In February 2017, a motley crew of college students from UCLA and Cameroon left modern-day conveniences behind and plunged into the rainforest. Their objective: to reopen a remote field station that had been shuttered for two decades and take the pulse of local wildlife.
Through their efforts and UCLA’s Congo Basin Institute, the Bouamir research station is again open for business — welcoming researchers from around the globe who want to learn about the diverse life in the Dja Reserve, a rainforest sanctuary in south-central Cameroon.
As the students traveled from the capital city of Yaoundé to their destination, local Baka and Bantu villagers greeted them with dancing and celebrations. The fun quickly gave way to hard work as they confronted the realities of doing field research in a jungle. The station itself is 18 miles from the nearest village, so getting there required a daylong hike. Then, starting at dawn each day, the students conducted field work at a primitive site that no one would confuse with the Ritz-Carlton: The latrine was a simple hole in the ground. To bathe, they went to a creek with buckets.
For someone used to measuring hikes in terms of Pokémon Go rewards, it was challenging, UCLA student Emily Chen admitted.
“The first few days, my mentality was just trying to make it through,” Chen said. “Then I embraced it.”
The students conducted wildlife surveys, researched butterflies and compared local birds they studied to other populations in Africa. The work was part of a Field Biology Quarter class offered by UCLA’s Department of Ecology and Evolutionary Biology and taught by professors Greg Grether and Tom Smith. Their efforts paid off in surprising good news: Despite a growing market for bush meat and other threats to biodiversity, most species in the reserve appeared to be thriving.
During the 1990s, biologists, using the Bouamir station as their research headquarters, published nearly 50 papers on the region’s rich biodiversity that includes forest elephants, hornbills, endangered western lowland gorillas, chimpanzees and pangolin. Smith, director of the Congo Basin Institute and a professor with UCLA’s Institute of the Environment and Sustainability (IoES), was one of those early researchers. “We lived right in the middle of [the reserve] for eight years,” Smith said. “It was fabulous.”
Unfortunately, the nongovernmental organization that provided logistical support for the researchers went belly-up, and the site, which was not under the purview of UCLA at that time, was abandoned. It was a big loss for the scientific community as well as a potential threat to local wildlife — the constant presence of scientists was a powerful deterrent against would-be poachers.
But, Smith said, “It just got too difficult to maintain.” When he launched the Congo Basin Institute seven years ago as a regional base for scientific research and education through his Center for Tropical Research, part of the IoES, he said, “We decided that one of the things we wanted to do … was reestablish this station.”
Professor Tom Smith conducts research at Bouamir station in the 1990s. Photo Courtesy of the Congo Basin Institute.
The reopening of Bouamir falls in line with the institute’s broader goals. The basin of the Congo River in west central Africa has long suffered from brain drain, leaving it without the human resources it needs to confront major problems, such as food insecurity, infectious disease outbreaks and the effects of climate change. The institute aims to change that, and the first step, Smith said, is to retain scientists by giving them proper facilities and support to do their work.
In addition to the new field station, the institute has modernized its research facilities in Yaoundé with laboratories for remote genetics, a geographic information system, remote sensing, as well as analytics labs for water, soil, plant tissue, entomology and pathology.
The institute also helps visiting scholars navigate a complex web of local and national governments. Institute biologist Kevin Njabo, who grew up in Cameroon, has become an expert at bridging the gap between scientists and local officials. “We have a huge language barrier,” Njabo said. “And, at times, the bureaucracies in these areas can be very slow, so we start working with government way in advance.”
Since the institute opened a small center in Yaoundé, it has steadily grown. More than 2,000 scholars from 20 countries have now passed through. By partnering with the International Institute of Tropical Agriculture, the Congo Basin Institute seeks to grow further to develop a network of hubs that will protect biodiversity and improve residents’ lives.
As a Cameroonian, Njabo said, “We are very blessed and lucky to have this university coming in and wanting to stay. We put in everything we’ve got at every level to make sure this program is successful.”
Romeo Kamta Tchoffo, a Cameroonian graduate student who helped reopen the field station, said he relished doing field work with UCLA scientists. “In our country there is a lack of application,” Tchoffo said. “You are asked to read a book and understand how biology works, but you do not have the opportunity to be in contact and practice what you have learned.”
