Today is another one of those serendipitous days of cross-connections and parallel thinking that Isaac Asimov was talking about way back in 1959.
I'm about to become a trainer for Code Club Pro, bridging the tech-knowledge divide between the UK's fabulous hard-working primary and secondary teachers, and Headteachers, and the UK's enhanced new national curriculum for Computing. Teaching kids to code.
In the meantime, for over 6 years, the San-Francisco based org, World Possible, have put their Cisco-based genius together with the uber-awesome Raspberry Pi crew to produce the innovative and world-changing RACHEL-Pi, an offline server, run on a Raspberry Pi, full of educational content from teaching curriculums, Khan Academy materials, Wikipedia, classic literature, reference material and textbooks; alongside vital community materials like medical and first aid textbooks.
RACHEL (Remote Area Community Hotspots for Education and Learning) has now been deployed in scores of remote locations around the world – delivering a world of educational content to tens of thousands of students previously far removed from the great online learning tools those of us reading this take for granted almost every day. This Raspberry blogpost details their journey so far.
Particularly exciting is the funding they've found to hire someone in Kenya to help put together the RACHEL SHamba resource (an offline package of farming resources). Boniface Masaviru has been installing RACHEL in Kenyan schools over the last couple weeks (Google map) and we hope to help with distribution, along with Code Club World.
Empowering robotics in Uganda, ensuring that Mayan heritage and language continues in Guatemala and giving every child in the world the chance to learn to code .. thats what the internet was built for!
The internet comes through again!
After brainstorming a rainwater-harvesting solution for our maasai hosts in Nkiito, Amboseli I contacted IFAW who work in the area with KWS, protecting the elephants. They put me onto the Meshanani Project which led me to the dutch Naga Foundation who employ a "specialized geo-engineering technique to stop and reverse the process of desertification through the rehabilitation of local ecosystems" and is already re-greening around the Meshanani Gate area close to Nkiito in a large-scale project covering the hydrological corridor from the Indian Ocean to the Kilimanjaro hinterland!! They are restoring "a vast area of fertile land to climate engineer and restore the rainwater infiltration capacity of the soil and sub-surface water reservoirs". I wrote about this back in April 2011 before meeting with the Permanent Secretary of the Ministry of Environment (MEMR) Ali Muhammed but we didn't get very far as they were too focused on the Rio Summit, which also didn't get very far! But now I've found out that we have climate geo-engineers on Nkiito's doorstep!!! They won the St Andrews Prize - here's their FB album.
"A patchwork of some 266 km² actively developed evergreen areas will extend restoration effects to an area of around 20.000 km² ..simultaneously supporting the local communities in setting up and developing sustainable businesses on the re-greened lands, advancing a sustained local economy".
I've contacted Co-Founder Dennis Karpes to work alongside them .. watch this video of their work.
Obviously these solutions take a long time but this secures our investment for our own little short term rainwater-harvesting solution, while we work towards (or simply wait for) current large-scale water-harvesting techniques. Linking Nkiito with Naga means they can help alongside in ensuring ALL rain is collected and brought subsurface. As a result aquifers are replenished and vegetation re-appears, initiating natural processes of evapotranspiration and atmospheric cooling which then brings back regular, more balanced precipitation in the entire targeted region. Naga already works with a lot of the maasai in the area "to develop simple and diverse business models that capitalize on the value of the re-greened land ... restarting local economies, raising the social and economic standard of living, and developing a situation in which good and sustainable stewardship of the local ecosystem is encouraged, by restoring a culture of prevention."
I love it when a plan comes together!
We're ramping up the design work now for Nkiito's water facility. After many years struggling to raise the funds for the monstrous well needed in the area we've decided to change tack. Maybe drilling 280m in lava and bedrock isn't the best solution here. Maybe we should be simply helping to collect as much water as possible? So we're hacking a solution right now. If you have any improvements or knowledge you wish to share please let us know via
. Here's what we've got so far:
The hope is that we'll end up with a combined design for rainwater harvesting and solar power, enough to be impactful but not inefficient. Too many PV's (photovoltaics) will lead to excess electricity which, for a society that doesn't spend half their life following the Kardashians, but just needs mobile internet access, is plain wasteful. We also have considerations to take into account such as the smell of water. You know how you can smell the rain before it even hits you .. lions can too! Creating a permanent waterhole needs certains security measures in place.
This is a work in progress and thanks to our volunteers and input from all over, we hope to get something in place before Christmas. Harvesting the short rains would be good but they should be blessing the village within less than a month....... (flashy new CAD diagrams to follow from Bryn, ashi oleng!)
