Posts Tagged ‘trees’

Adieu, Earth Mother, Wangari

Adieu, Earth Mother, Wangari

Wangari Maathai

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Posted 28 September 2011, by Editor, Vanguard, vanguardngr.com

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ON Sunday, September 25, 2011, one of the most famous African women in modern times took her exit from the planet earth which she served with distinction.

Her name was Professor Wangari Muta Maathai (April 1, 1940 to September 25, 2011). She succumbed to the scourge of cancer in a Nairobi hospital.

Since her transition was announced by her family, tributes have poured from various quarters, high and low from around the world. From President Barack Obama of the USA to the President of Kenya, Mwai Kibaki, and the Secretary-General of the United Nations, Ban Ki Moon; from Archbishop Desmond Tutu to former US Vice-President, Al Gore all the way down to many non-governmental interest groups devoted to earth conservation, such as the Nelson Mandela Centre of Memory, The National Geographic organisations and the so many websites and blogsites committed to conservation, the world has been unsparing in its tributes to the first female Nobel Laureate from Africa.

According to the United Nations Environmental Programme (UNEP) Executive Director, Achim Steiner, “Wangeri Maathai was a force of nature. While others deployed their power and life force to damage, degrade and extract short-term profit from the environment, she used hers to stand in their way, mobilise communities and to argue for conservation and sustainable development over destruction.”

Wangari was an extraordinary woman, who ensured that her high quality education was not just for her own benefit but for the rural communities in her native Kenya and the world at large. She was an evangelist for the preservation of the environment. As far back as the early 1970s when she was but a young woman, she founded the Green Belt Movement, with which she mobilised thousands of women to plant trees and raise environmental consciousness. The Movement enlisted over 900,000 women to establish tree nurseries and over the years planted about 45 million trees.

She was also a women rights activist. As the first East African woman to be awarded the Ph.D. when she graduated from the University College of Nairobi in the field of Anatomy, she was a female pioneer in most of the posts she worked. While she taught in the university, she fought for equal status for both male and female staff of the university and would have formed the first academic staff union (similar to our own Academic Union of Universities, ASUU) in the institution had the courts not turned the effort down.

She was a fierce force against the long dictatorship of Daniel Arap Moi, who made sure she never emerged as the President of the National Council of Women of Kenya (NCWK) until one of her opponents favoured by Moi, Maendeleo Ya Wanawake, suddenly withdrew for her to emerge unopposed. She went on to join partisan politics and win a seat as a member of her country’s parliament. Her Right Livelihood Award of 1984 served as an appetiser for the Nobel Peace Prize, which she won in 2004.

Unfortunately, Prof. Wangari Maathai fell victim to cancer, one of the major consequences of pollution and deforestation, which she fought against in over 40 years of her lifetime.

The life lived by this amazing woman is worthy of emulation, especially by other African women. In spite of her divorce a few years into her marriage, she devoted the rest of her life to battles to save the earth, banish autocracy from her country and advance the cause of women.

Africa will honour her memory adequately if African countries take seriously the challenge of continuing the struggle to save the environment, especially in the face of rapid advance of the Sahara Desert, intensification of coastal erosion and gradual disappearance of fresh water resources around the continent and the globe at large. Africa must join hands to make the continent “the last man in defence” against deforestation by massive planting of trees, especially economic trees.

It is heroes and heroines of Africa like Prof. Maathai Wangari that we want our leaders to honour (not sit-tight dictators) as we celebrate a life of uncommon achievements.

Adieu, Earth Mother, Wangari Maathai. Rest in peace.

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http://www.vanguardngr.com/2011/09/adieu-earth-mother-wangari/

Prairiewoods celebrating 15 years as ecospirituality oasis

Prairiewoods celebrating 15 years as ecospirituality oasis

The labyrinth at Prairiewoods Franciscan Spirituality Center, 120 E. Boyson Rd., Hiawatha, Iowa. Taken Friday, Sept. 16, 2011. (Angela Holmes/SourceMedia Group)

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Posted 24 September 2011, by Cindy Hadish, Eastern Iowa Life (SourceMedia Group), easterniowalife.com

 

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The Gazette

HIAWATHA — With more than 40 years in the making, Prairiewoods Franciscan Spirituality Center will celebrate its 15th anniversary with a nature festival.

After purchasing farmland in 1962 as a potential site for a regional headquarters, the Franciscan Sisters of Perpetual Adoration, based in La Crosse, Wis., had numerous offers to buy the land on the Cedar Rapids/Hiawatha border.

