You are browsing the archive for Kenya.

It’s All About the Process

11:09 am in Uncategorized by borderjumpers

Cross posted from Worldwatch Institute’s Nourishing the Planet.

4078989833_5b27ed9cb9_m.jpgZambian grocery stores are filled with processed foods from around the world, from crackers made in Argentina and soy milk from China to popular U.S. breakfast cereals. In addition to these foreign foods, however, are also variety of locally made and processed products, including indigenous varieties of organic rice, all-natural peanut butter and honey from the It’s Wild brand.

It’s Wild was started by the Community Markets for Conservation (COMACO) over 30 years ago to preserve and protect wildlife. But the organization soon learned that in order to protect wildlife, it would need to address the lack of income sources for local communities that were sometimes forced to resort to poaching elephants or other wildlife in order to earn enough to feed their families.

To do this, COMACO organizes farmers into producer groups, encouraging them to diversify their skills by raising livestock and bees, growing organic rice, using improved irrigation and fisheries management and other practices. The organization supports the creation of regional processing centers and trading depots to make it easier for farmers to process and transport their crops. Their products are then sold under the It’s Wild brand in supermarket chains in Zambia, such as ShopRite, Checkers and Spar. And the organization tries to do as much of the product distribution as possible so that the money stays with the farmers, not middlemen, improving local livelihoods and preserving local wildlife. (See also: Peanut Butter and Progress)

And all across sub-Saharan Africa, other organizations are providing farmers with the processing skills and materials they need to improve their incomes and support their families—and that can produce unexpected benefits, including wildlife, reducing food-born health risks, and improving access to education.

In Kenya, the Mazingira Institute is working to create awareness about climate change, human rights, and urban agriculture. And they’re also training communities to learn better skills to increase income generation and well-being—including training in how to process foods to preserve them longer and make them more appealing to consumers.

Mazingira, for example, helped Esther Mjoki Maifa, an entrepreneur in Nairobi, capitalize on a growing interest among Kenyans for natural healthy products by training her to process groundnuts without any preserves or chemicals. It takes her about one day to produce 50 kilograms of groundnuts and she sells jars from 200-300 shillings each. Eventually, Ms. Maifa is hoping to make enough money from her products to purchase her own nut grinding machine. (See also: Mazingira Institute and NESALF: Training a New Breed of Farmers)

In Kenya, Uganda, and Rwanda, the East Africa Dairy Development (EADD) project is helping livestock farmers to improve the processing and preservation of milk in order to produce better tasting and longer lasting dairy products which are also safer for the consumer. EADD encourages farmers to join cooperatives (See Innovation of the Week: Farmers Groups and Cooperatives), giving them access to group owned and run refrigerated milk collection centers, significantly reducing the financial burden of the process. The milk is then transported to a milk processing facility and sent to market where the processed milk will receive a higher price than unpasteurized milk. It also stays good longer and reduces the risk of food borne illness. (See also: Improving Incomes with Milk Processing)

In Cameroon, Côte d’Ivoire, Ghana, Liberia and Nigeria, the World Cocoa Foundation is providing cocoa farmers with hands-on training on production, pest and disease management and post-harvest techniques. The region accounts for nearly 70 percent of the world’s cocoa production, 90 percent of which is grown on nearly 2 million small family farms. Almost 16 million people depend on this crop as their main source of income and being able to properly process cocoa can make a big difference in income for a family. One farmer in Côte d’Ivoire, Ekra Marceline, was able to more than quadruple her cocoa harvest after receiving training from a Farmer Field School supported by WCF. She was able to build a solar dryer to produce higher quality beans and the additional income she earns enabled her to send her children to school and build a new home for her family. (See also: Improving African Women’s Access to Agriculture Training Programs)

To read more about how training in processing techniques can improve incomes and provide other benefits, see also: Women Entrepreneurs: Adding Value, Reducing Food Waste, Investing in Better Food Storage in Africa, and Protecting Wildlife While Improving Food Security, Health, and Livelihoods.

Thank you for reading! If you enjoy our diary every day we invite you to get involved:
1. Comment on our daily posts-we check comments everyday and look forward to a regular ongoing discussion with you.
2. Receive weekly updates-Sign up for our "Nourishing the Planet" weekly newsletter at the blog by clicking here and receive regular blog and travel updates.

Using Livestock to Rebuild and Preserve Communities

9:27 am in Uncategorized by borderjumpers

Cross posted from Worldwatch Institute’s Nourishing the Planet blog.

4645208710_1a02b4b5db_m.jpgFor pastoralist communities like the well-known Maasai in Kenya, livestock keeping is more than just an important source of food and income; it’s a way of life that has been a part of their culture and traditions for hundreds of years.

