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

 

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. . .

Fig trees throw down a lifeline to a healthier planet

Fig trees were here when dinosaurs first roamed the planet. And today, just as they did 80 million years ago, Ficus species continue to bring nourishment, shade, water and numerous other gifts to people and plants. What’s more, these trees may help us claw our way out of the ecological conundrums we currently find ourselves in—deforestation, species loss, and even climate change.

In a gripping 224 pages of eloquent writing, Mike Shanahan’s first book, ‘Ladders to Heaven: How fig trees shaped our history, fed our imaginations and can enrich our future’, brings us the fascinating story of fig trees. From the age of dinosaurs, to pre-history and the age of exploration, and into the present times, the reader learns how these trees shaped the planet and fascinated philosophers, conquerors and commoners alike. Read more. . .

What will it take to restore 100 million hectares of land in Africa?

The challenge is massive, but so is the promise. Healing 100 million hectares of degraded and deforested land in Africa will bring countless benefits: fresh air and water, food and energy —the very stuff of survival. It will also build people’s climate resilience, and contribute in a big way to global climate change mitigation goals.

Land restoration aims to bring back ecological functionality to degraded ecosystems. It can be achieved by introducing or allowing trees to grow on landscapes and using sustainable land management techniques such as terracing steep hillsides, minimizing tillage and building structures to stop soil erosion. Curbing free-grazing of livestock and managing water also support land restoration. Read more. . .

Two books launched at ICRAF Science Week 2016

Kimutai Maritim, the Assistant Director of Veterinary Services in Kenya, was the chief guest at the launch of Traditional ethnoveterinary medicine in East Africa: a manual on the use of medicinal plants.

A veterinary epidemiologist with long experience in the Kenya livestock sector, Maritim congratulated the authors on the publication. He said the book was timely and important, and it described important plant species, some of which may be facing local extinction in Kenya. Read more. . .

In Kenya, farmers see early rewards from adding legumes and trees to their farms

Jane Achieng displays bean varieties at Piny Oyie market at the Suna West site, Kenya. Photo by Danyell Odhiambo/ICRAF
Jane Achieng displays bean varieties at Piny Oyie market at the Suna West site, Kenya. Photo by Danyell Odhiambo/ICRAF

Less than a year after supplying farmers with legume seeds and fertilizer tree seedlings, the Legume CHOICE project team caught up with farmers and traders in Kisii and Migori counties of Kenya. The farmers were already enjoying the benefits and were keen to scale up.

Legume crops like beans and peas (known collectively as pulses when dry) are a versatile and affordable source of protein and other important nutrients. A mainstay of vegetarian diets, legumes play a critical role in meeting the protein needs of people who cannot access animal proteins such as meat and eggs. Read more. . .

The A to Z of soil biodiversity

The soil is the “living, breathing skin of our planet.” It is the basis of food production and essential for clean water, health, greenhouse gas capture and numerous other functions that support life on earth.

Soil biodiversity is intimately connected with all terrestrial life. Thanks to advances in technology and global scientific cooperation, huge strides have been made in our understanding of the dazzling diversity of life forms beneath our feet; and especially that of microscopic bacteria, fungi, and nematodes that are invisible to the naked eye. Read more…

For more and better-quality food production, take care of pollinators

The evidence is clear: For big gains in crop production, our landscapes must become more hospitable to some of the planet’s littlest creatures— its pollinators.

bee-coffee
Coffee pollination by carpenter bee (Xylocopa sp.). Photo by Dino Martins

Bees, birds, butterflies, moths and some small mammals transfer pollen from flower to flower, causing fruit to set. This environmental service of pollinators is what secures the harvest of a huge proportion of the world’s food production.

At an invited talk at the Nairobi headquarters of the World Agroforestry Centre (ICRAF) on 8 January 2016, Kenyan naturalist and entomologist Dino Martins, the Executive Director of the Mpala Research Centre and Chair of the Insect Committee of Nature Kenya, delved into the intimate links between the world’s food security and pollination. Read more. ..

The right tree for the right place: vegetationmap4africa v2 includes smartphone app

Tree enthusiasts on the move can now identify species as they go, and at the same time gain a deeper understanding of their natural environment, thanks to a new version of vegetationmap4africa (www.vegetationmap4africa.org).

Field testing of the new vegetationmap4Africa App. Photo by Roeland Kindt/ICRAF
Field testing of the new vegetationmap4Africa App. Photo by Roeland Kindt/ICRAF

The new version of the map (ver. 2.0), which has been developed by the World Agroforestry Centre (ICRAF), the University of Copenhagen and partners, was launched on 7 September 2015 at the XIV World Forestry Congress in Durban. The map is expected to help those involved in landscape restoration to make better decisions on suitable tree and shrub species to.. 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. . .