A Time for Animals

I spent the last week out on the planes of Kenya playing with cows and a few other animals. This project is with KARI (Kenya Agricultural Research Institute) and they are developing a vaccine that has a long shelf life and doesn’t need refrigeration (a problem in most of Africa) to eradicate CBPP (Contagious Bovine PleuroPneumonia). It was eradicated in most of the world in the mid 20th century but the heat in Africa has been a hurdle there. There are basically three areas of cattle ranching involved in the project. 1] Commercial Ranching (large scale ranching) 2] Pastoralists (Small herders that constantly are on the move) 3] Small Zero Grazing (Small farmers who keep their livestock in corals).

We were suppose to go out to Ijara to shoot for 3 days but due to the bombing in Nairobi the Friday I arrived, the security all over Kenya has really changed. We spent a full day trying to decide if we would go to Garassa then Southeast to Ijara, an area by the southern border with Somalia. I was working with the people from KARI and they were trying to reach the district counsel to try to get security to go with us. They thought about putting me in a turban and long white or beige cape, but after 6 hours of meetings and finding that the IDRC (who’s financing the project) won’t allow their employees to travel to the red zone, they decided to cancel the trip feeling it was just too dangerous. We decided to go north to Nanyuki and on the way up in the car, it was on the radio there was a bombing in Garassa that day, so now everyone decided we made the right choice.

Nanyuki sits right on the equator, it actually goes right through the middle of the town. However it sits above 6,000 feet in elevation and every morning when we were leaving at 6 am you could see your breath. Yes, with only clothes for the heat of West Africa I was cold!

This is the reason I was spending so much time playing with cows! The first day we ended up in a 90,000-acre conservatory that had 7,000 head of cattle and 15,000 wildlife of all kinds, unfortunately most of which I didn’t run across. However I did see a few species and it was great, I hadn’t seen wild animals outside of a zoo in quite a long time.

 

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(All Blog photographs © Bartay)

 

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I was a bit disappointed though because they wouldn’t let me out of the car, I wanted to get closer! But when we found the cattle, they did let me out and I wondered around the plains and got my chance to play with the cows. These are Boran cattle and mind you, you are always walking with your head down watching where you’re stepping.

 

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I met these two herders who where extremely open and very willing to have themselves photographed.

 

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Visiting Kenya for the second time I remember how it is wide open and the mountains just pop up off the plain. Nanyuki and the surrounding area we were in are on the Northwest side of Mt. Kenya. It rained all three days we were out there but usually not for more than ½ hour. The wind is really blowing this time of year and the storms would just blow in, rain and blow out again.

 

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Driving along a variety of dirt roads we would run across quite a few of the ‘Pastoralists’ who were constantly on the move, moving their small herds (20 ~ 30 head) looking for new grazing grounds or water.

 

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It can be very far between areas of water, so at this one area quite a ways out there was a well and a trough where all the Pastoralists knew they could bring their herds to get water. So there is always a gathering of a large amount of cattle from quite a few Pastoralists gathered at any given time.

 

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On our way back from the watering hole, off in the bush we saw some herders who had set up ‘home’ so we stopped. The Doctors I was with knew they were Somali’s so I stayed in the car until they went up and spoke to them to explain what we were doing and would they mind if I took pictures. I obviously don’t speak the language so I would have looked rather dumb anyway! But after a few minutes they waved me over to meet them and photograph them and their ‘mobile’ home.

This is Beshar Sarif and his wife Sahara Ali Adun.

 

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There were about 20 of them living in this area at the time. This is Beshar and Sahra’s home, their kitchen and penstock for their baby livestock. After a period of time or the grazing in the area gets too slim, they move on.

 

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The project is also trying to get the women more involved in the vaccination of the livestock, where this has traditionally been taken care of by the men. So a lot of the women are doing more and more activities taking care of the herd. This woman, Habiel Wario is cutting dried grass to gather and store for feeding her family’s livestock. That’s Sadia, her daughter, helping out.

 

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I thought it might be an idea to show a little bit of behind the scene work and what’s happening on the other side of that photograph. This first one, we were looking for unhealthy or diseased cows and we found a small heard early one morning that didn’t look well. I had given one of my cameras to Tom, our driver, and he started taking pictures of me taking pictures. As you can see this cow was extremely thin and it’s hindquarters were almost non-existent.