“The sisters could have made millions,” says Prairiewoods Director Barry Donaghue of the Congregation of Christian Brothers. “But they said, ‘Let’s see if we can make it an oasis. Let’s take care of it.’”

Betty Daugherty, a Franciscan nun and one of six founding members of Prairiewoods, initiated weekly committee meetings to determine the future of the site.

Betty Daugherty

“It was a gradual process,” says Daugherty, who still resides at the center at 120 E. Boyson Road in Hiawatha.

Joann Gehling, another Franciscan nun and founding member, says planning began in earnest in 1994, once the philosophy was determined to combine ecology and spirituality into what would become known as an ecospirituality center.

Gehling, who lives near the center, says other religious communities had similar undertakings elsewhere in the country, but nothing like Prairiewoods existed in Iowa.

Joann Gehling

Their vision, based on the Franciscan philosophy of God revealed in the natural world, included restoration of the prairie and ecological practices, such as the use of natural materials and renewable energy in the buildings.

Doors of the center opened in 1996.

With 30 acres of tallgrass prairie and 40 acres of oak woodlands, the site offers the oasis that the sisters envisioned.

Picnickers and hikers walk the center’s woodland trails. Business workers find respite at retreats in the center’s main building, which sports meeting rooms, a fully-staffed kitchen and meditation room with inspiring view of the woods. Meals, cooked to perfection by chef Jill Jones, use produce grown on-site and other local foods.

One hundred solar panels generate 22,500-kilowatt hours of electricity annually and classes use a new building as a solar training facility.

Barry Donaghue

Artists and writers find solitude in Prairiewoods’ two hermitages. A 19-room guesthouse also provides overnight accommodations.

People of all backgrounds and faiths use an outdoor labyrinth and traditional sweat lodge.

As Donaghue describes it, the center isn’t focused on Catholicism or any particular religion.

“We don’t proselytize,” says Donaghue, who has studied and ministered in Australia, England, Ireland, France, Israel and the Fiji Islands. “Basically, we’re trying to get people to think.”

With that in mind, Prairiewoods is home base for groups such as Wednesday Women, who meet 10-11:30 a.m. Wednesdays to explore topics related to spiritual growth, and Green Living Group, which meets 6:30-8 p.m. the third Wednesday of every month to discuss subjects such as voluntary simplicity.

Holistic treatments, including massage and reflexology, are scheduled by appointment.

Prairiewoods also offers retreats and events, including Nature Fest, scheduled for 1-4 p.m. Sunday, Oct. 2, to celebrate the center’s 15th anniversary.

The celebration features music, games, blessing of animals, an ice cream social and environmental art and poetry from Iowa winners of the 2011 River of Words.

In a column Daugherty wrote about exploring ecospirituality, she notes that “eco” comes from oikos, a Greek word for “home.”

“Hence, ecospirituality is not about a relationship with a God in a far-away heaven,” she writes. “The Divine can be found in our daily lives, in our human relationships and in our relationship with Earth.”

 

FYI

 

What: Nature Fest at Prairiewoods

Where: 120 E. Boyson Rd., Hiawatha

When: 1-4 p.m. Sunday, Oct. 2

Other: Event features live music by Deep Dish Divas and Bob Ballantyne; games, nature tours and outdoor activities. Ice cream social begins at 1:45 p.m.; message from Sen. Rob Hogg and storytelling at 2 p.m.; blessing of animals at 2:45 p.m. and more.

The event includes the only Eastern Iowa showing of winners of River of Words, an environmental art and poetry competition for youths ages 5 to 19.

More information: www.prairiewoods.org

A deer roams the woods at Prairiewoods Franciscan Spirituality Center, 120 E. Boyson Rd., Hiawatha, Iowa. Taken Friday, Sept. 16, 2011. (Angela Holmes/SourceMedia Group)

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http://easterniowalife.com/2011/09/24/prairiewoods-celebrating-15-years-as-ecospirituality-oasis/

 

Forest gardens: Trunk call

Forest gardens: Trunk call

They are the latest horticultural must-haves. But how to get one? Anna Pavord drops in on an expert

Martin Crawford in front of his Szechuan pepper tree at the Agroforestry Research Trust. Click the image to be taken to a photo gallery associated with this article.