But, in the face of drought, loss of traditional grazing grounds, and pressure from governments and agribusiness to cross-breed native cattle breeds with exotic breeds, pastoralists are struggling to feed their families and hold on to their culture.

The key, however, to maintaining the pastoralist way of life, at least in Kenya, may also be the key to preserving the country’s livestock genetic biodiversity, as well as improving local food security.“Governments need to recognize,” says Jacob Wanyama, coordinator with the African LIFE Network in Kenya— an organization that works to improve the rights of pastoralist communities in Eastern Africa, “that pastoralists are the best keepers of genetic diversity.” (See also: The Keepers of Genetic Diversity)

Anikole cattle, for example, a breed indigenous to Eastern Africa, are not only “beautiful to look at,” says Wanyama, but they’re one of the “highest quality” breeds of cattle because they can survive in extremely harsh, dry conditions—something that’s more important than the size and milk production of the cattle, especially as climate change takes a bigger hold on Africa. And indigenous breeds don’t require expensive feed and inputs, such as antibiotics to keep them healthy.

More than just a consistent and reliable source of food, Anikole cattle also help preserve the pastoralist culture and way of life. Though most pastoralists recognize that many of their children might choose to go into the cities instead of continuing the nomadic herding lifestyle of pastoralists, the preservation of Anikole cattle and other indigenous breeds will allow those that choose to stay to feed and support their families and community for years to come. (See also: Maintaining Links to Tradition in a Changing World)

And, similarly, in Mozambique, the International Rural Poultry Center of the Kyeema Foundation and International Crops Research Institute for the Semi-Arid Tropics are promoting livestock as more than just a means to improve food security.

The two organizations are partnering to work with farmers—most of them women—to raise chickens on their farms. Because women are often the primary caregivers for family members with HIV/AIDS, they need easy, low-cost sources of both food and income. Unlike many crops, raising free-range birds can require few outside inputs and very little maintenance from farmers. Birds can forage for insects and eat kitchen scraps, instead of expensive grains. They provide not only meat and eggs for household use and income, but also pest control and manure for fertilizer. (See also: Prescribing Improved Nutrition to Combat HIV/AIDS in Africa)

In Rwanda, Heifer International is helping farmers use livestock to rebuild their homes and improve their income after the devastating genocide that occurred 15 years ago. Heifer began working in Rwanda in 2000, introducing a South African dairy breed, known for its high milk production, because, according to Dr. Karamuzi, “no stock of good [dairy cow] genes” was left in the country after the genocide.

And he says that these animals help prove “that even poor farmers can take care of high producing cows.” Heifer has certain conditions for receiving cows—including that farmers build a pen and dedicate part of their land to growing pasture—which made people skeptical, especially when they were used to letting animals roam freely to graze on grass. But as people began seeing the results of Heifer’s training, they become less suspicious and more interested in working with the group.

And these animals don’t only provide milk—which can be an important source of protein for the hungry—and income to families. They also provide manure, which provides not only fertilizer for crops, but also is now helping provide biogas for cooking to households raising cows in the country as part of a the National Biogas Program. And they give families a sense of security as they, and the entire country, continue to recover and rebuild. (See also: Healing With Livestock in Rwanda)

To read more about how smallscale livestock can improve food security and preserve and rebuild communities, see: Teacher Turned Farmer. . .Turned Teacher, Got Biogas?, Conserving Endangered Animal Genetic Resources in Kenya.

Photo Credit: International Livestock Research Institute

Thank you for reading! If you enjoy our diary every day we invite you to get involved:
1. Comment on our daily posts-we check comments everyday and look forward to a regular ongoing discussion with you.
2. Receive weekly updates-Sign up for our "Nourishing the Planet" weekly newsletter at the blog by clicking here and receive regular blog and travel updates.

1,000 Words About Kenya

8:33 am in Foreign Policy, International Aid and Development by borderjumpers

Our entry begins in Maralal, Kenya, a place mostly known for its wildlife. And as we made the seven hour, bumpy trek from Nairobi—half of it on unpaved roads—we saw our fair share of water buffaloes, rhinos, impala, and giraffes. But we weren’t here to go on safari. We were here to meet with a group of pastoralists—livestock keepers who had agreed to meet with us and talk about the challenges they face.

Although most of these people don’t have access to cable TV or even radios, they do have a good sense of the challenges their fellow livestock keepers face all over Kenya. They are aware that climate change is likely responsible for the drought plaguing much of East Africa, killing thousands of livestock over the last few months. They know that conflict with neighboring pastoral communities over water resources and access to land makes headlines in Kenya’s newspapers. And they know that many policy-makers would like to forget they exist and consider their nomadic lifestyle barbaric, as our guide Dr. Pat Lanyasunya, a member of theAfrica LIFE Network, explained.

