Song of the Day: Lisa Hannigan - I Don't Know

My vote of Song of the Day... Well, even Song of the Season... Nice!

Thanks to Samuel!

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Farmers adapting to climate change:
Naakpi Kuunwena from Ghana

Vegetable farm in Ghana

His name is written “Naakpi” and pronounced “Naakwi”, that we understood fast. But it took us much longer to comprehend why Naakpi looked so tired, and walked around with a back bent as if he had a burden too heavy for one man to carry.

We understood even less as we walked through an opening in the earth wall surrounding his farm and stepped onto his vegetable field: This one hectare plot was the largest, greenest and best maintained vegetable field we had seen so far. The cabbage, beans, tomato, peppers all stood in straight lines. A perfectly geometric maze of five inch wide irrigation canals divided the field into small sub-plots devour of any weeds.

All of us stood in awe. The sight of green that lush came as a surprise. So far, during our West-Africa trip for the Adaptation and Mitigation Knowledge Network (AMKN), we had been interviewing farmers harvesting at this time, one to two months into the dry season. Here, in Lawra – Northeast Ghana, it had been no different. But Naakpi still had a green plot. Why then did it not make him a happy man?

“This is by far the nicest plot I have seen so far, Naakpi”, I said, and congratulated him. He looked at me with sad eyes and shrugged: “Give it one more month, and I will loose it all”, he said. He told us the story. (...)

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Farmers adapting to climate change:
Joel Yiri from Ghana

Ghana farmer

After his first two sentences, I knew Joel Yiri from Jirapa was the man I was looking for. I had asked Peter Kuupenne, an extension officer from Ghana’s Ministry of Food and Agriculture, to meet “a creative farmer”. And that is what I found: Joel was a man with a vision.

As we shook hands, and sat down in front of Joel’s house, he introduced himself in perfect English. I asked him how come, and if maybe he had been a teacher. But he shook his head: “You know, over here, you are born as a farmer’s son, so that’s what you do for your life: you farm. Just as your father and your father’s father. But that also includes the core challenge: with the current climate change, we can’t farm anymore like they did. We need to adapt our methods. Our fathers had fertile grounds. The rains were plentiful, and for generations they used the same tools, the same seeds and the same technologies. Our generation needs to change.” (...)

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Farmers adapting to climate change:
Helene Nana from Burkina Faso

Helene Nana on her vegetable farm in Burkina Faso

“Twenty years ago, famine reigned our area”, says Helene. “The men went off to Côte d’Ivoire, Mali, Togo and all countries around us. They farmed other people’s lands. But we, the women, we could not move. We had to raise the children. And it was hard.”

“You know, for a farmer, the crop is everything. As the weather changed, as the erosion took our soil away, we were left with infertile land. Whatever small crops we could still harvest, was not enough for our kids. They got sick, many died. Those were very hard times.”

Adama, the chairman from the farmers’ union, had told us how the village succeeded in constructing a dam. “That was good as a drinking hole for the cattle”, Helene explains, “but I realized we could do more with it, and thought about growing vegetables during the dry season. We never did that, I had no experience, but I wanted to give it a try. If you don’t try, you won’t learn, in my opinion.” (...)

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Farmers adapting to climate change:
Ganame Ousseni from Burkina Faso

Burkina Faso farmer

“You have no idea”, says Ganame Ousseni, a cattle farmer in Ninigui in the North of Burkina Faso, “You can not imagine. When I was a small boy, the grass was this high”, and he holds his arm above his head. “We used to hunt wild animals here. We had loads of cattle too.”

But now it is gone. The forest and the grazing grounds. The whole area is barren with a compacted crust as top soil. “What were we to do?”, Ousseni shakes his head, “We had to stay here to mind the crops, so we gave our cattle to nomads passing through. They herded them for us, taking the cows to the grazing grounds hundreds of miles away, all the way up to Mali. At the end of the dry season, when the cattle came back from the migration, we saw we lost more cattle each year. Some were stolen along the way, or were eaten by wild animals. Our herd disseminated.” (...)

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Requiem for Luc

Last night, my nephew posted his last Facebook update after years of fighting cancer.

Tonight is the last night.
It was a privilege knowing you all.

Eva Cassidy, Somewhere over the Rainbow. For Luc.

