or Porto Alegre but in the daily sordid work done in poor neighbourhoods and villages, and this is important.

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After spending the morning in the Keniata International Conference Centre getting our accreditation papers for the Forum, we leave Nairobi in search of the open land. The stereotype of the arid, desertified Africa does not apply here. Surprising is the lushness of the landscape, the intense green of its giant trees whose canopies cover the African sky, the bright purple of the majestic bougainvillea... the vision of a tropical forest similar to that of Venezuela, Columbia or Brazil... how nature unites us.

We film abandoned coffee fields, enormous extensions of unproductive land in a country where 50% of the population live on the edge of extreme poverty. The collapse of coffee prices caused by the ruthless dumping of multinational agribusiness has been the ruin of thousands of small producers.

Koliang Palebele

The problem of peasantry in Chad today, as everybody knows, the extreme poverty of this peasantry impedes them from dealing with the problems they must confront nowadays. Currently... African peasantry, in Chad in particular... has enormous difficulties, because... everything that is produced... they cannot survive on what they produce... and they can’t raise healthy children on what they produce... they cannot send their children to school on what they produce... they cannot deal with emergency situations at home... they cannot house themselves adequately, they cannot clothe themselves adequately, they cannot feed themselves adequately.

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The following morning we meet up with Andrés Perelló, socialist Member of Parliament and dear friend. He has arrived with a delegation of members of the regional parliament of Valencia, spanning the major Spanish political parties: PP, PSOE and IU. They will participate in the World Parliamentary Forum being held these days along with the WSF.

Andres Perelló – Member of the Regional Parliament of Valencia, Spain (World Social Forum, Nairobi)

The problem is that the people in the traditional parties currently in charge of analysing these problems don’t have the necessary perspective because their personal experience and their personal interests are a barrier. And I’ll say it again; they cannot form part of the process because this process overwhelms them.

Carlos Sommaruga – Member of Parliament, Switzerland (World Social Forum, Nairobi)

As a member of a national parliament, we can see, during each parliamentary session, that neo-liberal or liberal forces are dominating our parliaments. And the occasion to unite these parliamentary forces that believe in the possibility of social transformation, a transformation made through parliamentary channels, is in a special place, the World Forum, where members of parliament can brainstorm strategies, parliamentary strategies, where we put together our experience, exchange ideas, and see what those common actions are that can be undertaken in various parliaments, whether they be European, Latin American or African.

Pedro Zerolo

If there’s something political parties can learn it’s to participate in the citizen movements, to participate in the organizations, the NGO’s, without trying to take control but independently, positioning themselves as just another equal member, something which isn’t difficult... which IS difficult, because that hasn’t exactly been the traditional dynamic of political parties.

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At dinnertime we meet Lhesan, our Kenyan guide.

Lhesan is an immense Masai whose spectacular smile competes in intensity with his physique. Lhensa means rain in Swahili, the official language of Kenya, and he has really been like holy water for his family. As an only son with six sisters, he tells us his life story. Long before Kenya and its exotic safaris became popular among the package holidays of travel agencies, and even before the NGOs deployed their humanitarian missions in the region, some Spaniards went to the Masai village where Lhesan was born and raised. They were dazzled by the boy with the infinite smile and they decided to sponsor him directly. They financed his secondary and university studies in Nairobi, then, in Barcelona, they took him in to further his education and learn Spanish.

He is lively and smart as a whip but also calm and stunning like a giraffe backlit by one of those amazingly beautiful African savannah sunsets that we were fortunate enough to film in the Nairobi National Park. Lhesan makes a good living as a tour guide for Spanish and latinate groups. He’s paying for the education of three of his sisters. They too will have a chance at a better life thanks to Lhesan and to the generosity of a group of wandering Spaniards who changed the fate a Masai child so many years ago. Lhesan is the living proof that education is the best tool for fighting against poverty in the world. And he has been able to maintain a balance. He does not reject his tribal identity, nor his customs and spirituality. He loves returning to his village and spending time with family where he is an authentic Masai warrior, free in the intense cosmos of African nature.

