Tag Archives: Ethiopia

What did you expect?

18 Oct

A shopfront near Busia, Kenya

Have you ever been to somewhere new and thought, this isn’t what I expected. Maybe you’ve even told whoever you’re with, only to be confronted with the question, ‘well what did you expect?’. And you think…you know, I don’t know.

In many ways, travelling to Kenya and Ethiopia fulfilled many of my expectations. Mobile phones, as twitter would suggest, are truly everywhere. Everyone, in fact most of the adult population use MPESA to control their finances. But for some reason, if you’d told me that I would see phone masts rising amongst hilltops and eucalyptus trees I would have found it very hard to picture.

Which is funny really…

I admit, it was rather ignorant of me.

But one of the biggest lessons I learnt from the people that took their time to talk to me during my trip, I learnt from their reaction to my questions. The tilted head, the vague and baffled eyes when I asked if I could stop asking questions about their farm and speak to them about their mobile phone.

With the huge impact that mobile phones are having in the developing world, it can be easy to imagine that these revolutionary devices are the pride and joy of their owners, locked away and treasured above any other possessions.

But an egg is an egg is an egg. And a phone is a phone is a phone. True, they’ve become extrememly important to people. But they are still buried in people’s pockets, flung in baskets, and abandoned on bar tops.

In many ways this is their great beauty. In taking little steps to improve people’s everyday, they enable the big changes and make the giant statistics.

Spot the difference?

5 Sep

You may have noticed some changes on my website. I have three new
pages where I will be posting some video, audio and photographs which I took to
accompany the radio documentary.

And while we’re on the subject, the documentary is finished and
handed in! Friday was the hand in, which goes some way to explain my silence
online for the last week and a bit. It got a bit frantic at the end, it always
does doesn’t it?! I was tweaking until 11am on Friday, but it
eventually came together in my first ever twenty minutes of radio documentary.
Very exciting.

I was surprised at how quickly I made progress. I’d been practically
having nightmares about Audition. But sticking to my guns, and editing at home
proved to be the right choice in the end. Several times, I got up out of bed at
midnight feeling guilty at having one too little of it
during the evening. I swear some kind of magic happens at that time of night
and I had some productive spells. As the bank holiday drew to a close, I dared
to preview the programme to a select few, which proved to be a very valuable
thing to do. -I made some quite radical changes to the structure, and managed
to chop the programme down from nearly thirty minutes to twenty.

And then it was time to get arty! (Or at least as creative as I
dared.) Authenticity was so important to me whilst producing my documentary. I
wanted the programme to have a flavour of Ethiopia and Kenya, and for them to be
easily distinguishable from each other. So I used actuality, music and sound
effects, as well as pieces I had recorded, trying to describe as best I could
my surroundings.

So, the big question… am I pleased with the result? Well, yes, I
suppose I am fairly. But it’s not over yet, not until I get everything up on
here and looking lovely. I’m working on it! So keep your eyes peeled during the
week!

Slowly making progress

12 Aug

 I’ve been back in the UK for nearly three weeks now, and I admit I’ve only just reached the end of my first, uninterrupted week of editing. Largely I suppose because I’ve managed to be rather distracted by sunshine! Thankfully this week has been a gloomy, ‘mizzley’ one in Cornwall.

This evening I feel a bit like I’ve reached a milestone. All my audio is now neatly clipped up and arranged in labelled folders. It’s taken many hours in front of Adobe Audition. Infact, I was beginning to feel like I was living inside my computer screen earlier today. I also imagine that this is only the start; Hello weeks of dreaming about waveforms. (Welcome to the world of a radio producer I guess!)

But it’s not all bad. Infact, really it’s far from it. The wonderful thing about this week, improved by the fact that it’s taken me nearly a month to sit down and sift through all my interviews, is the way that it has transported me back to my time in Kenya and in Ethiopia.

Listening to the stories of my interesting and patient interviewees, I could be back there. Perched on a wooden stool in a garden, or a chair inside someone’s rural home. Sipping at fresh, spicy and curiously chocolatey coffee, or watching chickens – ‘kuku’ in Swahili, ‘dora’ in Amharic – scratching the dusty ground. Listening to the birds, the cows, or the lorries racing by on the nearby road, or staring out over a bustling cityscape, or the undulating highlands. Holding out my microphone and worrying the whole time that what my interviewee is telling me will be lost in some freak electronic failure of the recorder. My memories have surged back.

But my next challenge will be to disassociate myself a little from these personal feelings and to think pragmatically about my documentary. I need to select the most appropriate stories and start to think about how I can best illustrate my experiences and my findings in audio format. Next week’s task.

I’ll also be winding up my interviews next week. I want to put some of the individual stories I heard when I was travelling into a much broader context. It’s important because, as I hope I’ve demonstrated by now in this blog, mobile phones really are having a dramatic impact on local, national and international economies. So I’ll be speaking to development professionals in the UK about my research and hoping to draw some solid conclusions.