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Wikileaks in the land of the not-so-free

Wikileaks cartoon

No, I don't want to follow the populistic trend to write something about Wikileaks because it is the talk of the town. Neither am I sure if publishing classified political correspondence is really whistleblowing, contributing to reveal abuse, miss-use, corruption or misappropriation - what the original intent of Wikileaks was. Apart from most of what was revealed, does not really come as a surprise to those living with their eyes and mind open in This Brave New World, dominated by the Coca-Cola's, Monsanto's, Cargill's and McDonald's and all other Fine American Products.

However, I do regret the concerted efforts to gag Wikileaks by no matter what means. Be it Amazon Web Services, which hosted Wikileaks for a while, banning the site from its servers, under alleged pressure from the US government, ditto action by EveryDNS, its US-based DNS server (though said because they could not handle the DDOS hacking attempts) and today the blocking of their fundraising through Paypal, the US-(surprise!) based electronic payment service.

And if it would only stay at that level,... but it did not. US' finest, Sarah -OMG- Palin chipped in by saying Assange should be "hunted down like the al-Qaeda leadership". Include also the public call for Assange's assassination by Flanagan, an senior advisor to the Canadian PM, and it leaves me with many questions.

Where does that leave us with freedom of speech? Is that only valid if we say what "those in power" approve of? Are the main stream media that controlled, for independent whistle-blowing sites to become this popular, and -in my opinion- a public must-have? And if things are leaked, to what efforts will the governments go to stop the leaks. ...As if with the current social media, they could ever stop them...

Update Dec 6 2010: All of that was written before Wikileaks today's publication of worldwide installations the US considers critical to its security and the public health of US citizens. To me, this is no long whistle-blowing, but a cheap way of targeting a state by revealing classified information.
If anyone (within a government, company, organisation) would publish any document not meant for the general public, claiming to whistle-blow or hiding behind freedom of speech, then we're in for an interesting twist. The right to freedom of speech, also comes with the obligation of using common sense, respect and ethics.

Cartoon by Samir Alramahi/Toonpool discovered via The Rag Blog

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Farmers adapting to climate change:
Ganame Adama from Burkina Faso

farmer in Burkina Faso

“My grandparents grew crops without any fertilizer, and had no problems. But with the 20 hectares I inherited, the yield was not enough to even feed my own family”, sighs Ganame Adama. “The forest was gone; the fertile soil was taken away by the waters gushing over the land during the rainy season. A hard crust was everything we were left with. We had to find ways to use that water.”

The people from Ninigui, in Burkina Faso’s north, looked for advise from other farmers who lived through similar challenges. They learned how to build small dams, called ‘diguettes’, ‘digues’ or ‘digues filtrantes’ to break the water flow and block the fertile ground from running off: Using a simple long tube, filled with water, they mark ‘contour lines’ with sticks: areas on their flat plots which are at an equal height. Then they stack rocks, only half a foot high, following those contour lines.

“These dams break the flow of the water as it gushes off the plains. While the rain water slowly seeps through one dam, the soil carried by the water, sinks to the bottom, forming strips of fertile land. The water leaking through one dam is stopped again by the dam on the next contour line, about twenty meters further down the slow slope. And again on the next, and again. Each time, a fertile strip of land forms between the lined-up rocks”, explains Adama. (...)

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Ninigui: A war against… erosion and desertification.

barren landscape Burkina Faso

In the north of Burkina Faso, about one hour’s drive from Ouahigouya, the trees change into low scrubby bushes, the grass turns yellow, and as we drive on, it eventually disappears. The dirt track dissolves into a rocky river bedding, climbs up a steep ridge and levels on a plateau. We stop for second, and take in the scenery.

The landscape is barren. The soil is a dark brown crusted gravel, often bereaved of any vegetation. Houses are grouped together, with the mosques and low mud grain stores sticking out. Here and there a group of kids walks to the school at the edge of the village. A large troop of cows, herded by two nomads, kicks up a cloud of dust.

Ninigui feels like a border town. A village on the edge of the desert and on the edge of survival.

Ganame Adama, who heads NAAM, the local farmers’ union, takes us to his field where he just harvested his millet crop. “Look around you”, he says, “All of this used to be forest. At the time of my father’s father, they hunted wild animals here. They grew a crop without using any fertilizer. They had crops every year without much effort.”

As the forest was cut for firewood, gradually the rains carried away the thin top soil. To make matters worse, the rainy season shifted: it started later, lasted shorter, and came in repeated violent squalls, often causing flooding as the barren ground was no longer able to absorb the rain.

“Rains just gushed over the ground”, Adama explains, “In the hills, it dug out ravines, emptying into the flats. The water would just carry away whatever we had sown. It was no use to apply fertilizer neither. Each time it rained, everything was carried away.” (...)

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