What surprised me most about these livestock keepers is their understanding that the world is changing. They know that many of their children won’t live the same kind of lives that their ancestors lived for centuries. Many will choose to go to the cities, but they said if their children become “landed,” they want them to maintain links to the pastoralist way of life.

Speaking of the ‘big” city, Nairobi, we had some unforgettable site visits there. Driving through the crowded streets of Kibera, (an urban slum in Nairobi), it’s nearly impossible to describe how many people live in this area of about 225 hectares, the equivalent of just over half the size of Central Park in Manhattan. Anywhere from 700,000 to a million people live in what is likely the largest slum in sub-Saharan Africa–it’s hard to count the exact number here because people don’t own the land where they live and work, making their existence a very tenuous one. Often people are evicted from their homes (most of them wooden shacks with tin roves) because the city government doesn’t want to recognize that Kibera exists. But it does. And despite the challenges people here face-lack of water and sanitation services and lack of land ownership are the big ones-they are also thriving.

We met a "self help" group of women farmers in Kibera, who are growing food for their families and selling the surplus. These groups are present all over Kenya-giving youth, women, and other groups the opportunity to organize, share information and skills, and ultimately improve their well-being.

The women we met are raising vegetables on what they call "vertical farms." But instead of skyscrapers, these farms are in tall sacks, filled with dirt, and the women grow crops in them on different levels by poking holes in the bags and planting seeds. They received training, seeds, and sacks from the French NGO Soladarites to start their sack gardens.

The women told us that more than 1,000 of their neighbors are growing food in a similar way-something that Red Cross International recognized during 2007 and 2008 when there was conflict in the slums of Nairobi. No food could come into these areas, but most residents didn’t go without food because so many of them were growing crops-in sacks, vacant land, or elsewhere.

These small gardens can yield big benefits in terms of nutrition, food security, and income. All the women told us that they saved money because they no longer had to buy vegetables at the store and they claimed they taste better because they were organically grown-but it also might come from the pride that comes from growing something themselves.

When we got to the union office in Kerecho, Kenya, union officials were elated to see the staff of the Solidarity Center. Over the last couple of months, more than 6,000 tea workers joined the Kenya Plantation and Agricultural Workers Union (KPAWU). To help them win more members-and continue to grow-the Solidarity Center provides resources to hire organizers, conduct trainings, and offer communications and transportation support, according to KPAWU branch secretary Joshua Owuor Maywen.

The union, despite having more than 200,000 members in the agriculture sector and representing some of the most vulnerable workers, has still lost density over the last two decades. During this time, companies are trying whatever they can to cut costs, including implementing child labor, mechanizing the plucking industry–according to one of the workers: "the machines pluck everything including snakes and spiders, while the tea pluckers pluck tea"-and hiring casuals or "temporary" workers at lower wages and reduced benefits.

Thank you for reading! If you enjoy our diary every day we invite you to get involved:
1. Comment on our daily posts — we check for comments everyday and want to have a regular ongoing discussion with you.
2. Receive regular updates–Join the weekly BorderJumpers newsletter by clicking here.
3. Help keep our research going—-If you know of any great projects or contacts in West Africa please connect us connect us by emailing, commenting or sending us a message on facebook.

Holding Families and the Country Together

7:47 am in Uncategorized by borderjumpers

4185481806_191898cb35_m.jpgFridah Mugo and her 13 siblings grew up in a farming family in rural Kenya, where the majority of young girls are not expected to finish primary school. But, in 1999, with a scholarship provided by Winrock International’s African Women Leaders in Agriculture and the Environment program (AWLAE), she was able to complete her PhD in Natural Resources Policy and Management.

Now, with an education and AWLAE’s Leadership for Change training, Mugo is working to address the problem of devastating deforestation in Kenya where only 2 percent of the country is forested—in the 1950’s one third of Kenya was covered in trees. She provides extension services to rural communities dependent on wood burning cookers. Training women to make and use new and alternative energy sources, such as fireless cookers (reed baskets lined with cloth that can be quickly heated on fires to slowly cook food over the course of an entire day, reducing the need for firewood), Mugo is helping prevent the loss of more forest and improving livelihoods. (See also: Reducing the Things They Carry)

She also lobbies for women’s participation in agricultural development projects in Kenya and other African countries, and founded an education program for young girls, enabling dozens of girls to attend and complete primary school.

