The Nile Project: Bringing the River Basin Together and to the World

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“I would like to state this:
That Nile water that God has given you,
Don’t fight among you just for it,
But it might help you all and you might all protect it.”

-“Uruzi Nil” (Burundi)

People have gathered and settled near rivers, lakes and coasts for millennia. As much as these water sources have the power to unite and build communities, they can also divide and create conflict when resources become sparse. In the East African Nile River Basin, the underdeveloped countries in the region often struggle to cooperate and overcome environmental hurdles. The ramifications of colonialism left the area around the world’s longest river paralyzed by complex and politicized water conflicts.

According to The Nile Project, this is part of a greater disconnect between these nations. “In east Africa, even though we’re neighbors, even though the Nile River connects eleven countries, we actually don’t know each other that well,” co-founder Meklit Hadero told Seattle’s KEXP 90.3. Hadero, an Ethiopian-American musician, joined forces with Egyptian ethnomusicologist Mina Girgis to create The Nile Project, which provides educational programs, leadership prizes, fellowships and cultural outreach to promote unity in the region as well as bring international attention to the water conflicts in the basin.We strengthen institutional capacity not by giving money to governments like the World Bank does,” says Girgis, “but by supplementing the governmental capacity with citizen, civil society and private sector capacity by engaging (inspiring, educating and empowering) them to understand and address the cultural, social, economic, and environmental challenges to the Nile’s sustainability.”

Founded in 2011, The Nile Project collective (comprised of musicians from various basin countries) goes on extensive international tours, not only to perform but to educate and inspire multicultural efforts. They hold workshops, visit college campuses and elementary schools, and take residencies in various East African countries spreading their message. “We’re modeling the kind of relationship that we’d like to see in East Africa,” says Hadero.

“Who besides you could’ve gathered the people,
We rise to the heights, come down to the gravel,
Come closer to me beloved, come closer to me,
Bring your people’s goodness, enrich me,
Come closer to me beloved, come closer to me,
Break down your barriers, rise to me,
Who besides you could’ve gathered the people,
We rise to the heights, come down to the gravel.”
-“Gharib Ley” (Arabic)

Images provided by The Nile Project.

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