Audio: Memories of rural Kenya in the 1930s–50s: My mum and I on national radio

Central Kenya landscape

Ever wondered how Africans managed in the olden days?

How did women deliver children at home? What did they feed their babies? And when people fell sick who brought them back to health and with what?

And then when the British colonialists came and tore apart the social structure in Central Kenya, what drove people to nonetheless take up the formal education they brought? (My parents’ families were among the early adopters.)

In May this year, my mum, author of a memoir titled “It’s Never Too Late”, and I were invited to The Books Café, a radio program hosted by Khainga O’Okwemba, on the national broadcaster KBC.

Though I kicked and screamed when Khainga suggested that I should join the program, it turned out OK, and I even enjoyed the chit chat…you have to think on your feet!

Here’s the audio. 1 hour long. And below it the promo clip too – 30 seconds.

 

Margaret Wakarindi Githinji – author of ‘It’s Never Too Late’, a memoir

 

Cool insights for a hot world: trees and forests recycle water

Anyone who has walked outside on a sunny day knows that forests and trees matter for temperature, humidity and wind speed. Planting trees speaks to concerns about climate change, but the directly important aspects of the tree-climate relationships have so far been overlooked in climate policy where it relates to forest.

That, at least, is the conclusion of a new review. The authors suggest that the global conversation on trees, forests and climate needs to be turned on its head: the direct effects via rainfall and cooling may be more important than the well-studied effects through the global carbon balance.

Yet, current climate policy only recognizes the latter. While farmers understand that trees cool their homes, livestock and crops, they had to learn the complex and abstract language of greenhouse gasses and carbon stocks if they wanted to be part of climate mitigation efforts. Not anymore, if the new perspectives become widely accepted.Read more

Kombo Chokwe Burns and his Afro Simba Band blazes the music trail

Launching his new album Pandizo, Kombo Chokwe Burns and his band got their lucky audience off their seats in no time flat!

His mastery of the guitar, his own and his singers’ gorgeous voices, a powerful stage presence, and a fun ‘pekeshe’ -style from the Kenyan coast [they call it Mijikenda Fusion], did the trick that balmy evening of 6 November 2016. Besides the guitars, the Chivoti—a traditional bamboo flute— went straight into our souls.

The songs in the album, done in Kiswahili and the Mijikenda languages, have great lyrics – some environmental (e.g. Maji – water).

So happy to see the story of Kombo’s journey of resilience in the face of a major obstacle  in the local media – finally!

Go Go Kombo, Go Go Afro Simba! History has its eyes on you!

You can buy the music here: https://afrosimba.bandcamp.com/releases

See also: http://musicinafrica.net/directory/kombo-chokwe-and-afro-simba-band

Children’s orchestra plays Cohen’s Hallelujah

I had the great good fortune to be part of the audience at the culmination of an Orchestral Weekend at St Andrew’s Turi in Molo, Kenya, mid January.

Here are the kids—all 13 or younger—performing Leonard Cohen’s Hallelujah, conducted by the amazing Julia Luvai.

Children's orchestra- Kenya
Children’s orchestra- Kenya

 

 

And the master himself? https://youtu.be/YrLk4vdY28Q

‘Tis the season for frankincense, a suitable restoration tree for the Horn of Africa

There’s one more reason to be jolly this season: the frankincense tree—source of one of the precious gifts of the Magi in the Christmas story—is being called “a suitable tree species for use in dryland restoration under a changing climate.”

Bag of Frankincense at Spice Souk. Photo by Liz Lawley via Wikimedia Commons

Based on studies on frankincense trees (Bosweillia neglecta) from southern Ethiopia, World Agroforestry Centre (ICRAF) and partner researchers are calling for this tree’s expanded application in the restoration of drylands in the Horn of Africa.

In this region, covering Ethiopia, Eritrea, Djibouti, Somalia, and parts of northern Kenya, frankincense is tapped from Bosweillia and several other dryland trees found naturally in dry tropical forests and woodlands. When injured, the bark exudes a fragrant watery sap, which is collected and left to harden into the frankincense resin. Bosweillia neglecta tree produces a particular, earthy frankincense known as ‘Borena type’.

An important commodity, frankincense is used in pharmacology, as a flavouring, in cosmetics and in perfumery, and is traded locally and internationally. The incense is used in many religious and cultural ceremonies around the world; indeed, no Ethiopian coffee ceremony is complete without the sweet, heady aroma frankincense releases when heated over hot coals.Read more

 

Put Soils First, African Soil Seminar concludes

Group photo. The African Soil Seminar brought together government, UN and NGO officials, researchers, agricultural technology providers and human rights advocates. Photo by IISD

For three days, the World Agroforestry Centre (ICRAF) was abuzz with stakeholders concerned about the state and fate of Africa’s soils. Over 150 government, UN and NGO officials, researchers, agricultural technology providers and human rights advocates were attending the first ever African Soils Seminar, 28 – 30 November 2016.

“Soils are the basis of our survival,” said the co-chair Wanjira Mathai, who directs wPOWER Hub and chairs the Green Belt Movement founded by her mother Nobel Laureate Professor Wangari Maathai. Read more. . .

Climate conference COP22 calls for action on land restoration, coordination, financing

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Marrakesh, at the foot of the Atlas Mountains

The 22nd UN climate conference (COP 22) held in November in Marrakech, Morocco’s ‘Ochre City,’ was all about action.

Action not only to reshape the path of development in order to curb global temperature rise as a result of climate change, but also to sustainably feed and provide for a growing global population. The actions are part of countries’ commitments of the 2015 Paris Climate Change Agreement, which came into force on 4 November 2016, just days before the Marrakesh conference kicked off on 7 November.

Read more. . .

Research cuts a potential new path to faster, cheaper tropical forest restoration: Thinning

A perfusion of pioneers in a regenerating part of the Harapan Rainforest in Sumatra, Indonesia. Photo By Rhett Harrison/ICRAF
A perfusion of pioneers in a regenerating part of the Harapan Rainforest in Sumatra, Indonesia. Photo By Rhett Harrison/ICRAF

A common way to restore a degraded forest is to plant seedlings and nurture these into full trees. Indeed, to most people restoration and tree-planting (with native species) are virtually synonymous. Planting and nurturing tree seedlings over a wide area, however, can be an expensive and labour-intensive affair. Not to mention the decades or even centuries it takes before seedlings grow into trees.

Another common path to restoration is to simply protect a degraded forest from further degradation, often by fencing it off. Over time, lost tree cover will return through natural regeneration. This option is a relatively inexpensive, but it can also take centuries to achieve full restoration and the environmental benefits it brings.

Read more. . .

Birding Naivasha (after the rain)

Naivasha, on the shores of the eponymous Lake, is one of Kenya’s Important Bird Areas, or IBAs.

I took these pics on the morning of 27 Sept 2016  after a good downpour the night before. The air was warm and filled with birdsong as the birdies frolicked in puddles or perched high up on the trees and power lines, showing off their splendid colours. Jewel tones, dramatic yellows, emerald greens, rum-and-raisin, dark blacks – all were represented.

NB: I think those are their names…

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