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Posted 24 September 2011, by Mark Passmore, The Independent, independent.co.uk

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The forest garden is an attractive prospect, an edible landscape where the gardener can roam, collecting spiritual refreshment along with dinner. Those two strands were equally important to Robert Hart, whose smallholding at Wenlock Edge in Shropshire became a place of pilgrimage for his disciples. His book Forest Gardening (1996), written four years before he died, explored different and more holistic methods of producing crops. Why labour at digging the earth, planting fresh seed each year, when you could copy nature’s way of providing a harvest?

Working in his own orchard, Hart developed a forest-garden model built up from seven different layers of planting. At the top is the canopy provided by mature fruit trees and under that a lower layer of smaller fruit and nut trees. Shrubs such as currants make up a third layer, with a herbaceous layer of perennial vegetables under that. Any remaining bare earth is covered with horizontal mats of herbs, or sprawling crops such as cranberry (if the soil is sufficiently acid). Hart built into his system an underground dimension of edible tubers and rhizomes and a final flurry of vines and other climbers that could pull their way up into the trees. It’s the kind of mix you find in many English woodlands, though the plants there will not necessarily be edible.

Now, if you want to learn about the forest garden, your pilgrimage will take you west, to Martin Crawford and the Agroforestry Research Trust, based in a two-acre plot at Dartington in Devon. In fact, Crawford has plots scattered in several places round here, because he can scarcely keep up with demand for the plants he grows and the courses he runs each year. What is the draw, I asked, as we cowered in a polytunnel, waiting for the worst of the rain to pass. “A bit of it is the back-to-nature stuff,” he replied. “And a lot of people now lead very busy lives. They think of the forest garden as a low input system.”

Which it is. But only up to a point. “There’s no such thing as a do-nothing garden,” says Crawford robustly. “You can’t just plant up a forest garden and walk away.” Shelter is critically important, particularly if you aim to grow the more unusual plants that for some devotees is the whole point of the forest garden: blue honeysuckle, Szechuan pepper, tuberous nasturtium, plum yew. Most new converts want to get straight on with planting their crops. But, says Crawford, the shelter belt must come first.

Hart made his forest garden within an already established orchard. Crawford thinks it’s simpler to begin with open ground, as he did at Dartington where he took over a piece of unused pasture. Getting the trees in is the easy bit, he says. It’s the underlayers that need some thought. He used thick plastic sheets (Terram) to kill off the grass between the trees, gradually planting up one area at a time. Shade lovers will be more at home than plants that need sun. In Crawford’s plot, apple mint romps away very successfully in what Hart might have called the fifth dimension, with Solomon’s seal spearing up between.

I’ve never eaten Solomon’s seal, but Crawford says the young shoots are excellent, gathered and cooked like asparagus. I’ve never eaten lime leaves either, but Crawford coppices his limes hard to get plenty of young growth and uses the leaves in salads. It’s one of his best crops, he says, though it’d be a brave greengrocer who tried to sell them. Raspberries are a great success, because they can wander where they want, rather than being constrained to grow in the strip of ground to which we gardeners usually confine them. Crawford’s canes were enormous. And his Solomon’s seal hadn’t been stripped by caterpillars, as mine always are.

Diversity, said Crawford. That’s the secret. He reckons he’s got at least 500 different kinds of plant growing in his Dartington plot. And because one plant muddles into the next in an amiable way, it’s not so obvious which is what to a pest such as the Solomon’s seal sawfly (Phymatocera aterrima). But if self-sufficiency is your aim, you’d be hard-pressed, even with these 500 plants, to feed yourself adequately. Hart was a vegan and lived mostly on raw food. But on a cold winter’s evening, I’d be looking for something a little more comforting.

And a forest garden can’t provide much carbohydrate, apart from sweet chestnuts which make a superb flour. I always buy it when we go to see my brother in France as, over here, it’s absurdly expensive (£6.99 for 500g). Crawford mills his own which he gathers from the trees he planted when he first took on this plot, 20 years ago. This year there’s a heavy crop and the squirrels leave them alone because they don’t like the prickles.

Hart saw the sustainable forest garden as the ideal way to transform city wastelands, reconnecting the urban with the natural. Would I plant a forest garden, if I were starting afresh in our plot? No, but that’s chiefly because I live surrounded by the spiritual refreshment of the real thing. There are hazelnuts in every hedgerow. Sweet chestnuts, too. Sloes and bullaces are abundant; so are elders and nettles and we use them all. This year, there’s been an astonishing crop of parasol mushrooms in the fields around. And the irony is that, while people queue up to learn about the forest garden, I’ve not seen a single person out brambling, though luscious blackberries are bursting out all over.