For now though it’s back to Audition I suppose!

The editting begins…

7 Aug

After backing up and backing up again (just to make sure) it’s finally time for me to get editing. I have until the end of the month to produce my first radio documentary. And a lot of work to do for it. Out inAfrica, I recorded several hours worth of interviews, nearly one thousand photos, and another few hours of video clips. With all this material I aim to produce a twenty minute radio documentary as well as content for this here website.

So where do  start? Well my aim for this week is to get all my audio ‘clipped up’. Once this is done, I can start thinking about which voices I really want to use in my documentary, and which I feel would be better used as small features. I have collected alot of audio on other issues. – The drought inEast Africafor instance. This was an issue which unsurprisingly was a big discussion topic whilst I was inKenyaandEthiopia, despite the fact that I didn’t reach the troubled region whereSomalia,EthiopiaandKenyaconnect. I hope that these will create interesting contextual pieces which will relate to my project.

I will be spending time listening to other radio documentaries. (so do get in touch with any suggestions!) I hope that this will generate some ideas as to how I want to approach the presentation of my own.

I am also very aware that I need to begin thinking about accurate representation of my interviewee’s voices. I was fortunate to meet some generous colleagues who helped me to translate my interviews. Now I must find actors who will voice up the responses that were given to my questions.

All this, and OF COURSE I’m still yet to confirm a name for the final piece! Mind maps a-plenty I feel…

So, three and a half weeks to go. It’s really come upon me rather suddenly. I’m worried, but also very excited about revealing some of the interesting discoveries that I made on my trip. I promise to get some sneak peaks up here very soon!

5 reasons to watch East Africa.

8 Jul

Tomorrow morning I  fly from London Heathrow to Nairobi’s Jomo Kenyatta International. I’ll leave behind hacking, hikes and HRHs, silly hats and all. I’ll miss out on Olympic tickets (again) my beloved Latitude festival and HP: the finale.

But you won’t have failed to notice that I’m heading to east Africa at a time of dramatic upheaval. Even if I’m not a direct witness, I’m preparing for interesting discussion and comment on some monumental issues.

Here are five issues, I definitely don’t expect to escape from.

  1. The birth of South Sudan Last time I flew to Addis Ababa, the plane stopped in Khartoum to refuel. I didn’t get off the plane, but I suppose you could say the sights I saw through the little window, were my first experiences of Africa. At 2100 GMT tonight (Midnight, local time) Sudan will separate and South Sudan will be born. Ethiopia and Kenya will have a new neighbour, geographically and politically. I don’t know about you, but I’m going to be glued to Twitter. Take a look at The Guardian’s Eight pointers for more on South Sudan.
  2. Drought in the Horn of Africa The Horn of Africa includes Ethiopia, Eritrea, Somalia and Djibouti. It’s a peninsular of extremes, with high mountains and low arid plains, and so drought is, unfortunately, not an unfamiliar problem. But after consecutive years of unpredictable rainfall driving the price of grain higher and higher, the UN say that the droughts we’ve been alerted to this week, are the worst for 60 years in some places. The problems extend to Kenya and Uganda. In Kenya, thousands of refugees are arriving in camps having walked, sometimes for days from Somalia. It looks as if the area is on the brink of drought. I won’t be travelling to the worst hit areas, but this backdrop of failing crops, soaring food prices and people on the move is going to provide me with very interesting context for my documentary.
  3. Ethiopia to build first ever wind farm Ethiopia has long been involved with major energy generation projects. Currently Ethiopia are constructing the biggest dam in Africa on the Nile, expected to generate 5250 MW of power. In July work will commence on a €210 million wind farm in Ashegoda. It’s expected to be the biggest in Sub-Saharan Africa. These huge projects provide Ethiopia with a currency for exchange and electricity will be sold first to Djiboubti and then Sudan. It’s big business with big implications.
  4. A new phase of Egyptian protests Since the uprising in Cairo almost six months ago, African nations have had their eyes glued on Egypt to see what happens next in the country. Today, thousands descended on Tahrir Square, the site that’s now synonymous with democracy, the world over. People gathered to demand the trials of former leaders and further reforms, including the restructuring of the police force. Protests occurred all over the country. The wave of civilian protests since December 2010 was ignited by social media and dubbed the Arab Spring. As the name suggests it seems it was only the beginning. Whatever the implications, the whole of Africa will still be watching.
  5. Africa Football on the up Like him or loath him, Sepp Blatter is still the most powerful man in world football and he’s spoken out about the game’s future in Africa. There is a talent in Africa, he says, which is impossible to find anywhere else. Earlier this year, President of the Confederation of African Football Issa Hayatou expressed his determination to strive toward professionalising the game across the continent. With a pan-African campaign to get the 2020 Olympics in Durban, it’s an exciting time for African sport.
I’m so excited to be travelling at a time when not only African’s will be talking about all of these things, but the whole world will be watching.
I leave tomorrow. It’s not quite hit me yet.