For UCLA students, the trip was a chance to become totally immersed in the environment they are studying — a lush rainforest with vine-covered trees inhabited by screeching hyrax — small, herbivorous mammals. Students take their morning baths in a creek as white-nosed guenons — forest monkeys — peered down at them from the forest canopy.
Smith wasn’t sure what he’d find in the Dja Reserve upon returning to the place he grew to love in the 1990s. With a rise in poaching, he feared entire species could be wiped out. He was immensely relieved to discover a stable, lively ecosystem with elephants, monkeys and birds. The reopening of Bouamir will ensure it stays that way. “This time, we need to hang on to the site and maintain it,” Smith said.
Through the Congo Basin Institute, Smith hopes to extend that kind of support across a region that’s home to 70 percent of the poorest inhabitants on Earth, numbering about 1 billion people, where diverse wildlife lives directly on the front lines of environmental threats. From there, he said, the entire continent can be transformed.
“My hope is that we will see an Africa that is feeding itself, using sustainable approaches on energy and preserving the natural environment,” Smith said. “There’s this mantra that you get from aid organizations: ‘The trouble with central Africa is that it’s bad governance, and it’s never going to get any better until they democratize.’
“The flipside of that is that they’re never going to do that if the best and brightest aren’t living there,” Smith said. “The more you can keep those people there, engaged and contributing, the more effective you’re going to be in the long run.”
Jessica Arriens contributed reporting for this story.
PRETORIA, South Africa, March 23, 2017/ -- Today, activists of the BREAKFREE coalition have taken part in a funeral procession outside the Department of Energy (DoE) in Pretoria to highlight the impacts that coal-fired power stations are having on South African communities. The solemn procession depicted tombstones to which activists were chained with the message “The IRP is our chance to Break Free from fossil fuels” making a call to the South African public to stand up against dangerous and polluting energy options and engage in the electricity planning processes undertaken by the DoE.
“Civil society organisations under the Break Free  banner reject the IRP current plans as nothing more than renewed attempts by the Department of Energy and Eskom to promote vested interests in nuclear and coal. The long awaited IRP 2016 is a rigged model that forces nuclear energy and coal into the mix, even though it is clearly not cost competitive. The base case proposes a ridiculous scenario for 20 GW of nuclear and 15 GW of new coal by 2050,” stated NhlanhlaSibisi – Climate and Energy Campaigner for Greenpeace Africa (www.Greenpeace.org/Africa/en).
The purpose of the Integrated Resource Plan, in the DoE’s own words, is to identify investments in the electricity sector that allow the country to meet forecasted demand with the minimum cost to the country. As such coal and nuclear have no place in the IRP base case as renewable energy is by far the cheapest technology and should form the backbone of South Africa’s energy mix going forward.
“What government and the majority of South Africans don’t see are the real costs associated with living with coal on a daily basis . We need to break from coal dependency that has resulted in SA communities living with some of the worst air quality in the world. Children are ill, water resources are polluted, agricultural land is sterilized, all at a time when there are better solutions available through renewable energy,” stated Makoma Lekalakala – Senior Programmes Officer, Earthlife Africa Johannesburg.
Droughts, sporadic rainfall and erratic weather patterns are all indicators that governments should take immediate action to safeguard a future that will sustain future generations.
“The impact of climate change is already felt in South Africa, and it affects the most vulnerable among us. We must reduce our dependency on fossil fuels drastically, starting today. Breaking Free from fossil fuels is possible; it will benefit all South Africans and guarantee a bright future for our children. Renewable energy can supply the bulk of the energy our country needs without further damaging our environment. This shift can be done now and must guide us as we plan our energy future” added Gillian Hamilton, Branch Manager of the African Climate Reality Project.
“The government's case for more coal and nuclear is baseless, ill-considered and destructive. Cost comparisons between coal and nuclear in relation to renewable energy technologies in the Draft IRP 2016 are misleading. The DoE’s lack of political commitment towards renewable energy blocks the country climate action pathway. The urgency could not be more heightened. We are breaking free from rogue industries knowingly perpetuating climate change crisis. The latest math proves that to prevent catastrophic warming, there can be absolutely no expansion of fossil fuel infrastructure. That means no new coal mines, no new drilling, no to nuclear,” continued Ahmed Mokgopo, 350Africa Divestment Campaigner.
