Work and life lessons from my sewing hobby

It’s an open secret – I am obsessed with sewing (as a hobby). Handling natural fabric, making critical decisions (:)) about what to make with what fabric, tracing out and cutting paper patterns, and finally sitting at the sewing machine with music in the background… that’s my happy place. A creative outlet, but also a place where the mind can rest, process, imagine.

Having made patchwork quilts for many years, I finally progressed to sewing clothes about three years ago (learning from books and YouTube and trial and error). I’ve since made a bunch of lovely pieces for myself, my boys, and even a couple of friends.

I was recently invited to speak at my alma mater, University of Connecticut’s Career Night,  which got me thinking about some of the lessons I’ve learned in my two-decades plus career in science communications. I was sewing while thinking about it, and so many parallels popped up between sewing, work, and life that I decided to put them down.

In summary:

1/ Visualize the product

2/The end result might be different than the vision… and that might be OK

3/ Invest in the knowledge and tools you need

4/ Challenges are inevitable. They help us grow

5/Sometimes, you have to abandon a project

6/Enjoy the journey

Here goes…

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Musings on mahamri and coral reefs in Kilifi

Chumani village in Kilifi, where my buddy has set up a sustainable mixed farming homestead, is a 10-minute walk from one of the most gorgeous, white sandy beaches on the East African coast. In Chumani the skies are blue, the air is warm, and the moon and stars hold a beauty contest every night.

Plus, Chumani has the most delicious mahamri this side of  Pwani, made fresh every morning by Mamake-Anna and her daughter Anna in their low thatch-roof kitchen-cum-restaurant by the side of the short stretch of road that turns off the Mombasa–Kilifi highway into the villlage and straight to Chumani Beach.

Legend has it that this road once had a big chunk of chuma (‘metal’ in Kiswahili), which slowly became a landmark. As time went on the village came to be known as the place with the chuma (Chumani).

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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

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. ..