Friday, February 25

Dry Spells

Erratic rainfall is expected to jeopardize Zambia's prospects of a bumper maize harvest, warned Sam Mundia, permanent secretary in the ministry of agriculture.

According to IRIN, "overall rainfall this season was adequate for crop development in most areas, with the exception of the southwestern parts of the country, where prolonged dry spells have resulted in reduced plantings and crop failure."

Feeling Horny?

There are very few White Rhinos in Zambia, all of whom are in Mosi-Oa-Tunya National Park. Once, I went on a booze cruise and saw 3 of them. They had no horns. The guide explained that some Asian cultures value rhino horns as aphrodesiacs. Consequently, the Wildlife Authorities removed the horns to discourage poachers from killing them. However, it turned out that the poachers were angered with this tactic and proceeded to kill the rhinos anyway. There were only 6 rhinos left that day; I understand there are only 3 today.

White Rhinos (image courtesy of panda.org)

According to the WWF, "the species name actually takes its root from Dutch, "weit" (wide), in reference to the animal's wide muzzle." And somewhat disturbingly, the male's penis points backwards.

The Beverage You're About To Enjoy Might Be Hot!

When I lived in Zambia and wanted coffee, I always bought Malawian Coffee, because I was told it was the best. I didn't even know Zambia grew coffee. However, I recently learned of the Zambia Coffee Growers Association. This non-profit association has plantations all over the country, some of which also serve as wildlife refuges.

"Zambia's coffee growers are true pioneers: in 1980 virtually no coffee was grown in Zambia but today there are 4,000 hectares of coffee, providing employment to some 2,100 permanent staff. Seasonal employment during the harvest season (July through October) provides a further 18,000 jobs."

Two summers ago, I went on a tour of a coffee plantation in Malawi, and it was really cool. The ZCGA offers tours of the plantations it operates. You can contact them if you want a tour.

ZNWLG

The Zambia National Women's Lobby Group was formed in 1991 and works to increase women's participation at all levels of decision making.

The posted an interesting statistic showing how women's participation in Parliament remained relatively stable between the early '70s to the early '90s (around 4%). In the late-90s, however -- after the NNWLG really got off the ground -- female participation in Parliament more than doubled (10.6%).

Their ultimate goal is 50/50 political representation.

Thursday, February 24

DDO

The Directory of Development Organizations provides comprehensive sources of reference for development practitioners, researchers, donor employees, and policymakers who are committed to good governance, sustainable development and poverty reduction.

The PDF file for Zambia is 22 pages long and has loads of information in it.

Mr. Amusaa Mwanamwambwa

The current Speaker of the House is Mr. Amusaa Mwanamwambwa. His name is a mouthful.

The Zambian National Assembly maintains a fairly nice website, including transcripts of Parliament's debates and proceedings.

Wednesday, February 23

Plates

Here's a photo of a Zambian license plate. The page also explains what each number means. Interesting.

Good Snap!

This is a great photo of rural women preparing to brew beer. Check out the guy in the background. He saw somebody with a camera and struck a pose.

How Would You Like To Pay For That, Sir?

According to Education Minister Andrew Mulenga, the Zambian government announced plans to recruit 5,000 teachers this year to relieve the severe shortage of teachers country's basic and high schools. "It is expected that the current teacher/pupil ratio of 1:52 at basic school level will be reduced when the new teachers take up their postings," he said.

1 to 52!

The article makes no mention whatsoever of the tens of thousands of schoolteachers currently on strike because Government has not paid their salaries.

Girls Beat Boys (in HIV Rankings)

Information and Broadcasting Services Minister Mutale Nalumango announced that the HIV infection rate among young women between 15 and 19 is four times higher than that of young men of the same age group. She also noted that "the prevalence rate among people aged between 15 and 49 was at 23 per cent while that of rural areas was at 11 per cent."

Of course, considering the manner in which HIV is transmitted, the prevalance of prostitution, a general disinterest in condoms, and the idea that HIV+ men can "cure" themselves of the disease by sleeping with a virgin, it's no wonder.

