Chelenge: Kenyan wood sculptor stands strong with people with disabilities

“I am Kenya’s first woman sculptress,” Chelenge says, as we step through a low, thatch-roof verandah and into her light-filled home studio— a sprawling bungalow where rooms flow effortlessly into one another, like a river. The walls are an immaculate whitewash and the cement screed floor is painted with red oxide, creating a perfect backdrop for Chelenge Van Rampelberg’s rich collection of paintings, and her own wooden sculptures—some nearly touching the ceiling, others at eye level.

As we meander among the sculptures I am struck by the expressions on the carvings – alive, serene, defiant. Some lips are upturned into small smiles. Many of the figures are missing something… a breast, an arm, both legs …

“What’s up with the disabilities?” I ask Chelenge, and spark off a monologue.

“I believe the ugliest thing in the world is the most beautiful.

“See this cripple here? He’s too, can give a nice, strong hug to this beautiful girl he loves.

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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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These are a few of my favourite Podcasts

Covid Has Truly Shown Us Things!

One of these for me is the seemingly inexhaustible supply of informative, entertaining, and uplifting podcasts that’s out there.

The podcast, IMHO, is god’s gift to the multitaskers of this world… I often listen while driving, walking, cooking, sewing, chilling, whatever. Plus, unlike a watching a video or scrolling through twitter, listening to a podcast is not antisocial, and can be enjoyed with other people.

Here are a few podcasts I’ve enjoyed during the Pandemic! Krista Tippet’s OnBeing is my all-time favourite channel, so many on the list are from there.

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Translate research into action for inclusive development, say GCARD3 conference speakers

The third Global Conference on Agricultural Research for Development (GCARD3) opened on with a clarion call to translate research results into usable innovations. This way, research will better serve both African countries’ sustainable development aspirations and the global Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).

GCARD3 opening ceremony. Photo by IISD/Kiara Worth
GCARD3 opening ceremony. Photo by IISD/Kiara Worth

Among the most pressing issues is conquering hunger and malnutrition while sustaining environmental health. The conference’s theme: ‘No One Left Behind; Agri–food Innovation and Research for a Sustainable World,’ also points to the need for inclusive development. Read more..

Considerations for successful forest restoration in a changing climate

forest_CIFOREven with a stable climate, forest restoration is a tricky and costly affair; the right species have to be carefully chosen, seeds or seedlings have to be procured, and these have to be planted and nurtured over long periods. If there are people in the targeted landscapes, their buy-in and cooperation is essential.

Add climate change, and this already knowledge-intensive and long-term undertaking acquires a new complexity and uncertainty.

Read more . . .

Website for value chain knowledge launched

Agricultural value chains involve millions of people as producers, small-scale traders, processors and retailers, but these actors often receive a disproportionately small share of the final price paid by consumers. Value Chains Development can ensure that small-scale farmers and producers enjoy a bigger piece of the financial pie.

The aim of the Value Chains Knowledge Clearinghouse,  a website launched this week by the CGIAR Research Program on Policies, Institutions, and Markets (PIM), is to provide a comprehensive and accessible repository of research methods and best practices surrounding value chain performance.Read more. . .

Managing Landscapes in Africa: From ‘Evil Forests’ to a Half-Urban, Half-Rural People

Boab tree, crops, Burkina Faso, conservation agriculture with trees, Africa, agroforestry
Boab tree and crops in Burkina Faso

Policy makers in Africa must think globally, regionally and locally for sustainable landscape management.

Africa—a diverse, resource-rich yet food-insecure continent—urgently needs an integrated landscapes approach to policy-making in order to meet food security and development goals while protecting the natural resource base that makes it all possible. To feed and nourish the continent’s expected population of 2 billion people by 2050, Africa will need to close an 87% food production gap amid a changing climate without compromising environmental integrity.

“The landscapes approach truly mirrors the heterogeneity, complexity and dynamism of African landscapes,” said Joseph Tanui, World Agroforestry Centre (ICRAF) researcher.Read more. . .

Grow your own pesticidal plants

Tithonia diversifolia on Thika Highway in Nairobi. Photo: ICRAF
Tithonia diversifolia on Thika Highway in Nairobi. Photo: ICRAF

Active ingredients found in wild flowers, trees and bramble have been used for millennia to control pests and diseases. Different parts of the plants are processed into decoctions or applied directly to crops or livestock, protecting them from damage, disease and infestation.

A new set of information leaflets, now available for download, describes the insecticidal and medicinal activity of 9 common pesticidal plant species in the tropics and sub-tropics. These leaflets were developed by researchers from the World Agroforestry Centre (ICRAF)’s Tree Diversity, Domestication and Delivery research program, the University of Greenwich and the Millennium Seed Bank Partnership of Kew Royal Botanic Gardens, under the auspices of the African Dryland Alliance for Pesticidal Plant Technologies (ADAPPT) network.Read more. . .

Networking to spread climate technologies

The Climate Technology Centre and Network (CTCN) of the UN Climate Change agency recently held a workshop of National Designated Entities (NDEs) from Anglophone African countries. World Agroforestry Centre (ICRAF) hosted the workshop (5-7 March 2014) at its Nairobi headquarters.

The 21 participants from 20 countries shared perspectives and discussed their roles, especially on how to build the NDEs’ capacity to serve as ‘climate technology champions’ and focal points for the Network’s activities.Read more. . .

International Women’s Day 2014 FOREST HEROINE: Catharine Watson

Cathy Watson, ICRAF Head of Program Development, in Burkina Faso. Photo by Claude Nankam

By Joseph Otim

In 1990, Uganda’s natural forests and woodlands covered an estimated 4.9 million hectares (ha), representing 24 percent of total land area, according to the country’s National Forest Plan. By 2005, this area had been reduced to just over 3.6 million ha or 18 percent of the land area — a loss of 27 percent in just 15 years.

In the face of this worrying trend, Uganda got much-needed help from passionate people like Catharine Watson, head of program development at the World Agroforestry Centre (ICRAF), to help stem the tide of forest loss in the country.Read more. . .