Tori, Jackson and Robyn (2013)
Our volunteer Tony has been working hard in a small western Kenyan community of Eshibanze near Mumias. The school there has been supported by a young Canadian friend for over 6 years now but we need some help. The school has been reopened but teachers & 75% of parents are struggling financially. If the parents can't pay the small fees, the teachers don't get paid - its only 3 weeks into term!
Staff are not surprisingly unmotivated, exascerbated by insufficient funds to afford transport to the rural school. They are surviving on a meal of maize and beans and the children, we already know, suffer more. Back in 2010 a volunteer spent the Summer at school and literally saved the life of the grand daughter of the school cook. Already you're thinking "how could a Grandmother let this happen" .... life is different here, very different. Silvia was given a special nutritional mealplan to bring her tiny little body back to health. Silvia's mother had died when Silvia was still only able to breastfeed and was literally starving from malnutrition. Silvia's Grandmother was struggling to feed her own children, and tend her small field of crops and cook for the children at the school, and find time to sleep in a small mud hut.
Silvia couldn't walk but our volunteer Mona managed to help.
Tony, now has been able to raise funds and put into action "creating a safe and effective learning environment". Now we need your brainpower to help keep the school running.
Nobody wants to create dependencies and AVIF is a firm promoter of sustainability so we are putting together a community-wide ownership plan for the school. We need a brainstorm of ideas to keep the school - and children - running healthy. A long line of corruption has been dealt towards the school over the years but the management team is now strong, honest and proud. AVIF has already received help to secure the school for the rest of term but we need help motivating the parents, inspiring them to sustain their children's education when all else seems failed. We all know education is the key to success but the world looks different when you're hungry and ill.
Anthropology. I love that word because it describes humans. The study of humankind. Devoid of race, nationality, colour, nurture, nature or belief. Just humans.
In the words of Helen Fisher, PhD Biological Anthropologist, Research Professor and member of the Center for Human Evolution Studies, Rutgers University "the world takes on a new centre .. you have intense energy .. elation .. become sexually possessive (with Darwinian purpose) .. experience intense craving obsession & motivation for that person." What is she talking about?
Falling in love.
All across the world, the brain's reaction is the same. And its the same area of the brain that reacts when you take cocaine. Love is a drug. Those who are rejected by love can die from it, or kill because of it! It is probably "the most powerful of the brain systems" says Fisher.
She describes the three main systems that lead to evolution; our sex drive or lust that evolved to get us a partner, romantic love that evolved to allow you to focus on that partner and attachment which evolved so we can "tolerate that human at least while you raise the children" ha ha!
After celebrating International Women's Day all around the world it's truly wonderful to see women are closing the gap back to an equality that we, in fact, always had. We are returning to a state as it always was, as it always has been, especially in the maasai culture.
To fully understand the changes we need to understand the big picture, our anthropology. That simple fact that Men and Women are not alike, never have been and never will be. We are not equal so we must not misinterpret what "equality" means. Apart from the obvious physical and emotional differences we are as collaborative as positive and negative. Women can talk and analyse whereas men are more focused, women are much more empathic and men are physically stronger. There are many other differences you can read about here but it is the lessons we have in front of us that are important. Moving towards a more collaborative society is the important point, the real definition of "equality".
"We are seeing the rise of female sexual expression, the same we saw in the grasslands of Africa" Fisher says in her TED talk. If you read the interview with Melissa Llewelyn-Davies who spent many years studying and talking to maasai (by Anna Grimshaw) you begin to understand why the maasai women truly are the quintessential pack of women portrayed in Sex And the City. They are the experts of the companionship marriage. They are the answer to girlpower, surrounded by their sisters, mothers, friends and children with their men fully understanding their role. They have deep respect for their men, agreeing wholeheartedly they are not their equals as they know they're not brave enough to fight off a lion. They also know their men provide the seed of their children and they look up to them for this, while knowing full well the men couldn't ever raise the children and weren't ever expected to. There are a great many traditions of the maasai culture that would be frowned upon by todays western woman, but you must have tolerance to have understanding and there are reasons for and against. There are also outdated reasons but that is another debate. What we shouldn't do is simply assume that our own experience of womanhood is everyone elses.
"We were built to reproduce", just as the maasai base their entire lives on reproduction, both their own and of their wealth in their livestock, it seems pertinent to me that a few lessons are drawn from women around the world who are perhaps NOT suffering from our perceived cancer that is sexual inequality. A cancer that like most others, is on its way out too, along with arranged and unhappy marriages. If a maasai man is disrespectful he is fined and made to pay by the women. I like that. He is also made to answer to the group of friends that brought him to trial. That seems like a good system. Overseen by a matriarch and ultimately the elders, just like the elephants do it!
I believe the symbiotic maasai way of life has a few lessons for all of us. Perhaps with less cow-dung and handbags.