Agroforestry Research Trust, 46 Hunters Moon, Dartington, Totnes, Devon TQ9 6JT. Send 4 x 1st class stamps (or visit agroforestry.co.uk) for a copy of Martin Crawford’s excellent catalogue of fruit and nut trees as well as unusual vegetables and spices. Weekend (non-residential) courses in forest gardening cost £160. 2012 dates will be announced on the website. Meanwhile you can subscribe to ‘Agroforestry News’ for £21 a year (4 issues). Look out for Martin Crawford’s book ‘Unusual Vegetables’, to be published next spring by Green Books (£14.95)

Five fabulous plants for a forest garden

Szechuan pepper (Zanthoxylum schinifolium) An intensely aromatic small tree or large shrub growing to 3m (10ft) with bunches of small, hard, red fruit that provide the pepper. The leaves can be used as flavouring. Hardy to -20C. £8.

Mashua (Tropaeolum tuberosum) A scrambling plant with very pretty, slightly glaucous leaves, peppery in taste like the garden nasturtium. Grown for its tubers, a staple in the Andes, unstarchy but nutritious. Two tubers for £4.

Turkish rocket (Bunias orientalis) A deep-rooted perennial brassica that comes into growth early in the year. Cook young new leaves like cabbage and the flowerheads – they come later – like broccoli. They have a mustardy flavour. £6.

Umbrella pine (Pinus pinea) All pines produce pine nuts but some are easier to get at than others. This is the best species to plant for nuts, eventually growing to 15m (50ft). £12.

Chinese mountain yam (Dioscorea batatas) The Crawford children’s favourite vegetable, the yams produced like little potatoes all the way up a twining stem that can get to 3-4m. They do best in fertile soil. £5.

 

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http://www.independent.co.uk/life-style/house-and-home/gardening/forest-gardens-trunk-call-2359124.html

Religion and ecology among China’s Blang people


Religion and ecology among China’s Blang people

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Posted20 September 2011, by Staff (Queen’s University), PhysOrg, physorg.com

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James Miller, a professor in Queen's University's (Ontario, Canada) School of Religion and the Cultural Studies program, and An Jing, a visiting research student in the School of Graduate Studies, found a distinct link between the strong religious culture of the indigenous Blang people of southwest China and their region’s economic and ecological development. Credit: Queen's University

Fieldwork conducted by two Queen’s researchers could help develop culturally appropriate conservation efforts and environmental education programs in a remote mountainous area of southwest China where deforestation is a major environmental issue.

James Miller, a professor in the School of Religion and the Cultural Studies program, and An Jing, a visiting research student in the School of Graduate Studies, found a distinct link between the strong religious culture of the indigenous Blang people and their region’s economic and ecological development.

“Our research provides clear evidence of religion playing an influential role in managing the relationship between the Blang people and their local ecosystems,” says. Dr. Miller. “Their religious life is not a matter of private belief or personal spirituality, but a cultural system that clearly intersects with ecological and economic systems.”

Previously subsistence farmers, Blang villagers have now turned almost exclusively to producing tea leaves, which when processed becomes a highly valuable finished product. Since China began its economic and landholding reforms in the 1980s, the villagers have been steadily converting their lands to the production of tea, with tea bushes now dominating the steeply-terraced mountainsides.

Interestingly, the researchers observed that recent economic development from tea production in the village is contributing to a resurgence of religion, new temple construction and lavish religious activities. But while the economy is benefiting, deforestation is impacting biodiversity preservation and water management in the local area.

However, during a three-month annual Buddhist festival that marks the beginning of the rainy season, there is a prohibition on cutting down large trees. While in traditional times the trees might have been cut down for building houses, these days they are cut down to increase the land available for tea production. Observance of the tree-cutting injunction has a positive effect on the local ecology by slowing the tree removal. It also demonstrates how indigenous and culture can be an ally in promoting conservation efforts.