Pedro Avendaño – Technical director of the World Forum of Fish Harvesters and Fish Workers (World Social Forum, Nairobi)

We share with specific international organisations, social movements and networks the concern over the building of a new world, the building of a more humane world, a more caring world, where from the point of view of fishing, we have contributed to issues such as food security and sovereignty, a new way of building and living democracy, a new way of understanding citizenship and collective responsibility, a new role for the state, and a rediscovery of social responsibility on a national and international level. The fishing forum has participated in all the World Forums; we have presented the reality of small scale fishing, and also the possibility of building a new fishing order.

Voice over

The World Forum of Fish Harvesters and Fish Workers held meetings with their counterparts from several countries of the continent: Tanzania, Senegal, Chad, the Congo, Burkina Faso... and we meet up with them. Pedro Avendaño and Marío Ahumada (Director and Executive Secretary of the Forum) have, with the fisher folk, toured the shores of Lake Victoria, the desecrated scenario of the splendid documentary DARWIN’S NIGHTMARE. When the lake was massively stocked with Nile Perch, in the hopes of creating an export industry for eastern markets, a humanitarian disaster was unleashed upon the area. The perch devoured native species that were fished by communities around the lake. As professor Pedro Arrojo has said, “after the fish die off, humans start to die off, too.”

Pedro Avendaño

Yes, it is true that fishing communities must go out further and further. Why? Because in those coastal areas further out, where there are... delicate zones of reproduction, there’s a great number of species which are edible, and I would say that it’s in the industry’s interest to go to those areas, work those places, occupy those reserves for small scale fishing, and obviously obtain greater economic benefits. So the defence of fishing communities isn’t only about economics - which of course is very important - but about the preservation of resources, the preservation of life, over the long run in coastal areas of the world.

Voice over

Eugenia Mahiques, an Argentinean interpreter, and Juan Pablo Ramos, a translator from Spain, had arranged the meeting. They are members of Babels, an international network of volunteers who cover the translating needs of the World Social Forums. They make it possible for us to understand each other... that Africans can express themselves in their mother tongues and their messages reach our hearts, intact.

Eugenia Mahiques – Babels Network Interpreter (World Social Forum, Nairobi)

That’s what Babels is, a network of volunteer interpreters which came about as an idea in Florence. It... took shape in Paris in 2003, I think it was, and then it reached its peak in India, in the 2004 Mumbai Social Forum. Yes, there are many technical problems, we are working in booths, not for multinational corporations, so we are usually both interpreters and activists, and we look for the capacity to work in a booth but also for political awareness, we’re not just looking for a job to be done, or for a professional in the sector who suddenly gets the chance to go to Kenya. We need an interpreter who knows the importance of conveying the message and whose role is key, because what we need in this globalised world is the globalisation of information, and what we cannot have is just the globalisation of that information which the official establishment wishes. So what we do more than anything is try to convey the message and unite cultures. Because the neo-liberal system affects in equal measure Latin America, Africa, Asia, even Europe - because the fourth world also exists in Europe. So we try to unite forces so that everybody knows they are not alone, and that resistance can be made together.

Voice over

All World Social Forums start off with a march for Peace and Social Justice. It’s a clear January morning in Nairobi. The itinerary starts in Kibera, the biggest shantytown in Africa, where over 800,000 people live.

Carlos Marcilla – Caritas priest, Spain (World Social Forum, Nairobi)

Kibera is certainly something that’s... very impressive. Impressive because it is said, and with well founded reasons, that it is the most populated slum in Africa. We’re talking between 700 hundred and 800 thousand people. It’s a slum which has grown considerably in a brief period of time. So many people arrived so suddenly in such a small area, that the situation is really an explosive one. From a sanitary point of view, hygiene, cohabitation, and there are people from many cultures there, from many nations, of different races, with all that this, with all that this implies, culturally and psychologically speaking. It stunned me, it really stunned me, because I did see there, in condensed form... so much suffering, so much quote: so much “misery”, that it’s a bit like a symbol of the neo-liberal system that wants to promote this, and that’s incredible, isn’t it?