Break Free is a global movement making a statement to say enough is enough and lending voices to speak for future generations.
 Break Free is a global wave of people, communities, local and international organisations taking a firm stance against fossil fuels and calling for an end to dirty energy.
États-Unis: Le nouveau décret relatif aux réfugiés est préjudiciable comme sa précédente version
Les changements apportés au précédent texte n’ont pas supprimé son orientation discriminatoire à l’égard des musulmans
(Washington, le 6 mars 2017) – Le nouveau décret signé par le président américain Donald Trump et qui restreint considérablement l’accueil des réfugiés aux États-Unis risque de nuire aux réfugiés – ainsi qu’à des ressortissants américains – d’une manière comparable au précédent décret à ce sujet, a déclaré aujourd'hui Human Rights Watch.
Le nouveau décret, en date du 6 mars 2017, interdit l’entrée aux États-Unis, pendant 90 jours, aux ressortissants de six pays à majorité musulmane, ainsi qu’à ceux en provenance d'une liste encore inconnue de pays qui ne fourniraient pas d’informations satisfaisantes pour la délivrance de visas et autres admissions pour leurs ressortissants. Bien qu’il réponde manifestement aux obstacles juridiques ayant entravé la mise en œuvre du décret du 27 janvier dernier, le nouveau texte affaiblit considérablement le programme américain en place pour les réfugiés et impose des interdictions générales fondées sur le critère de la nationalité sans déterminer l’existence des menaces réelles posées par tous les ressortissants de ces pays.
« Le nouveau décret de Trump sur les réfugiés sent le réchauffé », a déclaré Grace Meng, chercheuse senior auprès du Programme États-Unis à Human Rights Watch. « Au nom de la lutte antiterroriste, il fera des réfugiés des boucs émissaires, avec pour message que les musulmans ne sont pas les bienvenus aux États-Unis. Ce décret abandonnera à leur sort des dizaines de milliers de réfugiés se trouvant dans des situations précaires et renonce au leadership américain sur une question mondiale d’une importance vitale. »
Le nouveau décret ne peut se lire sans faire écho aux propos tenus par le président Trump, qui avait déjà annoncé lors de sa campagne électorale son intention d’interdire l’entrée aux États-Unis de musulmans en tant que groupe religieux. Affirmer que le décret actuel n’est « pas motivé par l'animosité envers une religion » ne suffit pas pour invalider ces déclarations passées.
Le nouveau décret suspend l’entrée aux États-Unis pour les ressortissants de six des sept pays à majorité musulmane listés dans le précédent décret –l’Iran, la Libye, la Somalie, le Soudan, le Syrie et le Yémen – en excluant seulement l’Iraq. Le décret stipule aussi que le gouvernement américain devra établir une liste de pays supplémentaires qui fourniraient des informations insuffisantes au sujet de leurs ressortissants aux États-Unis pour se prononcer sur l’octroi ou non d’un visa. Le texte précise que les résidents permanents, les titulaires de visas en cours, les personnes déjà admises en tant que réfugiés ou bénéficiant du droit d'asile, et les ressortissants ayant la double citoyenneté peuvent entrer aux États-Unis.
Le nouveau décret, comme le précédent, suspend, pendant 120 jours, l’entrée des réfugiés dans le cadre du programme de réinstallation en vigueur aux États-Unis et continue de restreindre le nombre de ceux admis en 2017, le faisant passer de 110 000 à 50 000. Bien que le décret ne mentionne plus explicitement les réfugiés syriens comme faisant l’objet d’une suspension indéfinie, l’inclusion des ressortissants syriens dans l'interdiction générale exclura encore de nombreuses personnes ayant le plus besoin de protection.
L’administration Trump a clairement indiqué que le nouveau décret a les mêmes objectifs que celui du 27 janvier. Comme le conseiller à la Maison Blanche Stephen Miller l’a déclaré le 21 février, le nouveau décret aura « le même résultat politique de base ».