More information: For more information, visit Dr. Miller’s research blog at http://www.sustain … echina.info/

Provided by Queen’s University (news : web)

 

Related Stories

 

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http://www.physorg.com/news/2011-09-religion-ecology-china-blang-people.html

Living with oil spill in Ogoniland


Living with oil spill in Ogoniland

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Posted 18 September 2011, by George Onah,Vanguard Media, vanguardngr.com

As the convoy of cars from Bodo town conveying journalists veered into the road leading to Goi community, the air became fetid. The  air was so offensive that two members of the entourage made to throw up. The air had been poisoned by the smell of crude oil that had enveloped the river serving the five communities of Goi.

The deeper the convoy rolled along the tarred road towards the river, the stronger the smell of the deadly spill. The stench, it was learnt, is worse at night when the ebbing river returns. As the vehicles brushed through the grasses that have grown into the road, few youths and elders stared at the group with gloomy faces. The road had obviously not been in full use because the spill had emptied the clan of its population.

None of the onlookers offered a smile. While mothers clutched their naked pale-looking babies, the old people and youths stood akimbo wearing long faces. The appearance of the rural folks reflected the extreme trauma the oil spill had programmed their lives. Minutes later, many deserted houses came into view. As we approaches the inner part of Goi, we beheld a community under siege by a demonic crude oil. Most of the buildings were in a state of disrepair.

The occupants have since fled  because of the massive spill. Goi, said to be the oldest in the area, and with a population of nearly 60,000, is tucked on a quiet hill in Gokana Local Government  Area of Rivers State.  The Goi River, which  has its source as Bonny River, flows through Opobo Channel and Bodo West, with tributaries scattered around the villages of the clan.

Damage
While examining the volume of destruction, it was observed that an area of the river, where spring water was gushing, had been covered by a  mass of oil. The thick oil stretched all around the edges of the water which overlooks the swamp in the far end of the river. It was the community’s source of drinking water. Clearly, aquatic life in the river had gone extinct. Paramount ruler of the clan, Mene Livinus Kobani, said the spring water used to accommodate crocodiles and boa, which the community embraced as its deities.

According to him, “Mudskippers and periwinkles, which sprinkled along the shores of the river and welcomed visitors to the water, are all gone. With what has happened here, no one can fish in the next 50 years”. Scores of carcases of fishing canoes and other seafaring materials littered the shores of the river. Even all the farmland, where the waterfront slopes in the clan, had been made infertile.

The exposed roots of coconut and palm trees whose leaves flutter as the ebbing water returns had started dying from the roots to the fronds. Spokesman of the land Alhaji Muhammad M. Kobani said four villages and scores of canoes in the clan were razed by a mystery fire when the spill spread round the area.

The fire and the spill have, according to him, rendered over 30,000 of the communities inhabitants homeless. “Those who refused to move out are daily inflicted by various ailments. Because the people do not have any choice of drinking water now, they scoop whatever they can find including water polluted with benzene. As at last count, we have lost 15 people in one month. What is happening here is a gradual extinction of our people by oil spill”.

When Sunday Vanguard visited Bodo General Hospital, the medical doctor in charge refused to comment on the effect of the spill on the people. He said he would need authorisation of the state government to speak. But some patients, including pregnant women, old people and youths said they started experiencing pain and nausea as soon as the spill was noticed in their river, three years ago (2008).

Many pregnant women were said to be miscarrying at an alarming rate. Mr. Barinua, a resident, said he had spent all his life savings catering for his sick family since the spill was noticed in the community. “We spend so much money on drinking water. If you have to spend so much on water alone, what about food, school fees, hospital bills and others? This oil spill has scattered the community and many families”.

Oil Spill

Another resident, Mrs. Barigboma Williams, said she had lost three pregnancies in a row due to the “bad water, smell of oil every day and the general hardship” occasioned by the spill. “We cannot even relocate because of the financial implications. I used to farm and trade while my husband fished to sustain the family. But we have lost our sources of livelihood because of the spill”.

Sources of Spill
Narrating the sources of their woes, Alhaji Kobani said the first spill in the area was in 2004 and was ignored by Shell Petroleum Development Company, SPDC, because they said it was sabotage. He said the spill of 2008, which has remained till date, was accepted by SPDC as system failure at Bomu Manifold – Trans Niger Pipeline. The spokesman explained that Goi  has “always been at the receiving end of system failure and pipeline sabotage as claimed by Shell”.

The paramount ruler of the place, Mene Livinus Kobani, said he was taken aback that the UNEP report on the oil spill in Ogoniland did not mention Goi. Kobani said he was also surprised that the community has also not been involved in the distribution of drinking water by the Rivers State government.