 

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Later we had a farmer take his small heard into a communal holding pen, so we could bring them into the shoot to make vaccination easier. The existing vaccine is administered through the tip of the tail, though the new one is going to be administered under the skin in the neck.

One cow a couple of head to my back got so riled he jumped up and over the shoot fence. I was hoping the cow I’m standing next too decided NOT to do the same.

 

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It’s been wonderful being back in Kenya, although the security problem with the Kenyan’s being at war with Al Shebab has created quite a bit of problems for them. Here in Nairobi they have lots of malls, about every 15 or 20 blocks and is usually about 4 or 5 stories tall with every kind of store you’d want. After last year’s bombing and take over of the Westfield Mall, the security at every mall has drastically changed. Every car is searched all around it, inside, the trunk, and even the engine compartment before being allowed into the fenced off parking lot. Then there are metal detectors and security guards checking every person before entering the mall.

I think it’s like a lot of the places I’ve been in the last couple of months like Nigeria and Mali, they accept it and go about their business. They are very happy and friendly people that do wish the troubles would be over and go away. I wish them good luck and a speedy solution, I have thoroughly enjoyed my time back in Kenya.

 

 

 

 

Posted in Kenya

First time in Nigeria

It’s been quite a long time, but a few degrees south and I am now in the Southern Hemisphere. I arrived in Nairobi today and what a difference, cool and somewhat dry almost like San Francisco. In the 70’s now, so tonight… no air conditioning. I’ve been out of communication for 7 days now, no Internet and no phone. I’ve been in the most populated country in Africa and no Internet. The place I was staying North of Lagos had no Internet, then when I got back to Lagos my ‘fancy’ hotel had a great wifi signal but it didn’t go anywhere. I had written this blog posting thinking I would be able to post it from Lagos but… Now I’m in Nairobi, it’s almost 10pm, I’m sitting down with a Kenyan beer and waiting for some chicken, so here’s the posting for Nigeria from Nairobi!

I’ve been in the Southwestern part of Nigeria for a week now based out of Ile –Ife (go google  Ile – Ife, Nigeria). It has been déjà vu of the old days, I have had no contact this week with anyone due to no Internet and with my iPhone being broken I cannot use cellular for email or Internet. I’m back in Lagos tonight where I do have access albeit very slow, seems to be the status quo in Africa.

Ile –Ife is a 4-hour drive Northeast of Lagos and I now have a new country I will say has the craziest drivers I’ve ever been in. It was 4 hours of white knuckles as the traffic in the most populated country in Africa causes congestion like you cannot believe. Once you leave the city it’s like any developing world, potholes, moto bikes, pedestrians, bicyclists, animals all on the two-lane freeway. But they make it a three-lane freeway, passing one car on the left, the next car on the right shoulder. Give my driver a couple of kilometers of free road and he’d hit 160kph (100mph), he did slow it to 100kph after the sun went down although he had his chin right on the windshield. Took me half an hour to pry my hand off the handgrip.

Yes, Nigeria has been in the news a lot lately around the world I hear, due to the ‘200 Girls’ that Boko Harem kidnapped a couple of weeks ago. I’ve been following Boko Harem for about a year now and that is all going on a ways north of where I was. They had CNN on TV the other night where I was eating dinner and the reporter was interviewing the Brigadier General of the Nigerian army, everyone in the place was laughing at his dodging all the questions. Not sure they have a lot of confidence in their armed forces, but they don’t like what Boko Harem has done and would love to get them out of Nigeria.

This has been my first time in Nigeria and what a difference from the last 5 to 6 weeks of working in the Sahel. HUMIDITY, to put it in one word but the second word would be GREEN. Nigeria is on the northern edge of the rain forest across Africa and it is made up of very dense jungle forest. The humidity is always above 90% this time of year and along with the heat… well you get the idea.

 

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(All Blog photographs © Bartay)

I’ve been here working with the IDRC out of Ottawa on a project they’re funding on teaching Nigerian women the benefits of growing local vegetables. I’ve been out in the field working with one of the main partners, Osun State University in the city of Ile –Ife. We’ve been going out to the co-op farms they’ve set up for their project, some around Ile -Ife and others surrounding Ibadan. I learned Ibadan is the largest city (in area) in all of Africa. It’s more of a settlement really, one maybe two-story buildings side by side that just goes as far as the eye can see.