But in Kenya and most of sub-Saharan Africa, Mugo’s achievements as a woman are the exception, not the rule. “Women hold their families and country together. The problem is they have no decision-making power and lack access to resources and education. Those who do have resources can make a huge difference,” says Mugo.

Since its start in 1989, AWLAE has presented 570 women with scholarships for advanced studies, helped over 50,000 young girls gain access to primary education, and provided training to more than 100,000 farmers. The program also provides a network, connecting scholarship and training recipients to each other for support and to exchange knowledge and experiences.

And this support is just as important as the education itself because, according to Mugo, “women are brought up to listen. You’re not supposed to talk. At the training, they taught us that we could achieve anything.”

And, according to a growing number of voices in the global agriculture community, when women are allowed to strive to achieve anything, it is their families and the wider community that benefit. To read more about how empowering women can alleviate hunger and poverty, see also: Feeding Communities By Focusing on Women, Women Farmers Are Key to Halving Global Hunger by 2015, and Panelists Call for Women’s Important Role in Alleviating Global Hunger to be Reflected in Agriculture Funding.

Thank you for reading! If you enjoy our diary every day we invite you to get involved:
1. Comment on our daily posts-we check comments everyday and look forward to a regular ongoing discussion with you.
2. Receive weekly updates-Sign up for our "Nourishing the Planet" weekly newsletter at the blog by clicking here and receive regular blog and travel updates.

Feeding Communities by Focusing on Women

6:46 am in Uncategorized by borderjumpers

Cross posted from Worldwatch Institute’s Nourishing the Planet.

4079769796_960eb5121d_m.jpgIn Washington DC last week at the House Hunger Caucus briefing, panelist, Cheryl Morden, Director of the North American Liaison Office of the International Fund for Agricultural Development (IFAD), concluded that, in the global agriculture funding community’s struggle to alleviate hunger and poverty, there is a “big pay-off in focusing on women,” but “ neglect them and you’ll end up doing harm.”

Although women farmers produce more than half of the food grown in the world—and roughly 1.6 billion women depend on agriculture for their livelihoods—they are often not able to benefit from general agriculture funding because of the institutional and cultural barriers they face—including lack of access to land, lack of access to credit, and lack of access to education. Worldwide, women receive only about 5 percent of agriculture extension services and own about 2 percent of land worldwide.

But research has shown that when women’s incomes are improved,and when they have better access to resources like education, infrastructure, credit, and health care, they tend to invest more in the nutrition, education, and health of their family, causing a ripple effect of benefits that can extend to the entire community.

In Kibera—sub-Saharan Africa’s largest slum in Nairobi, Kenya, where anywhere from 700,000 to a million people live—women farmers, with training and seeds provided by the French NGO Soladarites, are growing vegetable farms in sacks filled with dirt. More than 1,000 women are growing food in this way and during the food crisis in Kenya during 2007 and 2008, when conflict in Nairobi prevented food from coming into the area, most residents did not go hungry because there were so many of these ‘vertical farms.’

In Zambia, Veronica Sianchenga, a farmer living in Kabuyu Village, saw improvements in her family’s quality of life when she began irrigating her farm with the “Mosi-o-Tunya” (Pump that Thunders), a pressure pump that she purchased from International Development Enterprises (IDE). In many parts of sub-Saharan Africa, the task of gathering water—in the driest parts of the continent this can require up to eight hours of labor per day — usually falls to women. Explaining that her children are eating healthier, with more vegetables in their diet, Mrs. Sianchenga adds that she is also enjoying increased independence. “Now we are not relying only on our husbands, because we are now able to do our own projects and to assist our husbands, to make our families look better, eat better, clothe better—even to have a house.”

In Rwanda, the Farmers of the Future Initiative (FOFI) helps to empower young girls and other students by integrating school gardens and agriculture training into primary school curriculums. Over 60 percent of students in Rwanda will return to rural areas to farm for a living after graduating instead of going on to secondary school or university. While both young boys and girls benefit from the training, it is especially important for young girls to learn these skills, says Josephine Tuyishimire, so that they can avoid dependence on men for food and financial security. And so they can share what they learn.

By “passing these skills to future generations” – or the children that are often under their care- said Tuyishimire, women help to create future farmers who are prepared to feed themselves and similarly self-sufficient and empowered.

To learn more about women’s important role in alleviating global hunger and poverty, see: Farming on the Urban Fringe, Building a Methane Fueled Fire, Women Entrepreneurs: Adding Value, Women Farmers Are Key to Halving Global Hunger by 2015, For Many Women, Improved Access to Water is About More than Having Something to Drink, and Reducing the Things They Carry.