Is It Halloween?

I think most African masks are fascinating. Today, I discovered Randafricanart.com, which has an awesome catalog of masks from Zambia and her neighbors. There is also a lot of high-quality, easy-to-understand information in the accompanying text.

Chokwe Mask (image courtesy of randafricanart.com)

I have a mask just like this mask hanging on a wall at home. Before today, I didn't know the mask is a "Pwo" mask, meaning it represents a woman. (I had just been told it was from Angola.) Of course, the long hair, almond-shaped eyes, and slender nose should have given it away. However -- and the website never mentions this -- Pwo masks look severe, threatening, war-like: just look at the sharp teeth!

I think it's interesting (but not altogether surprising) that in such a patriarchal society, female masks are so terrifying.

Schistosomiasis

Schistosomiasis is a problem in Zambia. According to the CDC, "those at greatest risk are travelers who wade or swim in or bathe with fresh water in areas where poor sanitation and appropriate snail hosts are present." Sometimes the lake looks soooo appealing. Be careful.

Infections, while often mild (bloody urine), can be severe:
"The most common acute syndrome is Katayama fever. Symptoms, which include fever, lack of appetite, weight loss, abdominal pain, hematuria, weakness, headaches, joint and muscle pain, diarrhea, nausea, and cough, may develop several weeks after exposure. Rarely, the central nervous system can be involved, producing seizures or transverse myelitis as a result of mass lesions of the brain or spinal cord. Chronic infections can cause disease in the liver, intestinal tract, bladder (including bladder cancer), kidneys, or lung."
The CDC recommends "vigorous towel drying after accidental exposure" but claims this is not a completely effective preventive measure.

Some of my friends contracted Schisto, but in the States, local doctors refused to believe they had it, insisting, instead, on testing for other things. Be firm if you have recently visited Zambia and are dealing with a Western doctor; for many, schisto is something they've read about but never seen.

Tuesday, February 22

Kids These Days

HIV/AIDS is a problem in Zambia. According to Zambia's Central Statistical Office, the nation's youth are more likely to pay for sex.

Youth & Sex (image courtesy of zamstats.gov.zm)

This is no surprise, I guess. What this chart does not show, however, is how many Zambians engaged in risky behavior but did not pay for it.

Moreover, fewer than one in two (45%) Zambians used a condom the last time they had such an encounter. Many Zambians are not crazy about condoms so this figure is encouraging.

Grafting, Not Graft

No, this post isn't about corruption. It's about growing fruit trees quickly and ensuring the fruits will be high-quality.

One of the more interesting projects I worked on in Zambia involved educating local farmers about budding and grafting. It's easy and involves simple tools. Essentially, you take a small bit from a seedling and attach it to a more mature tree. As the mature tree grows, so does the seedling and the fruit it bears. If you graft an orange tree onto a lemon tree, you'll get a tree that produces some oranges and some lemons. If you bud an orange tree onto a lemon tree, you'll get lemony-oranges. From what I hear, it's possible to graft multiple fruits onto a single tree -- meaning 1 tree can produce up to 8 different fruits (from the same family) during the year.

I realized today, in reading the article, that I could have saved myself a lot of work and simply grafted my avocado trees. Oh well.

A Sunshiney Day

Much of rural Zambia is without electricity, and that electricity which does exist is largely hydroelectric. Of course, since power lines do not run throughout the country, hydroelectricity is somewhat irrelevant. During my second year in Zambia, my father sent me a solar panel, which provided enough energy to power 2 small light bulbs.

This week, BP awarded Zambia a solar power contract. 121 community-based organizations and 9 schools in rural Zambia will soon be getting solar panels to generate electricity for lighting, radio, television, and refrigeration. Trained installers from Lusaka will deliver, install, and train local users how to operate the equipment.

I'm not convinced that television is the most pressing need facing rural Zambians, but I'm sure that schools and CBOs will benefit tremendously from having electricity for lights and pumps.

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