Friday, March 30, 2012

The dream of full coverage real weather data for Africa (Mauritius reporting series)

I am currently in Mauritius at the conference on water management in Africa. Far from the white and beautiful beaches and with the constant sounds of heavy rains, about 100 participants found their way to the Reduit near Moka at the Sugar research Institute. Presentations and posters are very diverse, from hydrological modeling to genetically modified maize passing through water sanitation and discussions are lively.
I have selected some presentations and posters I though where particularly interesting for my work, and the work of my colleagues. I gave the presenters a chance to summarize their research into 2-5 minutes videos I will share them with you in the upcoming weeks in the form of the"Mauritius reporting series".

For today I would like to share with you Professor Nick van de Giesen's (and his team's) dream of a full coverage real weather data for Africa. As shown in the figure on the left, Africa has a low density of weather stations, that are not functional most of the time. There is therefore very few real weather data in Africa and scientists mainly rely on remote sensing.
Nick's dream is to develop efficient robust low cost weather station in order to cover the whole of Africa, and complete/validate the current data based on remote sensing. Also he sees a great opportunity to work with schools.
See his own explanations :

Nick obviously does not work alone, he is supported by a broad team within the "Trans-African Meteorological Observatory ". Find out more about this project under :

Tuesday, March 27, 2012

a blog in a blog in a blog : the landscape for people for food and for nature initiative

Recently a new initiative looking at landscape has been started. It aims fostering cross-sectoral dialogue, learning and action.
They also have a blog where different people with different backgrounds report from different landscapes. Last Friday I reported from the Nile. Careful readers of my blog will recognize the story :

Friday, March 23, 2012

World Water Day

Yesterday was the world water day : a day to remind that water is vital to life on earth and that we should use this limited resource efficiently and share it in an equitable way.
But for the International Water Management Institute, it was a big day, not only because we are all focusing on water, but also because the Institute has received the 2012 Stockholm water laureate.
It is a great recognition for all of us for the work we do everyday, striving to link science about water with impact on the ground for the rural poor.

Watch the Director General reaction to the price and his vision about future water research

And see reactions in the new

Monday, March 19, 2012

Is it the end of land grabbing in Ethiopia?

This week end I read with great interest a very short article in the Ethiopian local newspaper in English, The Reporter. The article mentions that the ministry of agriculture want to stop to give land to foreign direct investor and that many "land grabbers" have given their land back to the government. (I heart similar rumors from people who where in the fields, see post

Is this the end of land grabbing in Ethiopia?

Here the article from the Reporter

Ministry of agriculture suspends land provision

Ever since the ministry had established investment supporting directorate, a total of 342,099 hectares of lands had been given to local and foreign investment companies.

The directorate took a total of 3.6 million hectares of lands in Benishangul Gumuz, Gambela, Oromia and in some parts of Southern Nations and Nationalities Peoples’ Region. It was learnt that the ministry has been providing investors with 100,000 to 500,000 hectares of land.

According to documents, most of the investors did not use the lands that they had taken for the intended purposes. Many people have been complaining that the investors were embanking on aggressive land grabbing which had resulted in destroying environmental resources. They added that the massive action on providing land to the investors was forcing many to be displaced from their villages.

Environmental activists have disclosed that the ministry must evaluate the status of the land that investors were provided with before making more land available to investors.

Monday, March 12, 2012

Foreign direct investment in Gambella

This is a very nice movie that shows both the advantage and backside to foreign direct investment...

It is the story of water and land grabbing for irrigated rice, a crop that is not eaten by local population and therefore clearly goes to export... 


What would it be if the Ethiopian government would limit access to water, and would enforce that at least 50% of the produced rice is sold in local markets? What if the population that has been moved would be offered a job that pays above the poverty line?

Unfortunately, here is an other example of a missed chance, where it is just about land grabbing at the expense of the  local population...

Thursday, March 8, 2012

8th of March : the international women's day

Today is the international women' s day, a day to remind that in African rural areas women are the voiceless pillar of African agriculture. Women do a lot of the field work, carry wood and water over very long distances and take care of children and families. They are the silents guardians of food security. Have a look at this article : article on women in African agriculture

So for today, i wanted to take a minute to remember all these women I met during my field trips, who have shown me what it means to be a woman in the Ethiopian rural context : a small chance to give them a voice...
Visiting our study site in Jeldu, this woman and her kid have looked at me for the whole hour... I wished i could read her thoughts.
A girl fascinated by my gps... will she ever understand what a gps does? Another girl i wished i could convince to go to school and take my place in future.
This is a landless woman who rents land in the dry season and has developed her own irrigation system to plant potatoes. In this way she can earn her own money...
 A very common picture : women carrying water or wood. Women can be such a good replacement for donkeys :-(
Talking to a woman in a very well managed watershed, unfortunately she faded a bit behind her husband, she did not say much except that she wants to have a picture with me...
This woman has lost her husband years ago, and she works very hard on her farm so that she can earn enough money to send her children to school. She owns more land than she can cultivate, and therefore rents out land, which also allows her to get some cash.
 This woman also lost her husband and survives from her plot of land. She relies a lot on labor exchange organization to help her to get things done on her farm.
These women are living in a community that depends partly on food aid. They express they despair of not being able to feed their families (with an average of 8 children).
This woman just gave birth to the child she is carrying on her back. She went to fetch some wood some 3 km away. I carried it for her for a while. When I was carrying it at least 5 men wanted to carry the wood for me, but none of them would have carried it for her...

Can't we do more to give those women a voice?