Le décret révisé épargne les détenteurs de visas immigrants et non-immigrants. Il permet également aux personnels consulaires de délivrer des visas aux ressortissants des six pays visés s'ils estiment que ne pas le faire leur causerait « des difficultés excessives » et si ces individus ne présentent aucun risque sécuritaire. Ces exceptions limitées épargnent à certains individus les pires conséquences de l’interdiction, mais ne changent pas la réalité hideuse que ce décret inaugure : l’interdiction nuisible et inutile d’immigrer à des nationalités entières.
À une époque où il y a davantage de personnes déplacées à travers le monde qu’à n'importe quel moment depuis la fin de la Seconde Guerre mondiale, la décision de l'administration Trump de réduire drastiquement le programme américain de réfugiés signe l’abandon du leadership de Washington sur cette question.
Les procédures de vérification américaines sont déjà si vigoureuses que les réfugiés éligibles en provenance de Syrie, d’Iraq et d'ailleurs sont souvent exclus, a déclaré Human Rights Watch. Le décret rejette également l’appui bipartite de longue date au programme de réinstallation des réfugiés et compromet les engagements pris envers des alliés américains comme la Jordanie et le Kenya, qui accueillent eux-mêmes des centaines de milliers de réfugiés.
« Les gens viennent aux États-Unis pour diverses raisons : réfugiés fuyant la violence et la persécution ; travailleurs qualifiés contribuant à l'économie américaine ; étudiants venus faire des études supérieures ; familles se reformant », a déclaré Grace Meng. «Pour les individus concernés, ce décret met fin à de telles possibilités, qu’ils soient citoyens ou non ».
L'administration affirme que ces interdictions d’entrée sont nécessaires pour prévenir le terrorisme, mais le propre rapport du Département de la Sécurité intérieure a révélé que « le pays de citoyenneté n'est pas un indicateur fiable d'une activité terroriste potentielle ». Bien que ces interdictions soient temporaires, les exigences de partage imposées à certains pays pourraient effectivement entraîner une interdiction permanente de certaines nationalités, étant donné que ces pays ne souhaiteraient peut-être pas eux-mêmes les respecter.
En particulier, il est illogique et déraisonnable pour le gouvernement américain d’exiger de gouvernements étrangers responsables de persécutions à l’encontre un réfugié de fournir des informations fiables à son sujet.
« Le président Trump semble toujours croire qu’il est possible de déterminer qui est un terroriste en sachant de quel pays ils sont ressortissants », a déclaré Grace Meng. « Mettre en œuvre ce décret alimentera un sentiment de sécurité trompeur selon lequel de véritables mesures sont prises pour protéger les Américains contre des attaques, tout en remettant en cause le statut des États-Unis comme refuge pour ceux et celles qui sont en danger ».
The parlous story of African economic and social development since independence best expressed in the failure to achieve the autonomous capacity for self-actuated development and in particular to create conditions of national and continental modern mass production and prosperity is well known and need not be repeated. It is enough to re-state that Africa’s development failure was because of the leaderships’ choice to retain, maintain and expand the inherited exocentric colonial system of development incapacitation, primary commodity export, import dependency and poverty generation.
The progressive efforts of some African states and leaders to change the system and create self-reliant economies were stymied by the leaderships’ ideological inadequacies and dependency, the balance of payment crises of the late 1970s and 1980s and the subsequent economic crises and decline. This provided the avenue for Western multilateral imperialist agencies the World Bank and the IMF - to successfully infiltrate into Africa, re-colonize African states and convert them into neo-colonial out-posts of the so-called neo-liberal consensus.
This framework embodied in the Structural Adjustment Programme (SAP) with its destructives conditionalities: currency devaluation, trade liberalization, subsidy removal, deregulation and privatization, re-directed the African states to focus on expanded raw materials production and exports and to abandon industrialization and development capacitation.
The application of these anti-development SAP dogmas in the 1980s and 1990s ushered in two decades of deepening indebtedness, serious economic crises, de-industrialization, socio-economic decline, deepening impoverishment and political repression. On the other hand, the period also saw the upsurge of popular democratisation struggles, civil rights campaigns, the restoration democracy, and the establishment of electoral democracy and the decline of military interventions in African politics.
In the economic sphere, there were innovative dependency-reducing responses. This was because among businesses there was an increased re-orientation toward local sourcing of well-known agricultural and mineral endowments to expand production. This led to the emergence of new economic sectors and especially the expansion of cottage, small and medium scale consumer goods industries which were operationally autonomous due to the increased utilization of local resources for production and self-development.