The plan cont’d…

29 Jun

Where was I? Ah yes, Back in Nairobi…

After a week in Kenya I will fly on to Addis Ababa for a week which will be a little more familiar for me after spending nine weeks there in 2010.

No more flights in Ethiopia. I will drive down to Kofele…

…on to Zeway

Then it’s back to base in Addis Ababa and on home.

Hopefully with my first documentary under my belt!

10 little days!..

All maps from lovely Google

Inequality?

20 Jun
My last blog post makes access to online and the availability of social media sound as if we’re all on an equal footing, we’re all involved in this big global discussion. But perhaps that’s not quite the case.
 
I was inspired by a tweet from Guardian Development today. They were also live tweeting from Africa Gathering in London today. They tweeted
 
“We must act to ensure digital access & literacy doesn’t become a new source of inequality @claremelamed#aglondon
 
Are mobile phones considered a luxury? Or a practical tool? Or can they be both? In the UK they are widely regarded as a tool I suppose. But this does not strip the iPhone of it’s allure.
 
Whilst I was in Ethiopia last year, I noticed that many people who owned a mobile phone, had more than one. My host mother had three. Why, was unbeknown to me. But she enjoyed having three mobile phones. Three more than some people that she knew I suspect. Is this inequality?
 
What about the huge regional disparities between the frequency of mobile connections?
 
Or do these inequalities just mean nothing in the grand scheme of things? The M-Ubuntu Project has brought mobile phones into the classroom in two South African schools.
 
Whilst in Kenya I hope to meet the thinkers behind M-Farm They have created a system which uses SMS to allow farmers to access accurate market prices whilst selling their crops. Mobile phones for good? ICT4D? I hope to find out.
 
I wonder whether mobile phones may be a complication and a solution to the problem of inequality. Or maybe this is just progress and development and continuity towards the future.
 

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

Connecting Ethiopia

17 Apr

http://www.ethiotube.net/nvlab/player/player.swf?config=http://www.ethiotube.net/nvlab/econfig.php?key=745740d4e8c771e011e1

Ethiotube: Linking Ethiopian farming communities to export markets

Connections are being made between producers in Africa and the international market all over the continent. So it’s probably not suprising that things are moving fast in Ethiopia too, like the video shows. Forging these connections is important when 85% of Ethiopians rely on small scale, ‘back yard’ style agriculture for their income.

It’s especially significant considering the other side of agriculture in the country. Something that that Guardian article you can read by clicking on the link above talks about. Agriculture is also big business in Ethiopia. The government have sold huge swathes of land to national and foreign investors looking to grow food cheaply. Berhanu Kebede (Ethiopia’s ambassador to the UK) writes…

“The key is to achieve balance. Commercial farms tend to become hubs that link smallholders to value chains and help spread knowledge and best practice to other farms. So the debate is not about big versus small. We will continue to support commercially viable small farms, which offer increased food supplies, jobs and incomes in both the farm and non-farm economy. This will help Ethiopia achieve wider economic development and prosperity.”

In Ethiopia, mobile technology and agirculture have yet to collide in a big way. I hope to keep looking at the reasons behind this. But you can certainly see from the video that there’s great potential for their use in developing agriculture in the country.

Which leads me to me and an update on my research. I’m currently eagerly searching for ICT4D projects in Ethiopia, and also concentrating on discerning what exactly the situation is there now in regards to NGOs administering support. Still coming across fascinating projects every day via Twitter and a host of new followee’s. Just a shame they’re not in Ethiopia!

Apologies for the video being a little bit melodramatic. Nice to see some shots of Addis Ababa though..which actually, while I’m at it, is not an ancient city like the video sort-of suggests. Addis Ababa is little over one hundred years old. The name itself means ‘New Flower’ in Amharic

…Not that I wish to be pedantic!

Why agriculture?

17 Apr

linkTV: Meeting Food Needs – Solutions from Africa

70% of the population of Sub-Sahran Africa are employed in agriculture. 80% of Uganda’s population of 31 million are involved in agriculture and as you can see from this list, agriculture in Ethiopia provides a whole host of valuable exports. The Gates Foundation has lots of similar facts and figures, all of which emphasise how important agirculture is to the economies of many developing countries, in particular African countries.

In accordance with an African Union programme, many African governments are investing more money into strengthening agriculture. But there is still work to be done.

There’s the problem of waste shown in linkTV’s video above. There’s also the plight of the ‘Middleman’ who take a share of the money that would otherwise go to the food producers. There are cultural aspects too. In Ethiopia I saw farmers driving huge herds of skinny cows along the road. I was told that these farmers see the size of their herd as more valuable than the productivity of the individual cow. Even though a smaller herd of better nourished, productive cows would really be far more cost efficient.

These are some of the reasons why agriculture is being targeted by the mobile market. As Danielle Nierenberg says huge numbers of farmers have access to mobile phones. If information can be distributed via them and farmers can connect to each other using them it could have global implications.

MobileActive.org: Mobile phones in rural development and agriculture