Thursday, March 17

How's The Weather Up There?

Here are 5 interesting facts about Africa's giraffes, according to Wikipedia:
  1. The "Giraffe" is related to deer and cattle, but placed in a separate family, the Giraffidae, consisting only of the Giraffe and its closest relative, the Okapi.
  2. A Giraffe's heart can weigh up to 24 pounds.
  3. The mother gives birth standing up and the embryonic sack actually bursts when the baby falls to the ground.
  4. A giraffe can eat 63 kilograms (140 pounds) of leaves and twigs daily.
  5. Giraffes are thought to be mute. However, recent research has shown evidence that the animal communicates at an infrasound level with a surprising level of complexity.

Wikipedia fails to mention that giraffes sleep with their legs folded under them in a seated position, with their heads in the air. I saw it with my own eyes.

The Thigh's The Thing

In Zambia, women never show their thighs. Zambians believe that thighs drive a man wild. A young woman can have her boobs hanging out of her shirt -- no problem -- but if her skirt snags and reveals some thigh: watch out!

Consequently, the chitenge is one of the most important items in the home of a rural Zambian. Essentially, a chitenge is a 3 foot by 6 foot piece of cloth that women wrap around their skirts to ensure that no thigh is exposed.

Of course, considering the poverty of many Zambians, chitenges serve many purposes. Jamie Baldwin is a BBC reporter who volunteered in Zambia for a while. He discusses several important uses for the chitenge. To his thoughtful list, I might add:
  1. towel (beach or bath)
  2. wall-/window-covering
  3. sun visor/impromptu roof when traveling in a vehicle
  4. bedspread/pillow
  5. tablecloth
Jamie has several interesting posts about Zambia, including one about international NGOs and one where he puts a face on HIV/AIDS.

Say Cheese

I've been on safaris in Zambia, Zimbabwe, Namibia, and South Africa. I have hundreds of photos of animal butts, boring landscapes, birds escaping, or out-of-focus flowers. I have about 10 pictures I consider "good."

There are several things to know when going on safari -- among the most important is how to shoot quality pictures. Outside Magazine offers a primer on how to make the most of your photographic efforts.

Exotic Tropicals

If you're into exotic tropical cichlids -- i.e., pretty, little, colored fish -- swim over to fishhead.com. They've got some terrific photos of the Zambian variety.

Wednesday, March 16

Sunflower Seeds

One of Africare's most successful projects to date has been a manual press used to extract cooking oil from sunflower seeds. I've seen these work, and they produce good oil -- although many of my friends didn't like the flavor -- but it takes a lot of seeds.

Interestingly, the FAO notes that in 1996, Zambia imported 5500 Mt of sunflower oil. In 2003, they imported only 2223 Mt. Coincidence?

A Big Rift

Zambia is in the middle of the Africa's Great Rift Valley.

Rift Valley(image courtesy of gesource.ac.uk)

According to Encyclopedia.com, the valley extends roughly 3,000 miles from Syria to Mozambique. The main section of the valley in Africa crosses Ethiopia and heads south across Kenya, Tanzania, and Malawi to the lower Zambezi River valley in Mozambique. The Valley ranges in elevation from 1,300 feet below sea level (at the Dead Sea) to 6,000 feet above sea level in Southern Kenya. Erosion has concealed some sections, but in places, notably in Kenya, there are sheer cliffs several thousand feet high.

Ellie Xing

A great roadsign. Only in Zambia.

Tuskless!

The BBC reports that elephants are increasingly losing their tusks as a rapid evolutionary response to escape slaughter by ruthless and resourceful poachers who kill elephants for their ivory. Researchers Mark and Delia Owens -- who must have the world's greatest jobs! --recorded an unusual number of such elephants in 1997 while carrying out research in Zambia's North Luangwa National Park. In a very interesting essay, they write:
Our research indicates that more than 38% of Luangwa elephants carry no tusks. Other researchers have reported that in natural, unstressed populations, only 2% of the animals are tuskless.
Zambia wants to change the protective status of its elephant population. The reult will, no doubt, be widespread slaughter or man-made evolutionary resposes to the inevitable poaching. If you want to discourage Zambia from changing the status of elephants, visit the Humane Society's online petition to save the elephants.

See Northern Zambia

Vacationtechnician has a great write-up about Northern Zambia, an under-visited part of the country. In Northern Province, there are numerous lakes boasting great fishing and diving -- including Lake Tanganyika, the world's second-deepest freshwater lake. There is a huge swamp fed by 17 rivers -- part of the basin forming Lake Bangweulu -- offering birdwatching and other game-viewing, including the Shoebill Stork (an ugly bird resembling the extinct dodo).

