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Student doco on the porters of Kilimanjaro

The whole film crew in front of the mountain

Four students from Linköping University travelled to Mt Kilimanjaro to make a documentary on the porters there. It ended up a dramatic and difficult trip, where they experienced climate change at close range, caught malaria and almost got thrown out of the country.

“We made the film so we could tell the story of the men who work as porters and guides on Mt Kilimanjaro, as a way of helping them,” explains Jonathan Cygnaeus, one of the project leaders for the film.

He is one of four engineering students who managed the project from start to finish. The three others are Linus Dunkers, Amaru Ubillus and Tor Nilsson Öhrn. (In photo above)

The porters portrayed in the filmThe porters have lived their entire lives by Kilimanjaro, guiding and helping tourists up the mountain. In the film they leave for their last ascent of Kilimanjaro. They talk about the changes that they have noticed in the local countryside.

“It’s about the dramatic reduction of snow on Kilimanjaro’s glacier, and the extensive deforestation,” explains Jonathan Cygnaeus.

Today, much of what was once glacier is now bare land. This is a problem for the local population, who collect their water from there. In the future there can be water shortages.

The documentary was filmed in the summer of 2010, and the team faced some serious challenges. A contact in Tanzania helped them secure a guide, but because of problems with their visas they were nearly thrown out of the country. At one point they had to smuggle in a camera, and several of them caught malaria.

But in the end they were able to complete the project, and Jonathan Cygnaeus is happy with the results:

“No one else has done anything like this, with the minimal resources we had. It was a really exciting challenge.”

The idea for the film came up at a meeting with INUG - Engineers Without Borders – and the result is a 30-minute documentary.

INUG is an organisation without political or religious affiliations. Members devote their time and engagement to improve the living conditions of people in economically poor countries, and to strive for sustainable development. As the name indicates, it targets engineers and scientists. The four engineering students produced the film through INUG’s local division in Linköping.

The project was about highlighting environmental change on Mt Kilimanjaro by making a documentary. We also installed solar panels on the porters and collected donations in a Christmas bag that we placed in Colosseum on Campus Valla.

In the film, the porters recall the time when the snow cover on the mountain was several metres deep. Global warming might be the cause of this change. And with the extensive deforestation of the region, carbon dioxide that otherwise would be bound in plants is now released to the atmosphere, where it aggravates global warming.

“But we don’t want to reveal anything about what happens. We want people to see the film,” says Jonathan Cygnaeus.

Some time has passed since the documentary was made, and INUG is now involved with other projects. “The Porters and the Mountain” was screened at LinTek’s Climate Week in 2003. It is also available on YouTube: Bärarna och berget

Text: Julia Bardh, student reporter
Photos: private


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Last updated: 2017-02-13