Voice over

The African organisations are gathered there, ready to lead the march. It is often said that Africa is a hopeless continent from which hope and the future have fled, but it’s not true. We are witness to an articulate and committed civil society and to the vigour of its grass roots.

Pedro Avendaño

Here in Nairobi, I was somewhat afraid of finding an almost non-existent civil society. To my surprise they are social movements, there are social movements also backed by the church, which plays a very important role in Kenya, and which is not the case in other parts of the world. You have to take this dynamic into account. And the Social Forum is here as support, to give a... a certain push to the social movements here.

Pilar Estébanez – Honorary President of Médicos Mundo (Karatu, Tanzania)

That’s why I think all these social Forums, this movement that is being created, are important, are important to say enough is enough. We shouldn’t keep spreading the idea that Africa is dying. Because it’s not dying. It’s only dying in certain areas where we don’t want to give a certain medicine, and where there’s war. And war, we all know and we’re not going to start analysing here, are devastating. Where there’s war and where there’s famine. And famines are in specific areas. But in Africa, in places which don’t have war or AIDS, life expectancy has increased. But we’ve also got to protect certain tribes and maintain their cultures.

Pedro Zerolo

Here in Africa, the social fabric has been strengthened, and we have to remember that this social fabric is fundamentally weaved by women. And that is good as it includes the gender perspective. I belong to those who believe that the future of Africa is to be found in its women.

Voice over

The number of women and children is startling. Mothers whose babies are wrapped onto their backs in multi-coloured sheets are participating in the march. Women who are proud of their race are at the forefront of the mobilisation, exhibiting their green tops that state Another World is Possible, and children with enormous, sad eyes which speak of tragedies from a very silent depth. Child slaves, child soldiers, victims of sexual abuse and violence, mutilated and abandoned children. Africa is a continent of orphans... The religious organisations that work in the area know it all too well.

Carlos Marcilla

How is it possible, that in the 21st century, we still have these social situations. I was certainly struck by my colleagues’ presence there. They don’t have grandiose aims. What they hope to provide are measures of hope. In other words, when a colleague tells me that here, some 35 to 40 percent are affected by AIDS. The drama of a mother or father who dies is, what’s going to become of the child left behind? And these people, with very few means, try to provide an answer to these cries of agony, and they provide an answer of hope.

Voice over

We often forget than another church exists... that of Liberation and the missionaries who are with the poor, the sick, and the outcasts. The work done by these men and women in forgotten continents, practicing the real gospel according to Christ, is worthy of respect and admiration.

The march is always, for us, the most fulfilling time of the Forums, the most intensely emotional moment. Among thousands of people, feeling the flow of a benign and collective energy. Being part of a strong and shining movement which wants to change the world. I am reminded of the words of the Brazilian archbishop Dom Demetrio Valentini who, when opening the World Forum on Migrations in Rivas Vacía Madrid in Spain, said, “Utopia is urgent and necessary”. In this march, under a roasting sun, while I portray the African women and children I realise it is they who are the real flowers of Africa.

The Forum took place in the Moi International Sports Complex, some 15 kilometres from downtown Nairobi, a type of African Olympic village. The place was ideal to host the 66,000 participants who had registered for the event. Under the white tents set up around the gigantic stadium were held the many conferences, seminars, and workshops which studied and confronted the great challenges of our time: poverty and hunger, human rights, natural resources, health, education, migration, gender, children, climate change, science and technology at the service of ethics and development, democracy, peace...

Pedro Zerolo

Of the World Social Forum, of the Social Forum of Nairobi, I would highlight many things, such as the fight against poverty, the call for decent housing, for peace... There’s one cry that surprised me, a cry that I heard and that was unanimous: the cry against political corruption. A cry in defence of a right of citizenship which I believe is fundamental: the right to good government, the right to good governance. It’s the first time this has been cried out so loudly and so clearly. And this is in response to the extension of corruption in Africa and the world over. And it must be made very clear: all citizens have a fundamental right to good government and to good governance. And if we don’t have these our rights are being violated. Political corruption is a violation of people’s fundamental rights. It undercuts the rights of citizens. Why? Because it’s a frontal assault on the right of equal opportunity.