Thank you for reading! If you enjoy our diary every day we invite you to get involved:
1. Comment on our daily posts-we check comments everyday and look forward to a regular ongoing discussion with you.
2. Receive weekly updates-Sign up for our "Nourishing the Planet" weekly newsletter at the blog by clicking here and receive regular blog and travel updates.

Reducing Food Waste in the Event of An Erupting Volcano and Other Farming Hazards

6:50 am in Uncategorized by borderjumpers

Cross posted from Worldwatch Institute’s Nourishing the Planet.

4103182038_a385d11f36_m.jpgAs Iceland’s erupting volcano strands thousands of air travelers across Europe and worldwide, a less publicized but arguably more costly catastrophe is mounting 15,000 miles away: piles of gourmet produce and cut flowers, some of Kenya’s chief exports, are rotting in limbo. Meant to be shipped to upscale grocery stores throughout Europe, lilies, roses, carnations, carrots, onions, baby sweet corn, and sugar snap peas are going bad in heaps, on the vine, and in the ground because airport warehouses are already full and there’s no local market for the expensive produce in a country where half the population lives on less than a dollar a day.

As food prices continue to rise worldwide, reducing food waste will be a critical element in alleviating hunger and poverty worldwide. Already, Nourishing the Planet has highlighted the many ways that growing indigenous vegetables for local markets and improving storage techniques can help to both reduce food waste and improve access to food, in Kenya and elsewhere in sub-Saharan Africa.

To read more about food waste and ways it can be prevented, see: Reducing Food Waste, Finding Creative Ways to Grow Food in Kibera, Farming on the Urban Fringe, and Investing in Better Food Storage in Africa. Also, stay tuned for an entire chapter on the subject, written by Tristram Stuart, in State of the World 2011: Innovations that Nourish the Planet.

Thank you for reading! If you enjoy our diary every day we invite you to get involved:
1. Comment on our daily posts-we check comments everyday and look forward to a regular ongoing discussion with you.
2. Receive weekly updates-Sign up for our "Nourishing the Planet" weekly newsletter at the blog by clicking here and receive regular blog and travel updates.

Helping Farmers Benefit Economically From Wildlife Conservation

6:59 am in International Aid and Development, Uncategorized by borderjumpers

Wildlife conservation and sustainable farming practices are becoming increasing prevalent across sub-Saharan Africa (see Protecting Wildlife While Improving Food Security, Health, and Livelihoods, Helping Conserve Wildlife–and Agriculture–in Mozambique, and In Botswana, Cultivating an Interest in Agriculture and Conservation). Yet efforts to preserve elephants, rhinos, and other wildlife are difficult in countries plagued by political unrest and conflict.

In Zimbabwe, for example, “it’s pretty hard to get anything done,” says Raol du Toit, Director of the Rhino Conservation Trust. Although a new president, Morgan Tsvangirai, was elected in 2008, Zimbabwe’s 86-year-old dictator Robert Mugabe, who has ruled the country for more than 30 years, refused to cede power. A “power-sharing agreement” between the two leaders allows the country to function, but just barely. Unemployment rates are over 90 percent, and people who voice public opposition to Mugabe are often jailed and even tortured.

Despite these obstacles, du Toit is helping farming communities benefit economically from efforts to save dwindling populations of rhinos and other wildlife. While many conservation groups seek to protect wildlife from farmers, the Rhino Conservation Trust has a very different approach. Rather than telling farmers not to farm in areas where wildlife are present, they help communities realize that protecting wildlife can be in their own best interest.

“Wildlife is like a herd of cattle,” says du Toit, and farmers “will get benefits” if they manage and conserve local wildlife species. This “horns and thorns” approach gives farmers an opportunity to be paid for the ecosystem services they provide through more sustainable farming practices—including protecting wildlife, conserving water, preventing deforestation, and sequestering carbon in the soil. The solution is to help farmers practice agriculture “in appropriate areas, using appropriate practices.”

What’s needed, according to du Toit, is more “landscape-level planning” that takes into account the needs of wildlife, the environment, and farming communities. Rather than relying on development agencies and governments to decide where cattle fences should go or where farmers should plant their crops, local communities and stakeholders need to be part of the process. Development aid, says du Toit, should follow what local stakeholders need and perceive, not the other way around. “We need to trust people on the ground, rather than just planning for them.”

More locally based partnership arrangements, such as the Laikipia Wildlife Forum developed in Kenya, can help both farmers and wildlife survive. The Forum has united the community, from smallholder farmers to tourism ventures, in the fight to preserve wildlife and manage natural resources, helping to improve local livelihoods.

