Feliciano dos Santos, a Mozambican musician who campaigns for clean water and sanitation, has been awarded a top environmental prize for using his music star status to raise awareness about health, water and HIV/Aids issues.
Santos will receive his award - the Goldman Environmental Prize, referred to as the Nobel Prize of grassroots environmentalism, today at a ceremony in San Francisco, US.
AdvertisementAccording to a report by BBC News, the award winning song that Santos and his band composed is about latrines, which has helped to raise awareness about sanitation among villagers.
In 1992, shortly after he had formed his band called Massukos, Unicef was running a project to promote slab latrines.
"We decided to release a little song to promote the slabs. The lyrics were: 'Mothers, listen to me; grandmothers, listen to me, she doesn't listen to me. The slab is so good; the slab is easy to clean'," he said.
As a result of the song, the demand for the latrines soared and the project struggled to cope with the number of people who wanted to get hold of one.
The success of the song prompted Unicef to approach the band to see if they would be interested in working for the project.
"I said no because we thought instead of doing this for Unicef, why not do this as a double project and use music to promote hygiene and sanitation," said Santos.
"I started using music when I realised that it was a good way to send a message and bring people together," he added.
In 1996, he set up his own NGO called 'Estamos', which encouraged villagers in Niassa to improve their living conditions through better sanitation.
By using music, the group sang about ways to keep a clean, healthy home; and helped people understand how poor sanitation had an impact on things like water and food supplies.
Estamos promoted low-cost, environmentally friendly sanitation that composted human waste into fertiliser.
Families that used the system reported fewer diseases, while the soil produced enough crops to not only feed everyone but left a small surplus that could be sold.
Also, crop harvests increased where farmers used human compost.
According to Santos, the 150,000 dollars prize money would not change his life, but it would help focus attention on what was happening on the ground in Mozambique and Africa.
"I realised that music had this power, so for this reason we thought it would be good to mix it with what we wanted to achieve," he said.
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