The project is a 3-½ year study and it comes to an end this August so the co-op farms are on the mature side. The first farm I went to was started in the wetlands of Ile –Ife. It was filled in and the co-op farmers started out with a fresh plot of land. After a short period they were growing vegetables as large as this fluted pumpkin.

 

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Basically they’ve started teaching the farmers how to carefully prep the seed, seed the land, and what crops to grow. Some of the vegetables can be harvested every 15 days and plants replanted every 3 years. That fluted pumpkin gets harvested every 15 days and the plant gets replanted once a year. So this way there is always steady income for the farmers.

 

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They will section off a plot of a particular veggie with string and marketers will come and pre-order and pre-pay for a section. Then the farmer tends to the plot and when it’s time to harvest the marketer comes back, harvests the vegetables and takes them to market to sell. When the marketer pre-buys the farmer puts some of the money into a co-op account and then they can borrow against it to purchase seed, fertilizer, whatever they need.

 

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Here are a couple of marketers who have been harvesting their section, and then they will take it off to the market to sell.

 

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The kids? They don’t get left at home, they’re either in school or they come with mom or dad to spend the day at the farm.

 

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Osun State University has also been doing morning broadcasts to get the word out not only to other possible farmers, who might want to join or start their own co-op but the campaign has also sent the sales at the markets higher since the broadcasts started. Everybody seems to be winning on this project. It has been so successful the University is seeking to extend the project and to expand the area.

 

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Now stopping by the market was a rather spooky hour or so. It is right along a very busy road and remember what I said at the begging? This 2-lane road turns into a crazy, crazy road. Happily I had someone watching my back from the moto’s, cars, pedestrians, you name it. When a very large bulldozer on a flat bed was coming (no room for anything else) we decided it was time to leave.

 

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Hopefully I’ll have Internet for a while now. I’m headed to Nairobi Kenya tomorrow for an extended shoot. I think we’re headed out east of Nairobi towards the grazing lands near the Somalia border, it’s dealing with disease in cattle. I hope to let you know how it goes.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Posted in Nigeria

Two weeks in Eastern Burkina Faso

I’ve been back here in Mali and Burkina Faso for almost 6 weeks now and it really has been an experience. Good along with bad but when you experience what goes on here in West Africa you tend to adjust, appreciate, and go with the flow.

TIA   This Is Africa !

Even though my iPhone has broken (actually quite some time ago) I have at least been able to GPS my locations during my excursions out to the field. As the following map shows, I’ve been able to get out to a far ranging area of Mali and Burkina Faso. So with the little time I have, I wanted to just share a very quick, short, sample of the wonderful things and people I’ve met along the way.

 

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(All Blog photographs © Bartay)

 

Helen Keller International is in the process of distributing thousands of pairs of shoes to school children through their NTD (Neglected Tropical Disease) program. They have been donated by Toms Shoes and after listening for a couple of days while riding in a 4 wheel out to the villages, I cannot even begin to explain the logistics involved in actually distributing that many pairs of shoes. The program has hit a few snags along the way but when I got out to the village of Sanwabo and saw the school that had been one of the first to receive them, the kids were very happy to show them off to me.

 

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Some of them didn’t want to wear them because they didn’t want to get them dirty, kind of like keeping them for their best outings. After the shooting I watched as one girl took her new shoes off, put her sandals on and walked back to the village, keeping them clean for another important event.

 

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But then a group of boys just wanted to have some fun and having good shoes made a game of football a lot easier to play. An example of the logistics of getting thousands of pairs of shoes to a certain age group is ‘what size do you donate’? Well I heard that at the first donation site all but about 4 kids got shoes. I only saw one boy out playing soccer that was wearing his old sandals, he was by far the tallest boy there. I am assuming there wasn’t a large enough size for him, but I’m sure he’ll be taken care of.

 

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On another day I went on a field trip way up North of Fada towards the final village of Madagou for HKI’s FASO program. I think this maybe was the furthest I’ve been off the dirt road in the past, we drove through the Sahel for almost 2 hours. We were going to about 3 or 4 villages on the way and there has been a problem in Eastern Burkina Faso with bandits, so HKI along with other NGO’s have the National Gendarmes come along. There were 4 soldiers in the truck, two inside up front and two in the back sitting on the benches. All were in full gear; helmets, bulletproof vests, and automatic AK47’s. Ignorance is bliss, the only time I was aware of them was when I was once shooting inside a family’s compound and wherever I went I saw a helmet following me just outside the wall.