Voice over

A Forum is a melting pot of knowledge and exchange of ideas and experiences, but it is most of all a burst of humanity in all its forms and expressions. At the Forum of Nairobi the atmosphere was vibrant, colourful, cheerful... Live music at every corner, African dances to the rhythm of the ancestral sound of black percussion.

Nairobi was the Forum of children. They were everywhere, creating an atmosphere of bells and music. At times this suggested a heart wrenching melody which seemed to come from the depths of the planet. We noticed it in Korogocho, a slum in the outskirts, a twenty minute walk on dirt sinewy paths from the Forum, where more than 120,000 people live. A Kenyan NGO, staffed with Kenyan young men and women who were able to get out of the slums and get an education, is now working in the settlement, dignifying its school and the nutrition of its children. They guide us on this tour from which I will never completely return.

Korogocho was built on a horrific rubbish dump, the stench of which you notice a kilometre before entering its streets. Faecal waters and piles of rubbish mark the limits of the neighbourhood. So much misery concentrated in such a small hell. I think of what we are not seeing, the ill, the elderly, and the vulnerable to misery in such a miserable place. Because what we do see is a festival of children who chant their welcome to us as we walk by. How are you? How are you? they ask in unison while they follow the camera lens as if it were the flute of Hamelin. A prodigious feat indeed, among this giant heap of manure, is the neatness of their hair and the tidiness of their school uniforms. The school has no electricity and the classrooms are 4 square metre cubicles. There’s obviously no running water, but there are children, many children who have a right to a better life. For 3 euros a month we can guarantee them an education through the age of 16.

Korongocho is a brutal example of misery, and a devastating indictment of the present model of development, savage and dehumanising. Our very own hideous portrait. The Portrait of Dorian Grey of our civilisation. The farmers expelled from their way of life fatten the poverty belts of the big cities. I’ll bet there are rats that live in greater opulence in the gutters of our first world cities.

Carlos Taíbo

I think that in the wake of the anti-globalization movements there has been a rebirth of volunteer work, of donating one’s work, one’s commitment, and this is important as it give rise to a radical response to something that once again has been missing in what I will loosely call the traditional left, and which can be seen today in the great political and trade union machinery characterised by the civil service status of those who work for it. I think this had led in a fundamental way to the defeatism of this machinery, which is more concerned with preserving the jobs within than in introducing real change in the way the world works. By contrast, in the social movements there is a clear defence of voluntary work, and an almost biological rejection of those who have a fundamental interest in holding the job.

Voice over

Miguel Angel Fernández (the PSOE federal secretary coordinator of social movements and NGO relations), Pedro Zerolo and Pilar Estébanez (Madrid City Council members) were going to visit Karatu, a rural area of Tanzania where Médicos del Mundo are setting up diagnostic, treatment and prevention plans for HIV, one of the horsemen of the African apocalypse. Without having to think about it, Vicent Garcés and I agreed to go along.

Pilar Estébanez

AIDS arrived in the west, then came the anti-viral medication, and these countries only thought of themselves, and forgot about Africa, when the situation there was well known. And what has happened? AIDS has reached parts of Africa where the inhabitants will disappear, something we have seen on our tour, where there are places with only orphans left. So what’s happening is that by omission, we are encouraging genocide.

Voice over

Twice our precious transport suffered flat tyres. A “road movie” of emotions. While Edwards, our beloved and efficient guide, resolved the transport contingencies, children appeared from the roadside. They were invisible and suddenly appeared out of the shade of a majestic acacia tree, strategically isolated in the vastness of the savannah.

