Monday, January 27, 2014

Is it the end of the quail dream?

Some time ago I had reported from a friend of mine who is breeding quails in the suburbs of Nairobi. At that time it was a tremendously good business. At that time, she was breeding the birds for resale to farmers who wanted to have quails, an alternative to chicken farming with low barrier to entry and low risk for diseases. In the meantime, the market has saturated, quails eggs can be found in the majors supermarket in Nairobi, at a pretty high prices (around 4 dollar 12 eggs, while 6 chicken eggs are less than a dollar), and prices both of one day old chicks and eggs start decreasing.

Prices from the old time
Because she has discovered that many people just come to learn from her farm, and that this is taking a lot of time, she decided to charge for a visit. Also a way to diversify income.

Young quails waiting for a buyer
For the first time since she is raising quails, she has animals that she has not sold in advance, suggesting that market has reached its saturation, and she has to lower prices to get a market for her birds.

Now, it is about staying in market and to find the profitable value chains for quail products. But given that she has been one of the first to be in market, I am convinced she will make it.

Tuesday, January 21, 2014

An hommage to Marthijn Sonneveld

When you write a PhD in the Netherlands, you not only get a supervisor, a well known professor who mostly has not time for you, but also two or three daily supervisors, younger scientists who are assistant professors. The great thing of this approach is that you get to work closely with people who have time for you. It does not come as a surprise that these people really influence your vision of the world and science.
At my PhD defense : Marthijn, Jan Huigen (the farmer who initiated my research project), me and Roel
Marthijn Sonneveld was one of my daily supervisor, next to Jetse Stoorvogel and Roel Jongeneel. He was probably the most silent one of all the three, nonetheless his understanding of soils and how they influence the landscape dynamics had a deep impact on my PhD. Not only he had great knowledge about Dutch soils, it formation and use, but he was passionate about teaching. He was not afraid to stand in the field and dig deep wholes to show concretely what he is talking about. Like no one else he was capable of explaining relationships of soils with the landscape as a whole in a easily understandable and yet fascinating way. I guess Marthijn taught me to appreciate and feel home in the openness of Dutch landscapes.

During on of the excursion with students in Friesland
Also Marthijn had a great network of stakeholders through out the whole of the Netherlands. He was one of the few scientists in my surroundings, who truly tied contact with Dutch non scientific partners to make science work for people out there in the landscape. I got a lot from his vision about involving a broad number of stakeholders to answer societal questions, something I try to keep doing in my daily work at ILRI.

Marthijn passed away before the end of the year 2013 after a short fight against cancer, leaving behind a young family. It left me, like many of my colleague speechless in front of powerlessness that we faced and filled me with a deep sorrow. I am glad and privileged that i got the chance to work with him and learn from him. He might have left us, but his ideas and visions will remain and evolve through us, students and colleagues who had the chance to interact and learn from him.

May his family and close friends get a lot of strength to overcome this difficult time and may he rest in peace.
The openness of Dutch landscapes

Tuesday, January 14, 2014

Meat Atlas : the global dimension about those animals we eat

Especially in the Western world, meat is seen as a bad. Indeed, livestock production accounts for about 18% of the greenhouse production, it requires more land and water to feed one person than on vegetarian diet.With the increased globablisation, impact of livestock production can be exported to poorer countries. A well known example is the cut rainforest in Brazil to grow soya that feds cows in the Netherlands.

The emerging economies (such as China or Brazil) have a growing middle class that demands more animal protein, and the trend of increased globalized negative impact will pressure on the environment, especially in the poorest country where short term economic benefits is weighted more than the environment.

But livestock is not only a curse in developing countries, it is also an opportunity. Livestock play a key role in many smallholder systems : they create manure used to fertilized fields, they bring in the healthy animal protein into very unhealthy diets of the poor, they act as bank, they are mean of traction. The benefits of making livestock smallholder systems more productive definitely overweight the negative aspects of livestock production. The latter is often forgotten in the debates in the Western world, missing out on an opportunity to think about how to support smallholders to improve their livelihood and diets.

This week, I came across the Meat Atlas, a report from friend of earth Europe, that presents all these globalized aspect of meat production in an easy but nice spatial way. Their aims is to  present a global perspective on the impacts of industrial meat and dairy production, and illustrates its increasingly devastating impact on society and the environment. The way we produce and consume meat and dairy needs a radical rethink. The cover a broad range of livestock related topic, focusing mainly on the industrialized meat production but also cover discussion about some small scale production in Africa. It aims at polarizing, so pushing forward the negative aspect of livestock and missing out the discussion of the positive aspect of livestock in developing countries. Nonetheless it is a nice presentation of existing statistic, and an eye opener to the troubling facts about what we eat.

So get your own copy here!

Monday, January 6, 2014

Bringing order into chaos

The year 2014 arrived so fast, and i did not have the time to have my traditional reflection on the past year up until today. In many perspectives the year 2013 has been a year to bring order into chaos. I just had left Ethiopia and moved back to Switzerland, to take time to relax, but also get healthy again. It was a year, to reflect on the meanings of life, of the meaning of working in a developing country, of dedicating one's life to rural areas and its people. I traveled the world, namely Philippines, India, Italy, the Netherlands, Kenya for job interviews and consultancy work and to Ethiopia for inside travel, a social enterprise that uses tourism to bring new opportunities to rural communities off the classical tourism route.
My life in 2013 felt a bit like visiting big African city, such as Nairobi or Addis, trying to figure out where to go, and especially how. You know there are bus lines, but you don't know where they stop, where they go, nor where you need to switch. You end up walking around lost, talking to people, trying to figure out what's the best way to go further. So that's what i did, for almost 6 months, working as a consultant, checking my option and figure out where my life should lead me. By mid of the year, i had a clearer vision of where my life could go, with four job offers on the table. Suddenly, i had to choose. My health was good again, and my heart felt very strong about going back to Africa. My two years of Ethiopia, taught me that i will never save Africa, nor do these people need me. But Africa, especially Kenya, has a lot to offer, there is an emerging economy with a generation that has the chance to reinvent a modern Africa. It is a place to be part of what is yet to come. By end of 2013, my cargo was ready, and my new year day started with a one way flight to Nairobi, where i join ILRI as a GIS analyst.

So I start 2014, knowing which bus line my life is taking, i have a clue about which route it is driving, but not where it will ends ups. I guess in life one never knows. Funnily, at the same time, i found the matatu (bus) line maps for Nairobi, which helped me a lot to navigate through this crazy city during these first days. And it has worked, i got around in town smoothly.

So I wish you a very happy new year full of interesting paths, hoping that one of them will lead you to Nairobi to visit me. Hopefully the matatu maps will help you to reach my place :-).

And just in case you would need direction to other areas of the town

Find the map here . (jambo nairobi)