 

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In Madagou, the furthest North we went, HKI was helping the villagers understand the importance of having a latrine and how it protects the water supply. They were in the process of building quite a few, most were inside or next to a family’s compound. They might break open the wall and make an extension for the latrine or build it just outside the compound wall. The round slab is pre-made then the villagers dig the pit, install the lid then build a privacy wall around it. This is really a very nice, sanitary latrine. That stack of square bricks is a vent.

 

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The village was in the middle of constructing a communal latrine, all was finished but the privacy wall. It was a bit funny that all the villagers kept laughing at me taking pictures of latrines. It was explained to them that the photos were going to America to let the world know what HKI is doing and to help procure funds to continue. I asked Savallé (HKI’s field coordinator on FASO), do they even understand ‘America’ and he said No, they are not even aware of continents. They do understand there’s an outside world and that was all they needed to be appreciative.

 

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It has rained about every 4th day since I’ve been in West Africa and when it does it rains rather hard. Not for long but the storm comes in with very strong winds, dark skies, lightning and thunder, then just dumps. But being near the end of the dry season, usually within about 1 or 2 hours every puddle is gone. The earth is so dry it soaks it right up and all else immediately evaporates in the heat. To give you an idea, in about 2 or so more months from now, where I’m standing would be under about 4 feet of water in this riverbed.

 

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In the village of Contaga out in Eastern Burkina, it was the first day of a 4-day project to get the villagers to vote on building latrines in their village. After walking around the outskirts of the village explaining that using this area as a bathroom tends to denigrate the water supply, I found it fascinating to watch them map out the village for the study. They had one villager explaining the roads and where each family was, along with the well and the center of town. After brushing an area of dirt clean, one fellow would draw it in the dirt while another used different shades of ash to fill in the drawing. After about an hour or so when they were all done, Voila… there’s the village.

 

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Back on the FASO project they had these new quick cookers HKI got and were giving to the village women. They were using one to demonstrate how to cook a very nutritious porridge for their babies, which after the demonstration they let the mothers feed their babies the demonstration batch. The only problem was the only spoons were the ladles and they were a bit big for a baby’s mouth, I think more went ON their faces than IN their mouths.

 

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I saw quite a few gardens; community and family ones. It was amazing to me to see the further along ones so full of vegetables and greens at a time during the end of the dry season but they are really growing things. Needless to say, they are rather proud also to show off they efforts.

 

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I cannot believe it but after years of photographing around the world for HKI, I finally saw my first experience with the Orange Sweet Potato. It is one of HKI’s premier examples of a simple way to get so much nutrition and vitamins in such a simple package. However I have always just managed to miss seeing it for some reason.

Now I know you all know the expression ‘The apple doesn’t fall far from the tree’, well this proud father and his three kids (Dah!) were enjoying the benefits of their growing garden of Orange Sweet Potatoes.

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So that’s a short and quick tour of the last two and a half weeks here in Burkina Faso. I am off Monday morning for a 10 o’clock flight to Nigeria. I’m connecting through Lomé in Togo, then to Lagos. Then I’m driving about four hours or so North towards Ibadan to work on a project with the IDRC. I’ll be there for about a week before heading off to Nairobi, Kenya.

I am working outside on the patio and the wind is picking up and the skies are getting very dark. I’m expecting the power to go out at any moment so along with the extremely  s l o w  WiFi, it’s now 3 pm Saturday and I’m hoping to get this posted before Sunday, we’ll see.  I think I need to move inside before the downpour starts.

 

 

 

 

 

Posted in Burkina Faso

Just Another Day at School

I’ve been in Burkina Faso for about a week now and 4 days ago I went Southwest of the capital Ouagadougou to the town of Fada. There have been a few hiccups along the way since being in Africa, not the least is the lack of electricity. It goes out about 4 times a day and usually lasts between 2 and 6 hours. The place I’m in now doesn’t have a generator so when the power goes out it’s out, meaning no fans either. We had a tremendous lighting and rainstorm last night and it didn’t do much to squelch the heat. It’s getting closer to the end of the dry season and the water last night was running down the roads, but the earth is so dry there was no mud this morning.