At the second flat tyre, three girls appeared, the youngest greeting us with clean and sunny smiles, but the oldest, an adolescent, did so with a worrying stare which transmitted a dark, ancestral pain, a grief which presaged dark storm clouds. And so it was... the clouds above us burst, and a torrential rain fell upon the African soil. It didn’t last long but it seemed like a black hole in time, followed by a deep golden sunlight, like the chariot of fire of the God Hermes, which illuminated the sacred heights of Mount Kilimanjaro.

The day after our arrival, early in the morning, we visited the Médicos Mundo centre in a rural village. We meet Manuel Galán (area coordinator) and Inés Zamanillo (medical aid worker) who are carrying out a fight against AIDS, incorporated into the Tanzanian health system. Like them, hundreds of thousands of aid workers are making utopia possible.

Inés Zamanillo – Aid worker for Medicos Mundo (Karat, Tanzania)

Why did I choose a medical career? Well, I’ve always been interested in medicine, in contact with patients, with people, in medicine as a way of understanding people, yes, of understanding their problems, not like in pure science, like in physiology and the pathology of illness, both of which are also good but I was also attracted by the human contact in the context of dealing with illness and pain and the rest... so that more than medicine I thought it would be a good profession through which to approach this other... this other... world if you will.

Sergio Escribano – CERAI Technical Director (Forum on Migrations, Rivas Vaciamadrid, Spain)

I’ve always been of the opinion that NGO’s were perverse instruments of ... of this neo-liberal system which is... oppressing a... a majority of the world population. And that NGO’s are instruments through which this system recognises that it has a series of... of debts and... of negative consequences at all levels, social, economic, environmental... but that it has these little tools, the NGOs, which try to deal with the negative consequences of this model.

Magdalena Kropiwnicka – Aid worker for Action Aid (FAO conference, Riga, Leetonia)

Here at Action Aid, I think we try to raise maximum awareness, in Europe and in the north, of rural problems, and, although these should be the concern of governments, we are trying to shift these problems to the core of international cooperation policies. These problems have been seriously marginalised because... presently the focus is on the problem of terrorism, on security, on free trade policies.

Voice over

We visit the Ngorongoro, which means the sounds of the cow bells that the Masai use for their cattle. It’s a natural park of incredible beauty, the grand finale of our journey, when we penetrate a lost world where the heart of the planet beats with mysterious strength. The “Tamaduni” (Mother Nature in Swahili) blankets us, and we become part of her eternal energy among pastel flamengos taking flight, majestic elephants, playful zebras and an orchestra of hippopotamus who welcome us with water works.

Pilar Estébanez

78% of the population here lives from agriculture from rural activities, from animals, so this climate change, caused primarily by the developed world, is what is causing this in Africa. So of course we must fight climate change, but the developed world wants this to be fought from the third world, because the developed world knows it needs the lungs, like what’s happening in Central America, with the San Juan lungs, for example. This San Juan area is needed by the world, like the jungles of Brazil. African forests are also needed. So, what do we have to do? Pay for them. Pay to maintain the lungs and the oxygen, because we have finished off our own lungs and we need this oxygen.

Voice over

Nacupenda means to love passionately. Love. Nacupenda, Africa. And on the prairies of this cosmic crater which restores in us the essence of life, we have a profound understanding that a better world is possible and necessary.


Direction and Screenplay – Sonia Llera

Direction of content – Vincent Garcés

Executive production – Sonia Llera, Manolo Rodríguez, Sergio Escribano

Photography and camera – Sonia Llera

Editing – Javier Cordero

Original Music – Ivan Lorenzana

Sound and mixing – Marco de Gregori Astrici


Graphics and Headings – Jesus de Matos, Marcela Pelegrin

“Etalonaje” ?  - Miguel Tejerina

Production direction – Cruz Ortega

Production aid – Eva Nistal

Special collaboration (in order of appearance) – Koliang Palebele, Pedro Zerolo, Carlos Taíbo, Andrés Perelló, Carlos Sommaruga, Pedro Avendaño, Eugenia Mahiques, Carlos Marcilla, Pilar Estébanez, Inés Zamanillo, Sergio Escribano, Magdalena Kropiwnicka


A better world is possible