Northern Zambia  (image courtesy of Vacationtechnician.com)

The area is also home to 10 water falls and 6 Game Parks. Of these, the best is Kasanka, a private trust, featuring beautiful, eco-friendly accomodation, 12 km outside the park.

Don't Slaughter The Elephants!

According to the Humane Society of the US, in November:
Zambia will propose that its elephant population be downlisted from Appendix I, the category that covers species who may not be traded internationally, to Appendix II, the category that covers species whose international trade is legal but "regulated." Elephants in Botswana, Namibia, South Africa, and Zimbabwe have already been downlisted to Appendix II.
Arguably, there is no such thing as a "regulated trade in ivory." The last time the ivory trade was "regulated," the result was widespread poaching, and hundreds of thousands of elephants were slaughtered.

If you feel elephants should not be slaughtered so that people can wear ivory, please sign the petition to the Zambian President at gopetition.com.

Fences: For Cows or People?

Zimbabwe holds general elections on March 31. There is some concern that illegal Zimbabwean immigrants, fleeing the economic ruin of their homeland, will try to cross into Botswana at that time.

However, Botswana -- with the assistance of the EU -- has constructed a 500 kilometer-long, 220-volt fence "to prevent cattle infected with foot-and-mouth disease in Zimbabwe from crossing into Botswana." The government has denied that the fence also aims to keep out Zimbabweans. Currently, the fence is switched off; it'll be tough to argue that the fence doesn't serve this dual purpose if it's switched on at the end of the month.

Of course, illegal Zimbabweans might also try to sneak into Zambia, but Zambia doesn't provide as many economic opportunities as Botswana, which is an economic powerhouse in the region.

Tobacco Farmers Bring Problems?

A number of white farmers have fled Zimbabwe in recent years, to escape persecution by the Mugabe government. Many of them fled to Zambia and started growing tobacco. Consequently, tobacco production in Zambia has skyrocketed. This has contributed to Zambia's GDP -- and created new jobs, as well -- but it has also had some negative effects. According to South Africa's Star:

Many Zambians say they welcome the new jobs and increased food production, but some tensions remain. "If the land is taken by foreigners then the same thing that happened in Zimbabwe might happen here," said Gilbert Chona, a teacher in Livingstone, southern Zambia. The white farmers would alienate locals if they put up electric fences and denied subsistence farmers and villagers access to the nearby Zambezi River, he said. "They have started doing that already," he said. "There have been some small riots."

Hopefully, Zambia will not make the same mistakes as her southern neighbor.

She's Just Too Wet

I mentioned that comparing a Zambian woman to the Chambeshi River is akin to calling her a slut (they're both "too wet.") Apparently, the real Chambeshi is living up to its potential and flooding Northern Province.

This is ironic, of course, because erratic rainfall in other parts of the country threatens to leave many people without food this year.

Chiluba Faces More Woes

When it comes to his corruption charges, Chiluba has had his ups and downs.

Now, it seems Zambia is bringing another suit against the former president, charging he -- in conjunction with Congolese businessman, Katebe Katoto -- siphoned off more than $34 million earmarked for the purchase of arms for the country.

Crocs Kill 3

Crocodiles killed 3 people this week in Luapula Province.

Tuesday, March 15

Real Estate Boom in Zambia

Traditionally, property in Zambia is owned by Government and land is vested in the President. "Private Ownership" of land takes effect only through renewable 99- to 999-year leaseholds. (Land was seen as a gift of God and should not be sold.)

However, according to Augustine Mulolwa of the University of Zambia's Department of Surveying, "the privatization of government enterprises, the sale of government houses, and an apparent awakening by Zambians to own property" has led to the actual sale of land.

Consequently, as South African companies set up shop in the region, they drive up the prices of commercial and residential real estate, thus sparking a regional property boom throughout southern Africa.

Cassava

Cassava is a hardy, drought-resistant, edible root grown throughout the world. Americans are probably unfamiliar with this tuber, except that it is an ingredient in tapioca.

Cassava propogates easily, grows in poor soils, is protein-rich, and is a versatile ingredient in a variety of foods (including beer) and non-food items (like glue).

There are several new varieties that are not GM but are hardier than the older varieties. These improved varieties of cassava produce foodstocks on the order of 7 times that of maize. For that reason, Zambia has been pushing farmers to experiment with cassava in recent years. Many agronomists think cassava is the answer to many country's food security concerns as well as a lucrative cash crop.

We're Number One!

Zambia has recently attempted to position itself as a premier tourist destination. This week, the world tourism body ranked Zambia as Africa's number one tourism destination among emerging countries.

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