Archive | May, 2011

Poverty Matters

4 May

The Guardian’s Poverty Matters Blog is worth a look if you haven’t come across it already. Today, especially so. Read Mohamed Béavogui’s post for the 4th May 2011 here. 

I don’t think that Mr Béavogui’s argument is a new one. It’s certainly one I’ve come across before and really without it, I wouldn’t have a documentary in the pipeline. He says that African farmers have the potential to solve the ‘food crisis’ that we could face in the future. Further than this, that they hold the key to the further development of the continent, and that we must see them as entrepreneurs, as business men and women.

But, he adds, to ensure success, they need support and investment by their governments in things like access to technology, access by roads. Improved electricity and reliable water resources are vital too. Keep an eye on goings on at the World Economic Forum on Africa in Cape Town this week.

I was struck by the attention drawn to national supply chains and the changing demands emerging from African centres, instead of demand from foreign importers. Last week I read an interesting article courtesy of the African Research Institute. Written by a Kenyan smallholder, it detailed how he manages his farm and how he produces vegetables, largely soya beans for export rather than for local sale. With Europe putting pressure on consumers to buy local and avoid ‘food miles’, will smallholders start looking for business that little bit closer to home?

Then again, we’re talking big business. World food prices are at a record high, and strong horticultural exporters are reaping the benefits. Is it really realistic for producers to ignore the temptuous international marketplace?

Anyway, The Guardian Poverty Matters blog. Take a look.

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A pinch and a punch…

1 May

The first of May.

One year ago I was in Addis Ababa…

It was the week before I traded the city for the country and went to meet some very inspirational farmers. It was also the week I made the most expensive apple crumble of my life in an attempt to introduce my Ethiopian hosts to some British cooking. (6 apples =  £6.00 )

Time goes so quickly. Which is why I’m thinking more and more about my trip this Summer. Still no flights booked, but the whole of July is free-ed up and ready. I’m still conversing with some very interesting people and hope to have more details shortly.

Today I listened to this interesting radio documentary courtesy of Minnesota Public Radio and America Abroad Media. I recommend that you do too…

http://minnesota.publicradio.org/www_publicradio/tools/media_player/syndicate.php?name=minnesota/news/programs/2009/12/15/midday/midday_hour_2_20091215_64

Mobile phones for building the bigger picture.

1 May

Image: Denaldi Photography

Kibera in Nairobi is Africa’s biggest slum. It’s home to 60% of the whole population of Nairobi and takes up just 6% of city’s area. About one million people live in about 200 settlements here.

At least that’s what we think. Heaving, thriving Kibera was only recognised by the Kenyan government as an area of housing in 2003. The figures that we have are generally based on estimates by non-governmental organisations.

One thing we can be sure of is that many many people call Kibera home, and no matter how many Kenyan settlements there are in the slum, if they were to look at a map of the area in 2009, they’d find a blank space where their homes should be. Unrecognised. Unmapped.

Of course Kibera is not just made up of homes. There are roads, shops, cafes, hairdressers, bars and many other facilities. Where there are people there are also sports clubs, meetings being held and churches.

So out of this blank space came Map Kibera. A project which has resulted in an interactive map of the area, showing all available facilities. Here’s a snippet…

Image: Map Kibera

Initially it was created with simple GPS mapping methods as explained here  by William Underhill. Now though it has reached a new phase and is one dimension of an interactive community project, Voice of Kibera. This is where the phone come in.

Based around this wonderfully up-to-date map, Voice of Kibera is a citizen reporting project. Residents with news of a meeting or an incident can text or submit a report online and using information about the location. The incident is then verified and plotted on the map using the Ushahidi platform where anyone logging onto the website can see it. An incident can also be investigated further if needs be. This is a video of Samson Ochieng Ooko detailing a forced eviction on the 27th February 2011.

Witnessryan: Railway Communities Facing Eviction

It’s another example of people using mobile phones to go the extra mile, important for communities and interesting for humanitarians, anthropologists and statisticians.

This multi-dimensional project has filled what was an empty space. But is it an accurate picture? Can we rely on adequate, widespread mobile use in Kibera for creating a service which is useful for all?

Follow Voice of Kibera on Twitter

And get updates via the Map Kibera Blog