I’ve got a day off today (yah right!), actually I’m sitting in my room all day developing the film from the last 4 days. But before I got started, after breakfast I went for a walk and ended up in the Fada Central Market. Now there it was very muddy, it’s all little alleyways covered with make shift cloth awnings to block the sun so the mud hadn’t dried up yet.

The other day I went out to the two small villages of Tigba and Modre with HKI to see and photograph their NTD (Neglected Tropical Diseases) program where one of the projects is screening for Trachoma in children. It reminded me of the day’s way back when we would all march down the hall to the auditorium to have our eyes and hearing checked. “Which way is the W pointing?” Trachoma is painful, it’s when the eyelids turn inward and the eyelashes grow inside. With every blink the eyelashes scratch the cornea. Simple hygiene, washing hands and face will keep Trachoma from taking hold but that’s a lesson learned. Another part of the NTD program HKI is teaching kids.

We first got to ‘Tigba C’, the name of the first school, around 10:00 and some of the kids were in the class rooms and others started lining up and walking towards us when they saw the white pickup truck drive up.

 

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 ( All Blog Post Photos:  © Bartay )

One schoolhouse had three classrooms and I think different grades shared them during the day because some kids came from across the field by groups. All the kids tended to group together by age and they were screened by age too. All names, screening results, etc all are written down for records. There were a few mild cases discovered and those kids will be watched and given a medicine salve to put in their eye(s) as needed and they will be followed up.

They were really rather calm, maybe this wasn’t their first time. They’d line up by class and then there were two doctors screening, Dr. Alfred and Dr. Dahani (first names!). They’d first look into their eyes, then spread them wide open, THEN they’d turn the eyelid inside out to look under the lid. That is where the Trachoma would show up.

 

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I think they screened maybe 200 kids all by age or class. In between shooting the screenings while others were being screened I played around with the kids. I think I may have gotten them in trouble a few times. They do get noisy when excited. We were high five’n, learning to thumb wrestle, teaching them how to count to 10 in English.

Then they, OK the boys, would crowd in front of everyone to be first in the photos. The youngest ones were always outside just running around and being kids. The older ones ???, they seemed so serious. I would see them smile, then when I wanted to take their photo they’d get all serious. But we all had such a great time, I wanted to share some of the kids with you.

 

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The classrooms were quite dark and very hot, to me. No electricity so no fans and all the windows have the typical metal shutters that are just cracked open during the day. OK, the little one in the back is the daughter of the teacher and too young to start school yet.

 

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I also noted that just as in every country, at every age, with every generation, there were cliques. But I think they all got along better than the cliques of my generation or the current ones I see now back home.

 

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One group of kids took off after the teacher got a little loud with them and went to the far classroom. But as soon as the teacher was gone, they’d all start running around, playing and just being kids. One group of kids that loved playing thumb wrestling kept lining up for me every time I’d point the camera in their direction. All in all it really was a thumbs up day.

 

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Posted in Burkina Faso

Back in West Africa

 

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 ( All Blog Post Photos:  © Bartay )

I went out for a walk the other night to cool down and ran across these kids playing. Bonsoir! Ça va? After getting one of them to finally high five me, they all came over and wanted to high five. We high fived, we low fived, we fist bumped, they wouldn’t stop shaking my hands. Finally they wouldn’t stop crowding…. so snap!

I’ve been back in Mali for almost two weeks now and it’s the height of the hot and dry season. It’s been averaging over 109º every day and they’ve been having these very strong winds coming down out of the Sahara. You can see the dust forming large rolling low clouds and when you get in them you’re expecting the wind to cool you. The wind is about 15º hotter than the air, it is a very unique feeling.

This is the beginning of an extended trip through Africa; I’m working for the IDRC (International Development Research Centre) out of Ottawa as well as HKI (Helen Keller International) out of New York. I have been working for them both here in Mali and then I’ll be off to Burkina Faso to work for them both. Then after the first week of May I’ll be heading to Nigeria and up to Ibadan working for the IDRC leaving out of Ibadan. Finally by mid May I’ll be making my way to Nairobi, Kenya to finish up with the IDRC, I think we’re headed east toward the Somalia border. After I’m finished, who knows!