Demands
Mene Kobani said, “Presently, there is no government or Shell presence in the community” and, for life to return to the area, they require a  health centre. My people want to return to the river to fish as well as to the land to farm. So, Shell should clean up the area and carry out remediation. We want adequate compensation from Shell and we want the company to build schools here.  Rivers State government should help us by supplying drinking water to this community”.

The lack of drinking water, he said, has contributed to the people leaving the area in droves. “The five sources of drinking water have been badly polluted. You see, only those who experience things would know the extent of pain. We are undergoing severe hardship in this community and the entire clan as a result of the oil spill here”.

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http://www.vanguardngr.com/2011/09/living-with-oil-spill-in-ogoniland/

Climate change hits coffee industry

Climate change hits coffee industry

A farmer inspects her coffee plants. Photo/FILE

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Posted 18 September 2011, by Staff, Business Daily (Nation Media Group), businessdailyafrica.com

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Global warming has increased the spread of pests in key farming regions with coffee exports facing the strain from the berry disease.

Scientists at the Nairobi based International Centre of Insect Physiology and Ecology (ICIPE) predict increased incidences of coffee berry borer in coffee zones over the next 40 years due to changing climatic patterns.

The incidence of coffee berry borer, a small beetle recognised globally as the most destructive of coffee pests, will be higher in central and eastern regions of the country, the key producers of the country’s export coffee, states ICIPE.

Even small increases in temperature will lead to serious consequences on the number of generations, as well as the latitudinal and altitudinal range of the borer, adversely affecting coffee production in East Africa and parts of South America.” ICIPE said in a statement released last week.

This report comes as a shock to government that has been mulling plans to revive an industry that once served as the country’s foreign exchange earner.

Fluctuating temperatures and rainfall, the hallmarks of climate change, have already led to the spread of thrips (tiny insects known to destroy coffee beans by puncturing and sucking up their contents) in the coffee growing districts, lowering farmer’s output.

“There is serious thrips outbreak in most coffee regions which is likely to worsen after the end of the cold (July, August) season,” Dr Joseph Kimemia, managing director of the Coffee Research Foundation, said in an industry alert issued in July.

In spite of the good international prices government statistics indicate that coffee production dropped by 22.2 per cent in 2010 to 42,000 tonnes, leading to forex earning of Sh16 billion compared to peers like tea (Sh97 billion) and horticulture (Sh78 billion).

While the coffee prices have remained higher in the international market in the first half of this year, production decline has persisted in Kenya with deliveries to the marketing board declining in the first quarter of 2011 by 28 per cent to 11,300 tonnes.

Of late, farmers have alarmingly been abandoning coffee and turning their plantations to real estates, citing corruption and mismanagement that has undermined confidence in the industry.

The National Economic and Social Council, the country’s top policy organ wants the government to fight corruption and mismanagement in the industry to prevent farmers from abandoning coffee for other ventures .

“The council noted that coffee production has continued to decline while global prices are favourable and recommends that Kenya’s comparative advantage be leveraged to provide farmers with more incentives,” NESC said in a press release issued after the full Council meeting held on September 10.

The government may however have to rethink the proposed incentives as the ICIPE study encourages investment in climate adaptation measures to cushion the industry from further losses.

The first ever global map of future distribution of the coffee berry borer drawn by ICIPE scientists and colleagues from the UK, US and Germany indicate that most of today’s coffee growing zones will not sustain the crop in coming years.

The study says Africa’s arable land will shrink by 60 to 90 million hectares by 2050 as the impact of climate change sets in.

“Moreover, soil conditions at higher altitudes might not be suitable for Arabica coffee under the anticipated high temperatures,” the scientists said, adding that shade trees should be introduced in coffee plantations to improve microclimate that favours the growth of coffee.

omondi@ke.nationmedia.com

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http://www.businessdailyafrica.com/Climate+change+hits+coffee+industry++/-/539546/1238694/-/mfjyb9/-/

I BELIEVE: ‘The beauties of our past are still alive in unspoiled woods, hills and meadows’

 

I BELIEVE: ‘The beauties of our past are still alive in unspoiled woods, hills and meadows’

George Petty who blazed a new wildflower trail soon to open in Jonathan's Woods. He ID'd all the wildflowers and which needed to be planted and he'll be leading wildflower hikes there. He also writes poetry about wildflowers. George is 82 and used to go on scout trips in Jonathan's Woods as a boy. (note: wildflowers were not in bloom)_BOB KARP/STAFF PHOTOGRAPHER / Staff Photo/staff photo

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Posted 14 September 2011, by George Petty, The Daily Record (Gannett), dailyrecord.com

 

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I believe the beauties of our past are still alive in unspoiled woods, hills and meadows, those quiet green sanctuaries where we can recover ourselves without having to buy gas or turn on a light.