Educating children early about the benefits of wildlife is also important. The Rhino Conservation Trust has developed a school materials project that teaches children the importance of conserving rhinos.

And despite the political turmoil in Zimbabwe, the country still has wildlife resources that other countries don’t have, giving it the opportunity to both protect these assets and profit from their conservation.

For more about rhino conservation in Zimbabwe, see Raol du Toit’s presentation at the AHEAD workshop last year.

Thank you for reading! If you enjoy our diary every day we invite you to get involved:
1. Comment on our daily posts-we check comments everyday and look forward to a regular ongoing discussion with you.
2. Receive weekly updates-Sign up for our "Nourishing the Planet" weekly newsletter at the blog by clicking here and receive regular blog and travel updates.

A Conversation with Jacob Wanyama from the African LIFE Network

10:25 am in Uncategorized by borderjumpers

4526301400_15887c798e_m.jpgName: Jacob Wanyama

Affiliation: African LIFE Network

Location: Nairobi, Kenya

Bio: Jacob Wanyama is a coordinator with the African LIFE Network in Kenya, an organization that works to increase rights for pastoralist communities. He has been working for pastoralist peoples for nearly two decades with organizations such as Practical Action (formerly ITDG) and Veternaires Sans Frontiers (VSF).

What is the nature of the problem that you and the LIFE Network are dealing with in pastoralist communities? Pastoralists mostly depend on producing livestock. These communities have produced certain breeds for centuries. These animals are suited to the environment and they are critical to the cultural and economic survival of the pastoralists in these harsh environments. But because of conflict, drought, and other environmental problems in the area, it is becoming harder for pastoralists to maintain their way of life. There is a lack of services and infrastructure in these communities. They are very low on the opportunity ladder, and in Kenya especially the pastoralist communities don’t get government services or support.

Another problem is that government programs in these areas have often discouraged or destroyed what communities have been doing. Because of the need to produce food quickly, many governments have promoted replacing indigenous breeds that are considered to be inferior because they don’t produce a lot of meat. The government has encouraged pastoralists to breed local breeds with exotic breeds or to just replace the local breed. The problem is that the new breed is not used to the region. This has gone on for many years, so now many indigenous breeds are disappearing. The world is losing roughly one livestock breed every week.

This is the case in many areas where livestock are kept. In Africa, India, Mongolia, pastoralists are not given a chance to maintain their breeds of indigenous livestock, and therefore the world is losing many sources of animal genetic diversity. These animals are the only way of using these very dry and harsh areas, which otherwise could not support communities. So, many pastoralists are giving up their way of life. They can’t feed their families anymore.

What are some of the grassroots strategies the LIFE Network has used to help these communities? We try to create awareness among pastoralists. They have been getting misinformation and discouragement from the government. So we spend time with them and tell them, “what you have and what you had is very valuable. You are providing an important service not just to yourself but to the world. You have the right to demand recognition.” We also tell them that they should base decisions about what types of livestock they breed on knowledge. We need to strengthen these communities and give them the tools to make their own decisions. We also assist pastoralists in documenting what they have and then we work with lawyers to formulate statements that demand government development in their communities.

How do you attract national or international attention to these issues? We try to raise this issue with different governments. We’ve been able to speak to the governments of Kenya, Botswana, and Uganda. These governments, though, don’t seem to understand the unique position of the pastoralists and where they need to be. Some countries have moved a step forward, though. Kenya, Uganda, and India have developed institutions and ministries that are mandated to address pastoralists. But that has not meant that things have changed in terms of food and conservation. These governments are still focused on settled people. In Tanzania, the situation is even worse. The Tanzanian government says that it is difficult to provide services to pastoralists, since they move around so much, and encourages pastoralists to settle. But, if you settle them and reduce the number of livestock they have, you have a situation in which pastoralists have nothing to do. A lot of them end up destitute.

But we look for ways to ensure that people’s rights are assured. We want to facilitate the market for livestock keepers and figure out how to document their breeds as a way of making the governments pay attention. One of the things communities need to do is set up their rules and demands to their countries and the international community. They need to say what action they think is appropriate for these communities to be respected.

Thank you for reading! If you enjoy our diary every day we invite you to get involved:
1. Comment on our daily posts-we check comments everyday and look forward to a regular ongoing discussion with you.
2. Receive weekly updates-Sign up for our "Nourishing the Planet" weekly newsletter at the blog by clicking here and receive regular blog and travel updates.

East Africa by Land, Air, and Sea: Advice on Traveling on a Budget

7:53 am in Uncategorized by borderjumpers

We are going to try to write the article we wish we had been able to read before attempting to bus our way across Kenya, Tanzania, Rwanda, and Uganda (December 2009). Cross posted from Border Jumpers, Danielle Nierenberg and Bernard Pollack.

