Friday, 29 January 2010

Kid Swap

In the aftermath of the case of the boys from Edlington, who beat and tortured two other boys, a youngster, Ben (13) from Cheshire, wrote to the Daily Mail, suggesting that these youth offenders need to be taught self-respect, regard for others, respect for authority and a sense of responsibility for their actions.
He continued that he attends a school with good facilities and considers himself lucky. He wants to learn. However unruly behaviour by others can spoil the lessons and a significant minority of pupils do not take a proper interest and can contribute to indiscipline.
Ben then says that he has heard of African children who are clamouring for an education but have inadequate facilities. He asks what they would give for an opportunity to attend and benefit from facilities that he enjoys? So he suggests an educational exchange.
"Why not let the unruly pupils at schools like mine experience poor facilities in developing countries? They would become more appreciative and respectful. And why not open the vacant places created by the exchange to the children from poor countries, the ones intent on learning?"
In principal, I am with you, Ben. The unruly kids would find themselves without computers, mobile phones, game consoles, running warm water, safe drinking water from the tap and even electricity - it would be a severe culture shock. As for African children in UK schools, they may find themselves out of their depth, but I am sure they would jump at the chance to attend a well equipped school. But, how long would they be in the UK? They would be loathe to return to their tin hut schools with slates and chalks.

And why should an African country have to cope with Britain's feral children? If a child is capable of beating another child in the UK, he would still be capable in Africa, although he may find that retribution is swift and sure.

I would love to see British kids going to rural Kenya to "see how the other half lives", but I would prefer it to be an education, rather than a punishment. Dealing with a violent child who is on the defensive because he is out of his comfort zone could be disastrous.

However, showing a child that there is life beyond the TV, games console and cell phone, where they can learn that bacon does not come from sheep, and the chicken on the plate was running around the yard earlier in the day, the vegetables for dinner were grown in the back yard, would be an education indeed.

Ben, I agree with your Dad. The exchange could be a good idea, but it will never happen.

Thursday, 28 January 2010

Farming in kenya

I watched a very interesting programme this evening on BBC2, Jimmy’s Global Harvest. I hadn’t seen the previous episodes and this was the last one, and it focused on Kenya.

First stop was in Luanda where he visited two shambas growing maize. The first showed a poor crop which did not provide enough food to feed the farmer’s family. The second, smaller farm was not only growing enough to feed his family of 8, but had a surplus for sale.

The first farm was blighted with stem boring moth larvae, which eat the fibre of the maize plant, killing it. It also had striga weed growing among the maize plants. This weed is parasitical, seeking out the root of the maize plant and tapping it for nutrients.

So what did farmer 2 do that farmer 1 didn’t?

He used a low technology solution to combat the stem boring moth. He planted desmodium amongst his maize plants. Desmodium lets off a chemical that repels the stem borer moth. He also planted napier grass (or Uganda grass, elephant grass) which attracts and traps the moth.

Desmodium has a second use inasmuch as its roots give off a chemical that actually kills the roots of the striga weed.

So farmer 2 was producing far more maize than his neighbour.

The next stop was a banana research unit in Thika, run by Dr. Florence Wambugu.

The problem for banana growers is that to produce a new tree, farmers traditionally dig up a sucker from a main tree and transplant it. Unfortunately, he will also transplant any sickness and disease in the plant and in the soil.

Dr. Wambugu has developed a laboratory process that not only produces disease free plants, but also, she can produce 1,000 new trees from a single sucker plant. this technology is certainly NOT low tech, but it is not so complex that it could not be set up regionally.

Third stop was in Naivasha, where the control of red spider mite was the problem in the massive hot houses growing cut flowers for export. They have cut their pesticide spray by 50% by introducing a bug called phytoseiulus, which eats red spider mites, then themselves, leaving the plants virtually bug-free.

The programme continued with a visit to the north-east where camels are farmed for their milk and finally to Selengei were it was found that the Maasai red sheep has built up an immunity to wire worm, neither of which were relevant to our River Cottage plot in Kisii, or to farming in Nyanza in general.

But, we know farmers in our area who grow maize and have a problem with stem borers, and others with diseased banana trees, so a bit more research by KCIS, then an educational trip is called for, I guess.

Also posted on Tool-using Thing-maker

Wednesday, 27 January 2010

Gentle Drive to Kenya - Confused!

Dreaming of (or maybe secretly planning) a 'gentle' drive from home in the UK, through Europe, Asia, and some of Africa to home in Kenya, a total of about 6,500 miles.
I have been getting advice from all over to the effect that parts of and Ethiopia are safe/unsafe, certain areas should be avoided and that the best route is through the Sahara, etc.

Now I am so confused about where I can go, where I shouldn't go and where I should avoid like the plague, that there is now a broad band of red on my map, which effectively cuts off Kenya from the rest of Africa.

Will I ever find a way to Kenya that doesn't involve getting shot at, arrested, kidnapped, blown up ...?

The last information I received is that Ethiopia is OK, as long as I keep away from certain bits. And now, I am told that even in Kenya, the road from the border to Isiolo is dangerous as there are bandits in the area.

But I won't give up!

Monday, 25 January 2010

Gentle Drive to Kenya - First Brick Wall

Dreaming of (or maybe secretly planning) a 'gentle' drive from home in the UK, through Europe, Asia, and some of Africa to home in Kenya, a total of about 6,500 miles.

I asked for advice, ideas and comments on my proposed route, I have been told that parts of it are very dangerous. A stretch of a particular road is mined and in other areas, fundamentalists will take a pop at anything that moves - that would be me, then.

