Tag Archives: Africa

New Version of Africa Map

I have been experimenting with the ArcGIS Explorer online system. I ported over my existing map of African places from Google Maps. I had to download it as a kml file, then upload the file to a web site. Everything seemed to come over. However, the map legend just shows the type of marker, not title I gave it. The information of each marker can accessed by clicking the marker. Here is the embed. It does need Silverlight to work. 

View Larger Map

Senegal tour highlights soil conservation and reforestation problems.

SudOnLine – Le Portail de Sud Quotidien SENEGAL | La problématique de l’eau et du reboisement au cœur du Débat

This article describes a tour of international experts around the Thies and Kaolack regions of Senegal to talk with local farmers about soil conservation and reforestation. Led by the Senegal Eaux et Forets, there were forestry experts from Burkina Faso, Cameroun, Tunisia, and the USA. Curiously, the article didn’t give any names.
I have been on and even led many such tours during my time in Africa, including this area. I wonder where they went to eat afterward?
It seems that not much as changed in the nearly 25 years since I worked there. They were talking about spreading peanut shells over soils degraded by salt encroachment. But the village had treated only 290 of 1850 hectares affected. I wonder how much time it took to do this?
At least it was encouraging that people seemed to know what the problem was and how to go about fixing it.

My Experiences with Meat in Africa

At the Franklin County Extension annual meeting last Friday the keynote speaker was Dr. Chris Raines. According to his website: Chris is the Extension Meats Specialist and is an Assistant Professor at Penn State University in the Department of Dairy & Animal Science. He researches factors that affect meat quality, and helps meat processors, large and small, national and local, with the quality and safety of the food they produce.


Chris’ talk was an eye opening exploration on the importance of the meat-processing industry and the challenges that meat processors face, while dealing with an organized, vocal opposition who wants them shut down at all costs. I highly recommend his blog: Meatblogger.org. As one who works in a discipline, forestry, that is also much criticized (but not as vociferously) and misunderstood, I could really sympathize with his point of view.
The program inspired me to think back on the experience of my wife, Sheri, and I, when we were Peace Corps volunteers in Burkina Faso (formerly Upper Volta) from 1979 to 1981, and when we lived in Burkina Faso and Senegal from 1981 to 1987, working on forestry projects in international development.  In the Sahel region of Africa the diet is heavy on starches like rice and millet. Yet, meat is critical to the diet and vegetables are not readily available for much of the year. Here are a few vignettes.
In the village of Beregadougou
We spent the first part of our Peace Corps experience in this village in southwest Burkina. As in most villages, the market came to the village twice a week. Cattle for market day were slaughtered in the morning. According to custom and Islamic dietary rules, slaughter is by slitting the throat so the animal can bleed out.

With no refrigeration everything had to be sold the same day! At the meat stall we told the butcher how much meat we wanted. He would hack off pieces to weigh. The meat would be wrapped in brown paper to go in our market basket. Since most people cooked their meat in stews, no one was concerned about the cuts. The butcher would smash the bones to expose the marrow for cooking. Being picky Americans, we would take out all the bones!

Upon the recommendation of Peace Corps, most volunteers brought meat grinders with them to turn the often tough beef into hamburger. We bought chickens live. I well remember slaughtering, cleaning, and plucking our Christmas chicken.
Porc-Au-Four
We lived in Burkina’s second largest city, Bobo Dioulasso, when I taught at the National Forestry School in Dinderesso. A hugely popular food option was the porc-au-four, prepared in small restaurants all over town. Each day a pig would be roasted in a brick oven. By noon time it would be ready. There was nothing better than bite-sized chunks of pork seasoned with salt and hot peppers, with onions and french bread. All this was chased with the local Bravolta beer. Even Muslims were known to send their Christian relatives to buy a meal!
Raising Hogs
At one point I got the idea of raising hogs in the yard behind our house. One of my colleagues, a young Burkinabe forester, told me how his grandmother earned her living doing it. I bought a piglet form her and was soon on my way. We built a mud-brick, walled pen behind the house. The pigs ate millet-beer (dolo) mash that was left over after brewing. We also got the hulls from a neighborhood miller who ground corn and millet for local families.
At the height of the project we had four or so animals. One of the sows gave birth and we raised the piglets. They were loud, but fun to watch! Fortunately we had helpers for all the work and construction. 
When it came time to slaughter the pigs I took them to the local slaughterhouse, which had recently been rebuilt with the help of Dutch technicians. They even had a veterinarian on staff to inspect the carcasses.
We had one of the hogs roasted at a porc-au-four and  threw a big party. Everyone enjoyed the feast.
They say that with hogs you use everything but the squeak. We cured hams. I learned that the boars’ meat was very strong and it is possible to over-salt the meat. We used all the scraps to make head cheese or scrapple. Even the ears went into the mix. It made a very tasty dish.
The French Style Butcher
At one point in Bobo a local entrepreneur opened a butcher in town. All of us expatriates were thrilled to have a cleaner place to buy meat, especially if it was guaranteed clean and fresh. The butcher had been trained in France. He knew how to prepare all the cuts. We really enjoyed the roasts tied with string. He even experimented making hamburger American style. His sausage was also excellent.
The French love rabbit, which they display in the meat case with the heads and feet attached.  It took some time to get used to seeing the furry heads and feet, and skinless bodies laid out!
Buying meat in Africa, we learned to watch for freshness. In the tropics meat turns green and goes bad after a day. We learned to like our meat well done! To be honest, the meat counter at American stores seemed much too tame when we got home!