4129134014_d4d1e0803f_m.jpgFirst things first: this will be one of the most worthwhile experiences of your life. Start by flying into Nairobi, Kenya (huge and somewhat affordable airport hub for international flights). More than 30 airlines service flights into Nairobi Embakasi Airport including British Airways, EgyptAir, Emirates, KLM, Virgin Atlantic, and tons of others.

Take your time to enjoy Kenya. People will put the fear of god into you that you are unsafe in Nairobi (they call it "Nairobbery")—but just ignore the hype and check out this amazing city full of incredible food, nightlife, and energy. We traveled all over the country but an especially worthy stop is El Doret (it is on route to Kampala, Uganda) where tea is produced in fields that stretch as far as they eye can see.

We took Kampala Coaches from Nairobi to Arusha, Tanzania. We hated the bus company so much that we wrote a blog about them. Not much competition, even Scandinavia Express discontinued this international route. A spin-off from Kamapala Coaches was in the works and might be a good option, but if Kampala Coaches is your only choice, don’t take it all the way to Dar es Salaam. We suggest you go halfway to Arusha and switch companies.

4112721278_0461074c0c_m.jpgArusha is a tourist trap. You will be harassed from the moment you arrive to the moment you leave. With that said it is a great place to launch a 4-day trek at Mt. Kilimanjaro with loads of Safari providers. Make sure you stop by The Patisserie (near the clock tower) for the best chocolate croissants on the continent and hi-speed wi-fi. For budget hotel options we recommend "the Tourist Hotel" (pretty central, $30 USD/night for a double with TV, and a affordable restaurant and bar in the lobby—especially good for vegetarians). Skip the Arusha Naaz hotel, despite what Lonely Planet says.

To get from Arusha to Dar Es Salaam use the bus company "Dar Express" which provides a safe, reliable, air-conditioned bus service. Just a warning: on the buses we took they played Christian videos the entire way, but feeling confident your bags are traveling with you makes up for the attempted "conversion"

When you are in Dar es Salaam, stay at the Jambo Inn Hotel (about 30USD a night for a double with air-con, hot water, and cable TV). The hotel is in a safe, functional area with lots of restaurants, internet cafes, and local shopping.

From Dar Es Salaam you can head to Zanzibar. It is a truly magical place . Stay in Stone Town and pay 12pp for the terrific value "spice tour". Just ask a taxi to take you to the public beaches, no need to shell out for a tour. We spent 20USD night and stayed at the Jambo Guest House, a very basic but clean hotel in walking distances to everything. Tip on the ferry to Zanzibar— it is worth it to pay a little extra for the VIP tickets—especially for those who might get sea-sick. The ride is only ninety minutes, but felt like a lot more. Don’t let this deter you, the ocean and sunsets are well-worth the bumpy boat ride

Best way to travel by bus (and the only way) to Kampala, Uganda is via Nairobi. You can take the Dar Express to Arusha and find a bus company that heads to Kampala via Nairobi. Try to arrive in Nairobi during daylight hours. Alternatively, Precision Air flies cheap from Kilamanjaro (an hour bus from Arusha) to Kampala and might be worth the splurge. Precision Air has an office by the clock tower in Arusha.

4111954633_17718db25a_m.jpgKampala is a terrific place. We recommend staying at the Aponye Hotel at approx 30 USD per night with great showers, air-conditioning, and a great central location (you can walk to restaurants, markets, etc). Ironically some of the best Indian food we’ve ever had was at a restaurant in the Kampala mall. If you go white-water rafting at the source of the Nile, Adrift is a reliable, safe company. While expensive (we had to give it a pass), everyone we met that went Gorilla trekking and said that it was worth every penny.

In terms of busing from Kampala to Kigali, Rwanda, it is extremely safe. The best company we found was Starways and the service is reliable, reasonably clean, safe, and air-conditioned. Many other companies use this route, again, try to avoid Kampala Coaches.

When you get to Kigali, spend a day at the Genocide Museum. It will be an unforgettable experience. You can sometimes catch an affordable flight from there to Nairobi. Keep in mind that Rwanda and Kenya are more expensive than Tanzania and Uganda. Kigali has few solid budget hotel accommodations (and none that we can personally recommend). If using Lonely Planet’s Africa book, add approx 50 percent to all listed prices for Kigali.

So, are you ready to rock Eastern Africa by land, air, and sea?! People will think you are crazy but the experience is fun, rugged, and totally unforgettable!