I have also been given certain alternatives that would take me through areas that I would have avoided - like the Sahara Desert, Central African Republic (CAR), the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) and northern Nigeria - oops!

So now, I am stuck between a rock and a hard place, or rather, a desert and a minefield.

Obviously, Dafur, Somalia and Eritrea are to be avoided - I didn't need advice on that - but I have since been told that Ethiopia is OK (at the moment) by someone who has just driven through there. But everything can change overnight. We could set off and by the time we get to sub-Saharan Africa, the whole political landscape could have changed for the better, or more probably, the worse.
Do I give up? Er, no, I don't do giving up, not without a fight, anyway. So, how about passing through France and Spain, getting the car over to Morocco and traversing that sand-pit called the Sahara. I didn't want to, but, if the eastern route is blocked ...

What would it involve? From Morocco, we would drive to Algeria and turn right (south) to Tamanrasset to Kano (Nigeria), then through Cameroon and CAR, DRC and Rwanda - plain sailing from there. We pass into Uganda and then into Kenya, quite close to our objective, Kisii. Simples, as any self-respecting, Russian meerkat would say.

Another possibility would be to retain the trans-Europe route, but instead of turning left at Suez, we carry on westerly through Egypt and Libya (is that such a good idea?)

Then turn left through Niger, Cameroon, etc., as above.

Frankly, driving through France and Spain sounds a lot less interesting than traversing Europe and Turkey, but if I got shot or blown up, the kids at the Twiga Centre would be very annoyed with me.

So, I am confused. I will sleep on it and be confused in the morning.

Sunday, 24 January 2010

A Gentle Drive to Kenya - 1st Leg

Dreaming (or maybe secretly planning) of a gentle drive from home in the UK, through Europe, Asia, and some of Africa to home in Kenya, a total of about 6,500 miles.

This is the first leg of the journey, from the UK to the Turkish/Syrian border as dictated by GoogleEarth (2687 miles)
Unfortunately, GoogleEarth refuses to plan my route between the Syrian and Kenyan borders.

A Gentle Drive to Kenya - More Musings

Dreaming (or maybe secretly planning) of a gentle drive from home in the UK, through Europe, Asia, and some of Africa to home in Kenya, a total of about 6,500 miles.

Within my self-imposed budget of £3,000, I have so found the following diesel, automatic vehicles:
  • Isuzu Bighorn (Trooper). 3.1 litre, very strong car, needs new tyres;
  • Mitsubishi Pajero LWB, 2.8 litre, fine except it has not cylinder head;
  • Nissan Mistral (Terrano) LWB, 2.7 litre. I like these, but apparently, they are not too strong, more of a soft-roader.
  • Toyota Surf, 2.4 litre manual, fine except the turbo doesn't work, but I am sure it can be fixed cheaply. But is the 2.4 a little underpowered, and don't they pack up rather easily? (I do like these!!)
Looking on the Interweb, my personal choice, good HiLux king cabs appear to be rarer than rocking horse manure.

I don't know about the other bits of Africa that I will be travelling through, but Toyotas are very popular in Kenya, so spares and repairs would not be too much of a problem. But what about the rest of the trip?

Musings on A Gentle Drive to Kenya

Dreaming (or maybe secretly planning) of a gentle drive from home in the UK, through Europe, Asia, and some of Africa to home in Kenya, a total of about 6,500 miles.
I wonder how much the insurance will be?

After all, it is not your regular stroll down a country lane, is it?

From what I can gather, the route from Calais to Ankara is dual carriageway, apart from a stretch in Bulgaria. But once into Syria, it's all change.

And I need to find out the safest route between the Turkish border and the Kenyan border. Should I avoid Lebanon? Or Jordan, or Ethiopia?

Are there any other hotspots I should know about?HELP!

The intention is to visit charity projects en route to give them a bit of publicity. I hope that at least some of them can collect used deep fry oil that I can use as fuel.

What else will I need, apart from tents, cooking facilities? A co-driver, preferably someone with reasonable knowledge of the workings of a 4x4 vehicle would be good. Someone who can put up with a grumpy old man (me).

I suppose that, whatever vehicle I manage to acquire, it will need to be "modified" as well as having a full service before we set out. A sump guard springs to mind. An extra spare wheel wouldn't be a bad idea, either.

More musings, comments and maybe even some thought will follow - maybe.

If you have done this trip or something similar, or have any ideas, please let me know.

Bucket List

I was talking to a friend yesterday about my fantasy/project/dream to drive from my home in the UK to my "home" in Kenya. He thought I was mad, and he is probably not too far from the truth.

Then he said it was one of my "bucket list". My face must have shown my confusion so he explained that it is one of the things i want to do before I kick the bucket (wherever did that phrase come from?).

That got me thinking. Apart from this little overland jaunt through Europe, a corner of Asia and about half-way down Africa, I asked myself what else should be on my bucket list - things I want to do before I die?

Well, I want to see the residential bit of Twiga Children's Centre built and occupied, but I can think of little else I want to do, other than to continue to travel to Kisii on a regular basis, or maybe even settle there one day.

I would like to travel to the Far East, but it is not a burning passion, so that doesn't count.

OK, so maybe there are things I want to own before I die, but I can't think of anything at the moment.

So, either I am very boring (or easily pleased) or my life so far has been very fulfilling

Maybe you have something (or a list of somethings) you want to do before you die. Let me know in the comments.

Your ideas may inspire me.