After arriving in Mali I first went up north to the village of Katibougou just outside the city of Koulikoro to see the project the IDRC was funding with the IPR|IFRA on fodder for sheep. The four-year project is coming to an end but it’s not quite ready for public knowledge so I’m not quite sure I can talk about it yet. I’ll be able to be more insightful on future IDRC projects.

Later I ventured out east to the town of Koutiala near the Burkina Faso border, about a 7-hour drive from Bamako. I was going out to the village of Ziena looking at the Homestead Food Production project of HKI, where they are helping women farmers grow nutritional vegetables for their families. This was a very large plot of land where 162 women had their own little plot to grow vegetables. They had one large well and many small wells, just a hole in the ground, throughout the area for getting their water. It was amazing the wealth of vegetables growing in the middle of the hot, dry season.

 

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I ended the trip out east by going to the village of Tiarakassédougou to see how HKI is teaching volunteer women to screen for acute malnutrition of infant children. They’re looking for edema and using the international armband to measure the ‘normal’ size of their upper arms. Green – OK, Yellow – they need to be monitored, Red – they need to go to the clinic for care.

There were 5 women being taught and there was an abundance of women who brought their children in for screening. Some of them were a bit confused, some scared, but most were just… OK, I’m here what next.

All in all it was a very healthy group of young kids. There were maybe one or two that just squeaked into the yellow and they’ll be monitored over the next year but it was great to see an entire group without anyone acutely malnourished.

 

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After observing the class on monitoring acute malnourishment I went for a walk around the village to see what I might see. It’s not all that amazing to me but during the day when it is so hot, most of the villagers are either under a tree somewhere, sleeping, but not walking around. The village seemed almost deserted but it really wasn’t, they just weren’t out walking around in the sun like some foreigner.

 

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When I came upon the mosque of the village, it seemed a bit small at first but it’s only for the village people themselves. Every village I saw had their own mosque and every one was quite different from each other. I just realized two days ago it’s Easter, so for those that it is, Happy Easter to you all back in the States and where ever you might be.

 

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After my walk, Joseph invited us to his house for lunch. A typical African lunch I might add, they do like their lunch large and hot even during the middle of the day. It was a large bowl of rice with cooked peahen and a delicious sauce, I must say it was the freshest bird I’ve tasted. We all just sat around and shared the pot. Papaya for desert right off the tree in the backyard. Wonderful!

 

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I was then going west of Bamako up north to Sandare to see HKI’s NTD (Neglected tropical Diseases) program, but they thought it was to close to the Mauritania border and expats aren’t advised to go there. They felt it wouldn’t be safe to stay the night, so I said OK! We ended up going to Kati where we could make it in one day’s drive and come back to Bamako. More on that later.

It seems I have run into the upper limit of the working temperature range of my cameras. The last couple of days, one of my cameras just stopped working. It wouldn’t snap a picture, it wouldn’t focus, and I had no aperture. Every time, I’d stop and go to the car and try to figure it out only to find it working again. This happened for two days and then it hit me… it’s too hot and it must be outside its operating range. A friend found out for me the top range is around 104º F and the temperature has usually been around 110º, let alone sitting in the sun around my shoulder. So now it’s finding a way to keep them cooler.

This is going to be a short post today, I have to move. Due to my lack of French, communication has been a problem here and it seems I did not understand that there wasn’t a room here tonight, so I’m off to find another place.

Things are a little different this time in Mali than they were in 2010. There are ATM’s now, BUT they only work with the chip in the card and not the magnetic strip. It’s been a challenge to get cash. The Internet is more widely available but it’s on par with dial-up from years back. I was not able to get tickets on the Internet so I’m going to the airport tomorrow morning and see if I can just buy a ticket with cash. I need to get to Ouagadougou tomorrow to get ready for 13 days of shooting in Burkina Faso. I’ll be back soon.

 

 

Posted in Mali

GPS Tagging My Travels

There was an interesting article in the ‘Cambodian Daily’ the other day. It was talking about how Cambodia is growing, but it still has a long way to go. It was referring to the annual report put out the previous day by the U.N. Economic and Social Commission for Asia and the Pacific (ESCAP). I was quite interested, seeing as how I had chosen to make Cambodia my home for the past 6 months. Here are a few of the more interesting notes:

• “The least developed countries of the region: Afghanistan, Cambodia, & Myanmar, also have the largest infrastructure deficits”. Riding my motorcycle around the country and in Thailand and Laos, I can attest to that last part!

