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Archive for November, 2009

America and fuel driven politics

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Thursday, November 26th, 2009 by Bev Clark

Ethan Zuckerman writing on his blog My Heart’s in Accra got me interested in a New York Times article entitled Taint of Corruption Is No Barrier to U.S. Visa. Apparently Teodoro Nguema Obiang, the agriculture minister of Equatorial Guinea and the son of its ruler, has a $35 million estate in Mailbu, California.

Ethan reflected as follows

As the New York Times reported this weekend, the strong evidence that Obiang is systematically looting his nation’s treasury hasn’t prevented him from getting US visas and visiting his estate several times a year. So why does Obiang get to play in Malibu while Robert Mugabe is forced to live it up in Hong Kong? According to the US State Department officials quoted in Ian Urbina’s New York Times story, the answer is simple: Zimbabwe doesn’t have oil, while Equatorial Guinea does.

It’s 7:05pm in Dar es Salaam

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Tuesday, November 24th, 2009 by Bev Clark

Amanda and I have just returned from Dar es Salaam. We were on the road with Freedom Fone.

Last Tuesday it was 9 degrees at 9am in orderly Johannesburg and 28 degrees with sweat inducing humidity at 7pm in chaotic Dar. After negotiating the jam-packed arrivals hall we smiled in relief when we discovered John holding up a torn piece of cardboard with Freedom Fone scribbled on it. We couldn’t speak Swahili and he couldn’t speak English but we made our greetings and jumped into his car for the ride of our life to a lodge off the Old Bagamoyo Road in Michokeni B.

Dar was thrillingly alive, jumping with activity of all kinds. Flashing past us . . .

Two guys on a bicycle. One of them had a goat draped over his knees. A beggar with buckled legs dragged himself through an intersection, craning his neck to ask for money from people in cars. He wore slip slops on his hands. The storm water drains on the sides of the roads were full of water breeding malaria and other diseases. Little boys’ trawled homemade fishing lines through the muddy ditch water hoping for a catch. We saw a young man fill a water bottle from the litter-strewn canal, and we hoped that he wasn’t going to drink it.

The next day we met up with Bart, Margaret and Lilian the Farm Radio International (FRI) crew who we’d come to train to use the Freedom Fone software.

FRI is a Canadian-based, not-for-profit organization working with about 300 radio broadcasters in 39 African countries to fight poverty and food insecurity. FRI has partnered with Freedom Fone to engage our software in the support of small scale farmers in Tanzania. FRI have established 5 listening communities attached to 5 community radio stations in varied locations in Tanzania. These community radio stations broadcast programmes that assist farmers in achieving better yields as well as helping answer questions related to the various agricultural challenges they might be experiencing. FRI is currently exploring the use of information communication technologies (ICTs) to complement and extend the usefulness of radio broadcast programmes.

They selected Radio Maria, a Christian radio station based in Dar es Salaam, to deploy Freedom Fone. FRI’s listening groups with Radio Maria have expressed a particular desire for information about raising chickens. Local chickens are an excellent income source for small-scale farmers, as they have low input costs and high demand and a ready market. However, many farmers experience high chicken loss due to poor management: not keeping the chickens safely, feeding them properly or looking after their hygiene sufficiently. Better information helps farmers lose fewer chickens, and thus make more money out of them. FRI’s Freedom Fone deployment will draw on this desire for more information about chicken management, and their broadcast programme called, Heka Heka Vijijini (Busy Busy in the Village), will be adapted into short segment audio programmes using Freedom Fone software.

FRI also intends to use Freedom Fone in Ghana . . . stay tuned!

Stop the violence

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Tuesday, November 3rd, 2009 by Bev Reeler

out beyond ideas of right doing and wrong doing
there is a field
I’ll meet you there

Last week the Tree of Life held workshops in the granite rocks of Mutoko
sheltering from the October heat under Mahatcha trees
as they dropped their ripening fruit into the circles

30 people had walked from their homes 1 to 2 hours away
all from the same community
headmen, councillors, community leaders and activists
victims and the perpetrators together in the same circle

victims who had become perpetrators
and perpetrators who had become victims
brother against brother
father against son

a community who have been carrying the brunt of political conflict and social upheaval in the centre of their families

but in this place
where they told their stories
they began to speak of something different
of their need to stop the violence
and to reconstruct their lives
to see beyond fear
into the eyes of their brother, neighbour, friend
and recognise that peace was more important

(there was even the space for humour
as one man said to the person who had burnt his house and stolen his chicken.
“the house I can understand – but my hen?
did you think she had a vote?”)

and when the soul lies down in that grass
the world is too full to talk about