African Forestry Presentation 2010

This afternoon I will be speaking to the Intro to Forestry class on international forestry in what has become an annual event. I will concentrate on problems of deforestation and desertification in the Sahel region of western Africa. Here is a map of places I have worked over the years:
Summarizing up some of the main reasons for deforestation:

  • Overgrazing is caused by the farmers’ strategy of letting livestock roam freely as a sort of bank on the hoof.
  • Poor agricultural practices that result in soil erosion and loss.
  • The emphasis on cash crops, like cotton and peanuts, that require expensive fertilizer input.
  • Periodic droughts. These are a normal part of the environment, but with larger populations there is less flexibility in dealing with the problems.

All of these issues can be overcome with the right strategies and technologies that we will discuss during the presentation.

Here is a slide show that illustrates some of these points.
Here are pictures from my visit to Guinea at the end of 2006. I volunteered at an environmental education technical school near Pita. It was great to work in French again!

Do these tourists need a map?

Talk about people who need a map. Two french tourists (Guillaume Combot and Enora Nedelec) are in the middle of a three-year hike from Cape Town, South Africa to Paris. They are now near Khartoum Sudan. Check out their web site here. (It is in French, but there is an english version, which looks like a machine translation.)

They must have access to computers as they are posting updates and photos. There are also some videos. There is a fascinating one showing how Guillaume cut pieces from a water bottle to reinforce his crumbling sneakers.

I hope they write a book or make a documentary film of this adventure. In addition to all the other adventures they are having, I am curious how they are navigating. Do they use a GPS? Are they using road maps? I know from experience that good road maps are hard to come by and are expensive in many African countries. This is an adventure I definitely want to keep an eye on.

Deforestation Presentation

This afternoon I will be speaking to the Intro to Forestry class on international forestry in what has become an annual event. I will concentrate on problems of deforestation and desertification in the Sahel region of western Africa. Here is a map of places I have worked over the years:
Summarizing up some of the main reasons for deforestation:

  • Overgrazing is caused by the farmers’ strategy of letting livestock roam freely as a sort of bank on the hoof.
  • Poor agricultural practices that result in soil erosion and loss.
  • The emphasis on cash crops, like cotton and peanuts, that require expensive fertilizer input.
  • Periodic droughts. These are a normal part of the environment, but with larger populations there is less flexibility in dealing with the problems.

All of these issues can be overcome with the right strategies and technologies that we will discuss during the presentation.

There has been a lot of upheaval lately in Guinea, the last country I visited. Last year the president died after a long illness. Within a few hours his corrupt regime was replaced by a group of young army officers. They promised to end corruption and restore democracy. The leader of the group, Captain Camara, promised he wouldn’t run for president. Now he has changed his mind. Recently his soldiers slaughtered and raped protesters at the national stadium. Here are articles from the New York Times and the BBC. Guinea should be a prosperous and happy country with all the resources at its disposal. I hope this situation can be resolved soon.

Here are pictures from my visit to Guinea at the end of 2006. I volunteered at an environmental education technical school near Pita. It was great to work in French again!

Finally, I was at the Soc. of American Foresters Convention last week. The Peace Corps said that they had many more openings in forestry and natural resources than they do volunteers. This is an excellent way to jumpstart your career. I highly recommend it.

Another Africa presentation

I will be speaking to the Intro to Forestry class on reforestation in Africa. I decided to put together a Google map of the places I have visited or worked in. There are a lot of pins in the map. I will add pictures and more cities I’ve visited later.