In addition there was relative political stability and policy and institutional the support for businesses through the creation of enabling environments for attracting investments.
It was partly because of these new domestic conditions and the economic self-activation, and the partly because of return of better commodity prices in the first decade of the 21st century that the Western media fabricated and propagated the new view of “Africa Rising”. This became a very popular and re-assuring slogan among some African leaders, politicians and intelligentsia.
However, it was an insecure condition because a “Rising Africa” whose upsurge is generated by increased external demand for primary commodities is essentially insecure. It does not represent genuine African development that is based on expansive domestic production and prosperity generation. It merely reinforces African dependency on primary commodity export and its dependence on the importation of manufactured goods. It is evaporating with the speed with which it was proclaimed.
But there was a more consequential development story of this period that ushered in what this author describes as the Affirmative African Narrative phase of development. This is the progressive assumption by African businesses of the leadership role in promoting national and pan-African development. This new trend of African self-development is captured by the new concept of “Africans Investing in Africa” This is the process by which African industrial, service, and commercial enterprises began to make large-scale investments in many different African countries.
The investments involve for example the expansion of Banks, telecommunication companies, trading companies and so on. Examples of these include Nigerians Banks like UBA, Zenith, Access, First Bank; South African banks like Standard Bank and Moroccan Banks; Telecommunication companies such as MTN of South Africa, ECONET of Zimbabwe and GLOBACOM of Nigeria. Others are Shoprite, Coca cola and South African Breweries.
While Africans investing in Africa is becoming common and commendable, it is important to emphasize that NOT ALL African investments in Africa are of equal economic importance or strategic development value. For example, African investments like Shoprite and similar companies which merely establish commercial or trading enterprises that do not add value to African economies are no different from traditional non-African FDI companies that are established to create captive markets for products from their home countries and thereby maximally exploit Africa.
On the other hand, African companies that make investments that are decisive and transformational are those that deliberately promote and advance African development capacitation, through local resource exploitation, mass industrialization, large scale industrial, agricultural and mineral production, and beneficiation for internal use.
In terms of investment for development capacitation through local resource utilization and valorization, the vanguard African company is the Dangote Group. In order to ensure that Africa achieves self-sufficiency in the critically important infrastructure development requirement – CEMENT – Dangote embarked on a pan-African investment strategy to establish integrated plants, or grinding plants or cement terminals in African countries according to their resource endowments.
The Group’s ultimate objective is become the ascendant cement manufacturing company in Africa. There is no question that the Dangotean strategy of development capacitation through local resource exploitation, mass industrial production and domestic prosperity-generation is what Africa requires to become the self-actuated mover of its own development and to create a secure development upsurge and continental prosperity that does not depend on the vagaries of external demand for primary commodities.
This Dangotean transformational mission and project is now been threatened by what seems like the unwillingness of African countries to respect and maintain carefully crafted legal investment agreements as sacrosanct documents and binding commitments. Within the past year the Group has faced major challenges as a result of the failure of some African states to keep their sides of the bargain or agreements concluded with Dangote Group.
This happened late last year in Tanzania when the government seemed to renege on some elements within the agreements reached with the Dangote Group to give it concessions and incentives for the massive investments of over $500 million dollars that the Group made in the construction of the monumental cement plant in Mtwara, Tanzania. This Dangote Cement plant with its 3 million metric tonnes per annum capacity is the largest cement plant in Eastern Africa. In addition to the cement plant, other associated Dangote development projects include the construction of a coal power plant and a jetty. While these are primarily beneficial to the Groups business, they also represent important investments and permanent additions to Tanzania’s power and sea transport sectors.
Together these projects have generated significant direct employment opportunities and as they mature and attain full production capacity the multiplier effects in various sub-sectors would be expansive and extensive, thereby creating prosperity and income in the community as well as revenues for the local, regional and national the governments. But due to the problems Dangote had to temporarily shut down the plant; and after negotiations and assurances that restored the original terms, the plant resumed production. This Dangotean Tanzanian experience of government infidelity to the sanctity of agreements can only create profound doubts among business people on the readiness of African states and leaders to move Africa forward.
