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

 

‘De-risk’ the wood energy sector to unleash green growth

With population growth and urbanization, the demand for energy from trees is growing rapidly around the world. This demand presents a golden opportunity for wood energy be a force for energy security, sustainable development and greener economies. But this exciting potential can only be realized when the wood energy sector, particularly the one in sub-Saharan Africa, is ‘de-risked’ to become orderly, legitimate and sustainable.

Charcoal traders in DR Congo. Photo courtesy of Jolien Schure/CIRAD
Charcoal traders in DR Congo. Photo courtesy of Jolien Schure/CIRAD

A special event at the recent XIV World Forestry Congress (7 to 11 September, Durban, South Africa) saw a high-level panel of experts discuss the situation of woodfuel and charcoal production, trade and consumption around the world, with a particular focus on Africa. The event titled “More than heat! Wood energy for the future,” went beyond wood as a household energy resource, to its potential—as a modern fuel—to power green growth for national economies. Read more. . .

Brushing up charcoal’s image

You cannot handle charcoal without getting your hands dirty. Similarly, the charcoal value chain in sub-Saharan Africa, a multi-million dollar enterprise, has all the makings of a dirty business. In many countries, powerful cartels control the trade in charcoal, and the business is shrouded in mystery, largely out of the reach of governments’ regulation.

Yet according to panelists at a side event of the ongoing XIV World Forestry Congress in Durban, in spite of or because of rapid urbanization in Africa, the demand for charcoal and woodfuel is growing strongly. According to the World Future Council a 1% rise in urbanization can increase charcoal consumption by 14%. Read more. . .

Agroforestry among ‘100 Under $100’ tools for women’s empowerment

In her new book ‘100 Under $100’, Betsy Teutsch rounds up a hundred innovative yet affordable tools and practices that can make a huge difference in the lives of poor women in low-income countries. Agroforestry is among these innovations.

Fertilizer trees raise and stabilize maize yields in Malawi. Photo: ICRAF
Fertilizer trees raise and stabilize maize yields in Malawi. Photo: ICRAF

Many of the tools featured, like childhood immunization, handwashing, and clean birth kits—are lifesaving. Others, like agroforestry, rainwater harvesting and beekeeping, ease labour and drudgery and provide income-generation options for women. Others still, like the internet and voting rights, give women a voice and open up their world. Read more. . .

Evergreen, Nipa and ‘push-pull’ presented at global innovations forum 2015

Agriculture as practiced in most parts of the world today will simply not feed a human population of 9 billion by 2050. Innovation in food production is needed, and it needs to be adopted on a wide scale.

Indeed, the purpose of the ongoing Global Forum for Innovations in Agriculture (GFIA) 2015 has been to bring together global leaders, policy makers, researchers, manufacturers and community leaders to showcase and discuss the best agricultural innovations.The high-profile event was opened with keynote speeches by HH Sheikh Mansour Bin Zayed Al-Nayan of the United Arab Emirates, HRH King George Rukidi IV of Toro, Uganda, HRH Charles, the Prince of Wales,  and US Vice President John Kerry. Read more…

From ‘energy poverty’ towards sustainable tree-based bioenergy

When it comes to energy, countries—and in particular developing ones—could take a strong cue from Europe, where the use of bioenergy has been rising over the past two decades. Aware that the current reliance on fossil fuels is unsustainable from multiple perspectives, EU countries are increasing their use of renewable energy—including that stored in trees—for varied purposes, including electricity generation from biogas-fired power stations.

“All fossil energy sources have either reached or passed their peak production. Even with new discoveries of oil reserves in Africa, and technologies such as fracking for gas, we are running out of energy,” said Philip Dobie, Senior Fellow at ICRAF.Read more. . .

How research can improve people’s lives: An interview with Mary Njenga

By Arsene, Ahijah, Hubert, Inna, Mélodie and Sabrina (students at Lycée Denis Diderot, Nairobi).

On 21 March 2014, World Agroforestry Centre (ICRAF) researcher Mary Njenga visited Lycée Denis Diderot (LDD), the French School in Nairobi, and gave a talk at an inter-school conference titled “How to Feed Humanity.”  About 200 students and teachers from three schools including LLD attended this conference. Dr Njenga then sat and answered the students’ many questions about her studies, her achievements and her vision on how research can impact people’s lives. Read more. . .

Complexity lives at the tree–people–planet interface

Photo montage by World Agroforestry Centre (ICRAF) via Flikr
ICRAF photo montage via Flikr

In their editorial review for a special edition of the journal Current Opinion in Environmental Sustainability, Mark Stafford Smith of CSIRO and Cheikh Mbow of World Agroforestry Centre (ICRAF) give compelling examples of the complex challenges the agroforestry researcher works through in analyzing the interactions between people, trees and agriculture. The complexity arises in large part because the interactions happen within dynamic landscapes that are also influenced by policy decisions, market forces, and climate change.

“These social–ecological interactions are not mutually exclusive and require systemic approaches,” say the authors, who based the editorial on the 23 articles published in the special journal edition.Read more. . .

Unpacking the evidence on firewood and charcoal in Africa

Charcoal sellers in Mozambique.World Agroforestry Centre (ICRAF) archives
Charcoal sellers in Mozambique.World Agroforestry Centre (ICRAF) archives

Woodfuel meets around a tenth of the world’s energy demand, with its users overwhelmingly found in sub-Saharan Africa. Here, nine out of ten people—around 760  million individuals—rely on firewood and charcoal as their primary source of energy for cooking, heating and other uses.

In 2007 charcoal was a US$8-billion industry, employing more than 7 million people in the sub-region, according to World Bank estimates. The  sector has been growing by around 3 percent annually since the turn of the 21st century, according to FAO data. Woodfuel as a source of energy, commerce and employment makes it an important socioeconomic asset to the continent. But woodfuels, and particularly charcoal, are also clouded by controversy and obscure regulation.Read more. . .