• The ESCAP report notes that: Only 24% of Cambodians have access to electricity, 64% have access to clean water, and 31% have access to proper sanitation.

• They also noted that Cambodia has one of the highest proportions of undernourished people at 17.1%

Yet despite all of it’s problems, the people here seem so happy and are so friendly. I wouldn’t have done anything differently and I am very pleased to be able to say: “I’ve lived in Cambodia”.

When I’ve been out and about, I will usually ‘try’ to remember to snap a photo with my iPhone. I love how it gps tags the photos with latitude and longitude, so it can map the photo. It gives me a record of exactly where I’ve been, not that I would forget! I wanted to show you a sample of my travels over the last 6 months, while being based here out of Phnom Penh.

Note: I am using the ‘Hipstomatic’ camera app, which allows me to change films, but there’s no zoom. It is also square with borders.

So, following is a map of SEAsia with the tags (locations) of the snap shots that follow it. I look at each photo and I can put myself back to the exact time and place I took it. I grant you, this post is my own personal log, so thanks for letting me indulge myself.

 

 ( All Blog Post Photos:  © Bartay )

 

 

 

 

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Posted in Cambodia, Laos, Thailand, Vietnam

Fish on Farms, Revisited

 ( All Blog Post Photos:  © Bartay )

 

 

Well we’re near the end of the dry season here in Cambodia, it has only started to rain again the last couple of weeks. It might rain and then it might pour for awhile, although it hasn’t done anything to dampen the heat. This is the hot time of the year and it’s always in the upper 90′s (F), approaching and going into 3 digits. So you can imagine 100º and 99% humidity! It’s warm.

I went back out to Prey Veng Province a few days ago to check up on the Fish on Farms program with Helen Keller International (HKI) and University of British Columbia (UBC). The one I went to last November and posted here on the blog. This trip we were going out to the farms and ponds to check up on the fish. For a short recap of that posting, the farmers involved with this project are growing small fish and large fish in ponds dug on their farms. The small fish are to be ground up whole and put into bor bor (a local type of porridge) given to their children to help with eliminating malnutrition. The large fish are to be sold at market for profit.

After the dry season the water has evaporated quite a bit, but all the foliage that they are growing to surround the ponds is doing quite well. It helps with the water and keeps critters and others out of the ponds. However with the scattered downpours of rain we’ve had recently, the water levels weren’t as low as I was expecting. The main reason for this visit was to collect samples of the different species of fish and prepare it for shipping to Vancouver for testing and collecting all the data for the study.

We got there quite late in the day and dusk was setting in a little early due to the pending rain. In hindsight I can say the pending downpour. At the first pond they were collecting the fish buy laying a net in the pond and then lifting it up and slowly moving the fish to one end. It may not look it but it had to be about 102º and 98% humidity. I really wanted to jump in and join the guys. Well, almost!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

After the collection the real work begins. They needed to collect 5 samples of 6 species and prepare them according to very specific guidelines. Record all the data and then get the fish to the only refrigerated freezer in the province. The fish must be kept below -18º (C) until they arrive in Vancouver. Before we showed up at the first pond, we stopped by the Health Center in the province which has the only freezer in the entire province and it runs solely on solar power. Then after all the samples are collected from a number of ponds, they will be transported to Phnom Penh packed in dry ice and then shipped to North America.

 

 

 

 

At this pond you can see the next level that the water will rise to as soon as the rainy season gets into full gear. The pond now is about 2 meters deep, so there is still plenty of room for this woman farmer to raise her fish. She has done quite a good job over the dry season to get the foliage grown around her pond. Her two little girls told me they do like the bor bor with the fish ground up. I haven’t tried it yet!

 

 

As you can see she’s also done a nice job raising her fish. These are some of the small species that will be prepared for shipping to the lab.

 

 

 

 

 

The following day we stopped by this couple’s farm to see the ‘almost’ completed fish hatchery. They were one of the 360 farmers who had a pond on their farm and then they were chosen, through a rather lengthy process, to build a hatchery in the place of their one pond. They are about two or three weeks away from finishing the fishery. The tanks are almost finished and the 8 new ponds have all been dug. A new water well was drilled and the goal is that in about one year, maybe two, they will be able to hatch enough fish to yearly restock all 360 ponds in the Fish on Farms project.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Posted in Cambodia