But the Group’s challenges in Africa are not over. Just recently, in Ethiopia, the regional government of Oromo Regional State where Dangote’s new over $400 million dollar, 2.5 million metric tonnes per annum cement plant is located came up with new conditions that are bound to disrupt the operations of the Dangote plant. In what it claimed is an attempt to provide employment for jobless Oromo youth it decided to withdraw all mining licences and agreements already concluded with Dangote and similar other companies with mining concessions. In its place the regional government claimed that it would create youth owned companies that would now supply the minerals required by the cement and other plants.
This action of the Oromo regional government in illegally annulling legally approved mining agreements with the Dangote Group and other companies raise major questions on the genuine preparedness of African states, politicians, and bureaucrats to foster Africa’s self-development through Africans investing in Africa. Without question the action of these governments represents major challenges to Africans assumption of responsibility for their development and the emergent Affirmative Africa Narrative.
In fact at its core, these anti-investment actions are a repudiation of the long-standing aspirations of Pan-Africanism and its advocates, and the practical commitment of the continental organizations like the former Organization of African Union (OAU) and the current African Union (AU) to promote African-led development through investments, intra-African trade and exchange, as instruments for creating secure African development and domestic prosperity-generation.
This is a good example of how some African leaderships’ represent serious obstacles to African development. Quite clearly any aspiration for Africa’s take off through self-actuated development as represented by the transformational efforts of Dangote and similar committed pan-African economic revolutionaries is weakened by such leadership unfaithfulness, irresponsibility and lack of serious commitments to African investors.
Despite these set-backs, it is important for African states and the continental and regional economic groups to reaffirm their commitment to African-led transformational industrial development as the basis for Africa’s capacitation for self-actuated development. In this light, it is imperative for the AU and its various economic agencies to design Continental Investment Protection Agreements that would commit African states to respect and uphold already approved agreements and avoid arbitrary nullifications of legally binding instruments. An additional guarantor is for each African state to negotiate investment protection treaties with each other. In fact this is especially indicated for countries such as Nigeria where investors are increasingly embarking on Pan-African development investments.
Finally, pan-African transformational investors like Dangote should remain committed and not be discouraged by these clearly disruptive actions of hapless, backward and anti-African development leaders. The Dangotes’ of Africa as continental transformational vanguards should remain firmly committed to their chosen paths of legal profit making and simultaneous contribution to Africa’s transformation, economic development, prosperity-generation, psychological liberation, and the restoration of Africans dignity and equality with others in the world. These are worthwhile and enduring ideals and challenges that transformational revolutionaries and societal game-changers are bound to encounter and overcome so as to create new worlds.
Ehiedu Iweriebor is a Professor and former Chair of the Department of Africana and Puerto Rican/Latino Studies, Hunter College, City University of New York, USA.
Baringo, whirlwinds dominated the bare fields. I had to keep covering my eyes with the back of a sweaty hand. The strange thing is every time the whirlwinds would start they would head straight for the kitchen. When we were playing football which I will expound on later, the whirlwinds kept blinding the goalkeeper of the mentors’ team. The amount of loose soil did not make the situation easier. The team of mentees wore trousers during the game but they were not spared just like their opponents who mistakenly came out in very brightly coloured cotton shorts. Unlike the mentees, the mentors left the field wearing socks made of soil up to the knees.
Lucky enough, Ngubereti Secondary had an alternative source of water from the traditional rain water source. When it rains, many locals harvest and store rain water in small containers, oblivious of the fact that when Peace Ambassadors visit an area, they do so in large numbers. However with salty water from a borehole, young Peace warriors, learned to appreciate fresh water.
My lips got chapped, from the hot sun and my nose got covered in what looked like the cracks of dry clay soil that had previously held water. The makuti hat I had bought in Mombasa from an Indian man struggling with Swahili ended up serving all the ladies of the family except me.
These ordeals presented an opportunity to reflect on the drought that has been eating the nation since late 2016. Newton a form four student struggled to remember the last time they had rain when it hit him, “when was the last time you guys visited?” he asked while scratching his head coupled with a narrow stare in the sky. Without giving me the chance to respond which I thank God for because I forget dates easily; he fiercely responded “that was the last time this soil got soaked with rainwater”.