Scientists tell us that even in land that has been farmed, logged, lived on, or burned over, the seeds of old native wildflowers, shrubs and trees lie buried, waiting for the trouble to pass so they can grow again. Even if science didn’t think so, I’d believe it.

Mostly because I’ve seen it happen.

Twenty-five years ago a group of my neighbors in Denville banded together to prevent developers from building condominiums in the forest around Bald Hill. They called their group POWWW, Preserve Our Wetlands, Water and Woods. Today, after a long patient struggle, 650 acres of the Beaver Brook watershed have become Morris County’s newest forest park, Jonathan’s Woods, named for Denville’s last native American.

I roamed these woods when I was a youngster. I loved the freedom to delay and discover. Flowers, trees and animals were my companions, and I could drink safely from cool woodland springs and brooks. But every year new houses consumed the edge of the forest, detergent chemicals bubbled through the water, and one by one the flowers decided not to risk the air.

The preservation of Jonathan’s Woods has given me another chance, right here near my back door. In the very same curve of the brook where I walked with my high school sweetheart, I am building a wildflower trail. With the help of friends in POWWW, we cut and drag away blowdowns, and pull out invasive species. We buy plants from specialized growers, who propagate them from wild seeds. We believe we can encourage our own seeds, that have survived under the leaves during history’s turmoil, and are waiting there for the chance to bloom again.

It’s not that we think the past was somehow more noble than we are. We know the early settlers struggled for survival, for wealth, for influence; they fought over land, a few owned slaves, in hard times they sold their woodlands to loggers.

But it inspires awe to see physical evidence in the woods of what they accomplished with hand tools and animal power; long stone fences to contain cattle, a test shaft dug in hard bedrock for iron ore, wagon roads over steep rocky hills, large old trees that once stood alone in an open field now surrounded by younger growth. Their lives were hard, and usually short; they cultivated simple homespun pleasures. We feel how easier and more convenient, how longer, safer and healthier are our gas and electric powered lives, all covered by medical and hazard insurance.

And yet we are so much the same; our heart beats, our breaths, our hungers and ambitions. When we walk through the quiet woods, the soft sounds of the rustling leaves are what those early settlers heard in the twilight of their day, whispering of our common humanity.

George Petty of Denville has been an insurance underwriter, airplane mechanic, airline flight engineer, union president, newspaper reporter, college teacher, tennis coach and a racing sailor. He is also the author of ‘Hiking the Jersey Highlands,’ published by the New York New Jersey Trail Conference.Through his varied career he has always thought of himself as a poet, even when the world required him to appear otherwise. His poems have been prize-winners in national contests and have been aired on National Public Radio, appearing in Water-Stone, Two-Rivers Review and “Boulder Field,” a chapbook from Finishing Line Press, 2004.His work has taken him all over the world, but he has always come back to Denville, where he lives and writes today.

 

The Fringed Gentian

Walking into the October woods I look
for the fringed gentian my grandfather loved
by the spring the years have covered over,
though I remember where it was. My wistful
mother said they survive even frost, blood blue
against the dead brown in high hidden meadows,
where she and my father tramped so painfully
toward their griefs, taking almost a century to leave me,
a grizzled child searching for a small joy in the leaves.
But, of course, it’s not there, wasn’t last year either,
though my cousin says he saw one near the swamp,
the seeds are tiny and easily wash that way;
and I push through thickets and blow-downs,
relishing the knocks and scratches, the stiffening gusts
and the crackle of coming frost that remind me I’m alive,
till standing in the muck, the cool fire of age
creeping slowly over my ankles, my fingers numb
like leaves dying back from the edges,
I believe my cousin never saw a gentian here,
and only I care that it might – must – have ever been.
It’s not that I doubt there is one in these woods,
but that I know surely there is not,
and every year, following the old steps, I try to find it.
— George Petty

 

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http://www.dailyrecord.com/article/20110915/GRASSROOTS/309150009/I-BELIEVE-beauties-our-past-still-alive-unspoiled-woods-hills-meadows-?odyssey=mod_sectionstories