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Award winner

30 Apr

Aid20 has won an award! A BJTC award for best radio feature to be precise. I was over the moon when I found out a few months ago. Last week I went and picked up a certificate from the radio legend Simon Bates – a very kind, funny and interesting man. You can see some (embarrassing) photos Here.

Thankyou to University College Falmouth and Send A Cow for the continuing support.

Great news!

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National Geographic Weekend

4 Jan

Happy New Year!

In an all too familiar style I’ve been useless at blogging recently. So as it’s the new year I will make no false promises. I don’t promise to blog every day or to do anything like that. I do, however, hope to continue this blog in some form or another. So do please keep checking back.

It would have been far more apt at the end of 2011, but I did want to quickly mention the interview I recorded with National Geographic Weekend – a fantastic radio programme coming out of Washington DC. Don’t worry, you can also listen online – It was great fun chatting with Boyd Matson and you can listen to me squirm and mumble through my time on the other side of the microphone here… if you like!

It’s a great fantastic programme. Please follow National Geographic Weekend on twitter too

2011 in review

2 Jan

The WordPress.com stats helper monkeys prepared a 2011 annual report for this blog.

Here’s an excerpt:

A San Francisco cable car holds 60 people. This blog was viewed about 2,300 times in 2011. If it were a cable car, it would take about 38 trips to carry that many people.

Click here to see the complete report.

Regina

3 Nov

Send A Cow farmer Regina

Regina’s interesting mobile phone project is simple. She lives in a remote community outside Busia in west Kenya, and is a one of Send A Cow’s peer farmers (which means that due to her success with organic farming, she now trains other farmers in agricultural techniques.) As more and more of her neighbours begin to buy and use mobile phones, she saw a business opportunity.

At her house, Regina has electricity, but she is in a minority. Most of her neighbours have to travel a long way to reach charging stations. They’re not uncommon in the region, but it usually means a trip to the nearest town or village which can take a whole day there and back.

For these small scale farmers, time is precious. They don’t want to waste it. Unfortunately, one of the burdens of owning a mobile phone is it’s battery life, and to keep it topped up, trips to the town and to electricty are essential.

Enter Regina…

This is Regina’s charging station. By investing in a variety of charging adapters, a broad enough selection to fit the most popular mobile handsets, she offers mobile phone charging on her neighbours doorsteps at 10 Kenyan shillings (just less than 6 and a half pence) a go.

Regina’s charging station is an example of how mobile phones are seeping into the everyday consciousness of people in rural Kenya. Knowing that many of the farmers I interviewed didn’t have electricity in their homes, I often asked them whether this was a problem for them, but they rarely told me that it was. Either they get used to charging when they’re in town. Or they look for other solutions, like Regina, like this or even like this! 

As entrepreneurs go, you have to hand it to Regina who saw an opportunity, and used it to her economic advantage, alongside the money she earns from her farm.

And it’s not her only side-project. She also dabbles in incubation…

My final night

22 Jul

As predicted, gaining reliable internet was difficult as I travelled south down the Rift Valley. My first stop was Shashamene, known widely as the town which emporer Haile Selassie gave to the Rasfafarians. Well, he gave them some land there anyway, and it remains today. From the town, I travelled up to Kofele, a compact market town.

Describing the journeys is hard to sum up in a little blog post. Cars don’t rule the roads in this part of the rift valley. Infact nothing really does. Most of them are simply seething with cattle, minibuses, children, horses, donkeys pulling carts, ‘bajaj’ (or tuctucs) , the odd 4×4, cats, dogs, goats feeding from others… Somehow though, everything seems to get where it sets out to go. With a little bit of Ethiopian patience. Beyond the town, we met with farmers and their famillies to ask them about how their mobile phones are helping them to make more money from their farms. They also have profound social impacts which was interesting to see. Of course, we couldn’t avoid questions about the rain and drought, but this part of the country is very high and damp most of the year, so the effects are less severe.

On Wednesday, I took a hot dusty drive north, to the lakeside town of Zewey. Beautiful Zewey, flat fertile ground with a backdrop of deep blue mountians. Most of the farmers I met with here are irrigation farmers who have large plots and water pumps. Others grew seedlings in their yards to sell on to the bigger scale farmers. The hotter climate and flatter geography does mean they are more prone to drought here, and with rains falling at different times, some were fearful for the future. Many simply told us “Only God knows about tomorrow”.

So, back in Addis Ababa for my final night here in Ethiopia. The city has changed lot in a year, since I was here last. Still managed to find my favourite cafe and my old internet haunt.

But home tomorrow. I’ve met some interesting and incredibly warm, helpful people and have a heap of material to trawl through on my return. Fingers crossed I’ve not forgotten anything!

Salem Addis Ababa

17 Jul

I woke up this morning to the sounds or a busy Bole road and arrived at breakfast for a hot, sweet macchiato. It can only mean one thing, back in Addis Ababa. I spent two months here last year and it’s great to be back. But this time, my stay will be a brief one. Tomorrow I will travel south, down the rift valley to meet with communities of farmers and continue my documentary project.

Its reasonably cold here. It’s rainy season, and although none has fallen since we landed late last night, when the rain comes it falls hard and heavy. Addis Ababa is one of the highest cities in the world. The altitude proved itself when exiting the airport last night, a fellow travellor dropped his lighter and it instantly exploded! Quite extraordinary.

So I have a day to catch up with friends and re-focus after a fun day in Nairobi yesterday. I’m looking forward to finding out about the progress Ethiopia has made with mobile networks, and how this is affecting the farmers, many of whom live out of reach of mobile signal. I’m hoping to incorporate the very topical issue of food security and ‘drought’, and find out how farmers think that their mobile phones might help them as rains become increasingly unreliable.

I’m looking froward to a busy week…

Let’s do this…

31 Mar

Blog post number 1.

This is where you can keep tabs on my preparations as I begin to plan my trip and my documentary. It’s all very exciting. I’m also aiming to start putting together a bit of background on my project. It’s a fascinating area and it’s getting its fair share of media attention. So keep checking back to see how I’m getting on.

Getting the website up and running has been a bit of a milestone. I’ll be making changes as the weeks go on, so slowly but surely things will come together.

I’m eager to get lots of really interesting projects on board for the radio documentary, so I’m currently sending lots of emails. More information soon, but it’s all beginning to sound pretty exciting.

Oh and I’m really pleased to say that I’ve been awarded funding for my documentary by One World Media Take a look at the link, the other students’ projects all sound brilliant, a very eclectic mix.

So, whilst I beaver away, watch this space.

In the meantime, my colleague Rebecca Novell is heading to India to make a documentary soon. Take a look at her website.

And for more on African agriculture, watch John Vidal’s report from the Gambella province in Ethiopia for the Guardian. Farming is changing in Ethiopia, as it is all over Africa. The big changes are boosting national productivity, but they’re bypassing, and even marginalising local people.