7.3 billion humans in the world all need freshwater. The only percentage available at once for our use is less than 1% of fresh water, one would wonder, “how well is it distributed and utilized?” During our walk in the village, we came across a watering hole that was almost dry. The many livestock in the village came from all directions to drink a semblance of water. . This scarcity is bound to lead to conflict.
When the lack of natural resources is reported countrywide, life in large cities is not interrupted except for the necessary rationing. City dwellers are more concerned with the consumption and little about the production and availability of the resources.
Cities do not experience hardships that are experienced in the arid and semiarid areas (ASALs). They are given priority in the distribution of water hence the lack of piped water in the ASALs. Moreover cities have also recorded major contribution to the wastage of the scarce resource. Unlike Mogotio the village we visited, water that has cleaned dishes in the city can never be used for mopping the house. I was shocked to see the amount of water a grown woman uses to shower which would make one wonder “is it necessary to fill bath tubs?” The manicured loans also are dependent on the clean water from the tap instead of the recycled water from the toilets which would lessen the pressure.
Back in Baringo, the high level of poverty in this county has heightened the recurring drought over the years. Poverty was recorded at 58.6% in 2006 but with the alarming birth rate, this figure is probably higher. When the Kenya Meteorological Department warned of the possible reduction in the quantity of rainfall as a result of climate change, not much could be done by the residents. Their inability to develop larger water storage facilities or even sink boreholes to match the population and the number of livestock renders them susceptible to the ruthless weather patterns.
Our visit to mentor the young and aspiring professionals was the very first official national event for the Peace Ambassadors. We refer to them as national because, they get to target members countrywide. These mentors who were both at the early stages of their career and in institutions of higher learning, were in Baringo to uphold a commitment they made of walking with the high school students from the time they set foot in high school.
This time I was on official duty of recording all sessions between the form ones and their mentors. It gave me a chance to listens as mentors like Abdi a student of Environmental Science at Maseno University took on the heavy task. He was diligently sharing all the career options that his mentees could choose from as guided by his mentees’ interests. He offered nuggets of wisdom on issues like school performance.
This term we were out to build their confidence in capabilities and talents, hence the football match I mentioned earlier. We quickly put together a team of mentors to play against young, smart and energetic students of Ngubereti secondary school. The thought of the team facing these masters forced mentors into a quick desperate workout the previous day, a walk of 6Kilometers.
The time the game started I could not help but cast my mind back to the film about the legendary football Edson Arantes do Nascimento. In the movie, he acquires the nickname Pele which he is famously known by when he rises to fame as a result of the extraordinary ginga style of play. Ginga combines dance and music to give forth a unique martial arts style. This style was introduced in Brazil in the 16th Century by African slaves. It was later incorporated in cultural activities like football which put Brazil on the global football map. Pele was among the players who popularised ginga. Though not in Pele’s legendary league, some of the taller students played beautiful football and gave their mentors a run for their money. In the end, the young mentees won by 3 – 2. The game helped in cementing the mentor-mentee relationships
We were glad to witness more mentees demonstrating confidence and interest in extracurricular activities compared to the time we introduced the platform. The once timid models were the ones doing solo acts of rap and comedy. One girl asked the audience to complete her sentences with the syllable ‘te’. She began and in the middle got the audience in an uproar of laughter when she mentioned breasts in Swahili (matiti). This for a moment took our minds away from the scotching sun, dusty fields, and salty drinking water.
Mumo a mentor, was going back to Masinde Muliro University, lucky for her she was going to Kakamega. With the numerous eucalyptus trees which break the powerful wind and the mega climatic boost from the Kakamega Forest, she will hardly worry about the extreme hardship. The only thing boggling her was how she had to come up with a strong face for her mentees when bidding them goodbye. She was careful to neither appear too subtle nor too emotionally expressive to the fact that she was leaving. Her mentees Sarah and Brenda on the other hand wouldn’t let go of their mentor when the thought of her disappearing for another four months crossed their minds.
Occasional “I will miss you, keep in touch” were popped in the middle of a last minute conversation until Mumo took a sudden dash for the room we were staying.
“I had to put an end to that emotional havoc I was bringing my way” she confessed during final morning circle just before leaving Ngubereti secondary school.