Thank you for reading! If you enjoy our diary every day we invite you to get involved:
1. Comment on our daily posts — we check for comments everyday and want to have a regular ongoing discussion with you.
2. Receive regular updates–Join the weekly BorderJumpers newsletter by clicking here.
3. Help keep our research going—-If you know of any great projects or contacts in West Africa please connect us connect us by emailing, commenting or sending us a message on facebook.

Livestock Keepers’ Rights: Conserving Endangered Animal Genetic Resources in Kenya

7:05 am in Uncategorized by borderjumpers

Co-written with Dr. Jacob Wanyama and originally featured in the Mail & Guardian. Cross posted from Worldwatch Institute’s Nourishing the Planet.

4097868821_98bf3f5517_m.jpgMaralal, Kenya, is mostly known for its wildlife. And as we made the seven hour, bumpy trek from Nairobi — half of it on unpaved roads — we saw our fair share of water buffaloes, rhinos, impala, and giraffes. But we weren’t here to go on safari. We were here to meet with a group of pastoralists — livestock keepers who had agreed to meet with us and talk about the challenges they face.

We met in the community primary school and it was humbling to see so many people — many wearing traditional Maasai clothing, brightly woven clothe, beads, elaborate earrings — come through the door to greet us.

Over the years, pastoralists like the well-known Maasai here in Kenya have been pushed out of their traditional grazing lands to drier and drier regions, places where it was easy to ignore them. But as the effects of climate change, hunger, drought and the loss of biodiversity become more evident, it’s increasingly hard to push livestock keepers’ rights aside. Governments need to recognize that pastoralists are the best keepers of genetic diversity.

Anikole cattle, for example, a breed indigenous to Eastern Africa, are not only beautiful to look at but they’re one of the “highest quality” breeds of cattle because they can survive in extremely harsh, dry conditions — something that’s more important than ever as climate change takes a bigger hold on Africa.

Although most of the people we met don’t have access to cable TV or even radios, they do have a good sense of the challenges their fellow livestock keepers face all over Kenya. They are aware that climate change is likely responsible for the drought plaguing much of East Africa, killing thousands of livestock over the last few months. They know that conflict with neighbouring pastoral communities over water resources and access to land makes headlines in Kenya’s newspapers. And they know that many policy-makers would like to forget they exist, considering their nomadic lifestyle barbaric, as our guide Dr Pat Lanyasunya, a member of the Africa LIFE Network, explained.

Unfortunately, governments and agribusiness don’t share the same viewpoint. They’re increasingly promoting cross-breeding of native breed with exotic breeds — breeds that were designed to gain more weight and produce more milk. The problem is, however, that these newer breeds have a hard time adapting to sub-Saharan Africa’s dry conditions, as well as the pests and diseases present here. As a result, pastoralists who adopt these breeds have to spend more on feed and inputs, like pesticides and antibiotics to keep cattle healthy.

One of the most serious problems we heard about was the effects that replacing indigenous breeds of livestock with mixed breeds of more exotic cattle have had during the drought. These livestock keepers began replacing their indigenous Zebu cattle with mixed breeds about 15 years ago after missionaries introduced them to the community. While the new breeds were bigger and could potentially produce more meat or milk, they aren’t as hardy as native cattle that can travel long distances without much water.
According to one of the community elders, the “old breeds could go 40km [for food and water] and come back,” but the new breeds can’t tolerate the distance or the heat. In the past, water sources could be much farther away and the cattle could thrive, but now they need to be much closer.

That’s one reason different pastoralist communities sometimes clash — when cattle can’t travel far for water, livestock keepers have to find it elsewhere, often at sites that are traditionally used by different communities. A man wearing a Harley-Davidson hat along with his Maasai shawl acknowledged that although they fight with other communities over resources, “they’re just like us”, trying to survive with very little support from the government or NGOs. The conflict has not only effected the raising of livestock, but also forced schools to close and created more internally displaced people as they are driven off the land.

What surprised us most about these livestock keepers is their understanding that the world is changing. They know that many of their children won’t live the same kind of lives that their ancestors lived for centuries. Many will choose to go to the cities, but they said if their children become “landed”, they want them to maintain links to the pastoralist way of life. And they said that for some of them, livestock is what they do best and what they have a passion for — and that they should be allowed to continue doing it.

Dr Jacob Wanyama is a veterinarian and coordinator for the Africa LIFE Network.

Thank you for reading! If you enjoy our diary every day we invite you to get involved:
1. Comment on our daily posts-we check comments everyday and look forward to a regular ongoing discussion with you.
2. Receive weekly updates-Sign up for our "Nourishing the Planet" weekly newsletter at the blog by clicking here and receive regular blog and travel updates.