Archives For Environment

Photo credit: BBC

Photo credit: BBC

On the outskirts of Lusaka, Zambia, next year’s crop of bicycles is being watered by Benjamin Banda.”We planted this bamboo last year,” he says, “and now the stems are taller than me. When it’s ready we’ll cut it, cure it and then turn it into frames.”

Mr Banda, is the caretaker for Zambikes, a company set up by two Californians and two Zambians which aimed to build bikes tough enough to handle the local terrain.


At the same time, Craig Calfee, a bike designer based in Santa-Cruz was experimenting with bamboo as a frame for bikes. Currently, the bikes are manufactured in developing countries and then are shipped to the United States, where they’re sold for up to $900.

The manufacturers he works with are called Bamborrseros. Three groups in Ghana have begun active production, with partnerships on the way with Zambikes, as well as other manufacturers in Cambodia, El Salvador, Mexico, the Philippines, and Uganda.

Due to their toxic content, damaged computer and television equipment from the UK is supposed to be dismantled or recycled by specialist contractors. However, thousands of tonnes of the waste ends up in giant markets in Lagos, Nigeria as well as in Ghana. An investigation using tracking devices placed in damaged televisions found out that the harmful and toxic devices are bought by unscrupulous dealers who export them to the African countries to be sold across the continent. It is estimated that less than half of the 940,000 tonnes of e-waste produced every year is dealt with in accordance with the law

Claire Snow is the director of the Industry Council for Equipment Recycling. She says:

It is clear that the system for collecting equipment that UK householders have thrown away is not working as well as it should.

On the pretext of re-use, equipment which is clearly not suitable for any type of re-use is effectively being dumped in developing countries.

According to The East African newspaper,

The Independent newspaper says that with around half a million tonnes of unaccounted for items, that 10,000 tonnes of defunct televisions and 23,000 tonnes of waste computers are being traded abroad in an industry worth tens of millions of pounds.

Campaign groups say that dealers are undercutting specialist recycling companies to tap into a lucrative market, as Britain accounts for around 15 per cent of the EU’s total e-waste.

It is not clear whether all the second hand computer and television equipments in African stores is part of the toxic waste. In Kampala, Uganda, there are hundreds of stores dealing in second hand electronics. And majority of the people prefer this to the brand new equipment because of the low costs. A brand new Pentium 4 computer set goes for more than Uganda Shs 1.5 million (about US $770) while a second hand set goes for as little as $200.

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WhereCamp is the free unconference for geogeographers, mobile location experts and social cartographers and all kinds of folks interested in place. It will run shortly after the annual CGIAR-CSI meeting and bring together software developers, artists, geographers and academics for a one day extended discussion. WhereCamp is an opportunity to present on ideas, questions, projects, politics, technical issues that you have – and contribute to and get feedback from other people and to make new friends with similar interests. It’s free and fun.

This will be the first gathering of its kind to take place in Africa.

An unconference is a conference planned by the participants. After a morning plenary to help frame the discussion we all convene together, plan sessions, and have break-outs into sessions. The idea comes from FooCamp and BarCamp as a way to give everybody an opportunity to bring to the table the things that interest them the most and lets us talk about new topics that are still new and exploratory. Part of what is important to hearing new voices and getting new ideas is lowering barriers to participation – this event is free and it is driven by the participants.

It will be held April 4th in Nairobi, Kenya at the ILRI Headquarters.


Windpowering Kenya

Jon Gosier —  January 29, 2009 — 1 Comment

The Kenyan company Lake Turkana Wind Power has announced plans to develop a $700 million dollar wind farm on 150,000 acres of land in northwestern Kenya. The completed wind farm will produce a fourth of the electricity Kenya currently produces (1,200 MW) by 2012. 30% of the project will be financed by the African Development Bank. The rest of the financing would come through bank loans and international investment banks in South Africa, the Middle East and possibly the United States.

Robert Kaplan recently wrote this take on African development in the 21st century. The Current:

Oil production is already booming, and food production may follow suit. Africa is the only part of the world without a green revolution. Scientific breakthroughs that tripled crop yields in Eurasia and Latin America have bypassed Africa’s, mainly because no single solution fits the continent’s diverse farming systems and varied agro-ecological zones. But high-yield varieties of major African crops like sorghum, millet, maize, and cassava may soon be custom-fitted to Africa’s micro-terrains and climates.

Moreover, as Martin Walker, senior director of A. T. Kearney’s Global Business Policy Council, writes, the booming economies of China and India now have a fierce interest in developing Africa’s food potential for their own needs. China has supplied African countries with technical assistance in tea planting, soil analysis, and irrigation. China is leading the Asian dash into Africa, with investments as diverse as in chocolate in Ivory Coast and in copper in Zambia, and plans to build or modernize railroads, highways, and dams across the continent. America, which will in the next decade be getting a quarter of its oil from West Africa, will compete with China on development projects, to Africa’s benefit.

And there is something even larger going on: the end of Africa’s millennia-old, geographically imposed isolation. In addition to suffering from disease and poverty attributable to the world’s hottest climate, Africans since antiquity have been physically cut off from the great cultural traffic of human affairs. Though five times larger than Europe, Africa’s coastline, in relative terms, is not nearly as long. And with some exceptions in East Africa, the continent has few good natural harbors. Few rivers are navigable from the sea, and the Sahara Desert has for centuries hindered human contact from the north.

But geography may no longer be destiny. Globalization has finally reached critical mass in Africa. The mobile-phone industry is now worth $10 billion across the continent, with subscriber growth running at 40 percent annually. New air routes are opening up with the Middle East and Asia. Africa will be influenced by the rest of the world to the same degree that countries in Eurasia along the historic path of migrations always have been. Africa will lose some of its distinctiveness, even as it closes the gap with the rest of humankind.

But one big thing could impede progress, and it has to do with geography: climate change, to which Africa’s primitive, rain-fed agriculture is particularly susceptible. According to the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, Africa is “very likely” to warm faster than the mean global rate, with decreased rainfall in southern Africa causing droughts, and increased rainfall in East Africa causing flooding and soil erosion. These are only two examples of pan-African climatic upheaval that could interact adversely with politics, ethnic relations, and local economies