The heavens are the heavens of the LORD, but the earth He has given to the sons of men -- Psalm 115:16.

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Friday, October 30, 2009

Going back to my good old Lagos!

I was not too keen going to Lagos, Nigeria! Not because I don’t like the city’s hustling and bustling environment but apparently I had been to Ibadan seven months earlier. Also the fact that the trip was an opportunity to acquire new skills in reporting sports and society was bait for me to relive the over five years I spent in Nigeria as a student and human rights activist.

The 2010 workshop was to prepare participants to be capable of writing and producing passionate features about African life and football – African journalists telling African stories linked to sports.

The workshop, held at the Nigerian Institute of Journalism – my very own training grounds – was insightful, highlighting issues beyond stadiums and scores, rankings or strictly news related content.

Participating radio and photojournalists from Ghana, South Africa, Zimbabwe, Ethiopia, Namibia, Egypt, Tanzania, Uganda, Liberia, Sierra Leon and Kenya demonstrated diverse skills in content development and feature presentation. The guidance of tutors from the Thomson Reuters Foundation ensured production was tight and interesting to targeted consumers.

The training and fraternization among the media personnel indicated there is hope for developmental journalism on the African continent.

Going out to Surulere, Ikeja and Isale Eko in Lagos to cover my assignment revealed the changing (positive) landscape of a city I had known very well. Most Lagosians were quick to mention Governor Babatunde Raji Fasola for the giant strides in the reengineering of Lagos State. This man, I am told, has defied all odds to embark on a radical action to redevelop the state.

Obviously pulling down structures erected at unauthorized places has deprived some people of their places of habitation and livelihoods but to majority of the people a price has to paid if Lagos State is to survive urbanization. Already Ghana is learning from the Fashola experience in the management of traffic and public transportation.

There are concerns that Governor Fasola may pay politically for implementing some new policies of social re-engineering but I can strongly say this man is leaving his name in the sands of times and if he should carry his legacy through to the end, he would certainly be remembered as one of the greatest administrators Nigeria has ever produced.
The next time I travel to Nigeria, I would be expecting freer traffic flow, a clean and healthy environment and a more organized people productively developing their State!

Lagos is leading the way for other African cities to better manage limited resource and journalists should support public-sector managers or administrators to advance local communities.

Story by Kofi Adu Domfeh

Friday, October 23, 2009

A Journey to Kenya’s South Rift Valley!

I traveled to Kenya to join a group of African Journalists who love reporting science as part of everyday life. The purpose was to meet with scientists and interact with livestock keepers in the South Rift Valley of that East African country.

Thoughts of people and places filled my mind as I got on board the ‘Pride of Africa’, Kenya Airways from the Kotoka International Airport. The warmth and dedication of the flight crew gave an assurance my 10-day trip to Nairobi would not be regretted, though the recent political brouhaha coupled with the drought and famine in East Africa was a worry to me.

The over five-hour air-borne was smooth and landing at the Jomo Kenyatta Airport was safe; I was greeted by a soothing early morning weather as my pick-up chauffeur rode me through some principal streets to my place of temporary abode. So, this increased my hope of a great stay away from home.

My place of abode was Kolping Guest House at Adams Arcade, off Ngong Road, Karen Nairobi. Every home meal was an experience but the room space was too small for man: a bit of a breathing space would have been great. What interested me most however was the environmental consciousness of the middle-class residential area; trees planted along streets and in homes were of beauty and refreshing in the community.

First three days

Two Kiswahili words were prominent throughout my stay: ‘Karibu’ is synonymous to the Akan’s ‘Akwaaba’ or welcome in English. I was therefore not surprised to have received a dose of karibu. But guess what, I was always quick to respond to the welcome because I had a personal interest. The Kiswahili word of ‘thanks’ is ‘Asante’ and of course you trust this was a good time to have pride in been an ASHANTI!

My rather good stay in Nairobi would have been curtailed when I went out for a walk at Adams Arcade. How could I have forgotten that Kenyans drive on the right? Traffic is in the opposite direction to what pertains in Ghana. It therefore makes sense that as a pedestrian I walked along the expected direction. But yours truly thought he was strolling along the streets of Amakom in Kumasi. The strong hot hoot of a Matatu (mini-bus) massaged my ear to be alive to my new environment. Studying Nairobi’s transportation system also revealed the responsiveness of the people to the wearing of seat belts, especially in public buses. A very good thinking that is never taken for granted and I resolved not to drive without putting one on!

The first three days of acclimatization was exciting and insightful; checking out the mountainous skyscrapers at Kenyatta Arcade in Nairobi’s central business district, shopping at the spacious Nakumatt in the city centre, taking a rest at the friendly Uhuru Recreational Park and peeping through the luxurious hotels and offices.

Okay, now I’ve been to Kenya and I can say something about the city of Nairobi back home. But is that all to tourism traveling?

Science Safari with a difference!

The suggestion of my host for the team to travel outside Nairobi was received with mixed feelings. Well, I really needed some adventure but the idea of camping in tents somewhere deep in the wild, for two (I mean two) nights got me complaining deep within. But once born a man, I should behave as such and so I got myself parking for the science safari.


Late afternoon, September 26, 2009, the team of journalists from West, East and Central Africa, set off to Kenya’s South Rift Valley to discover the best kept secret in Africa! The destination neatly bridges the dispersal area between Kenya’s Amboseli National Park and Maasai Mara National Reserve. The group’s interest was to understand the strong links between traditional knowledge, modern science, local community members and conservation.

The four-hour drive was bumpy but hardly was that realized because of the rich education handed down by our guide for the trip. The South Rift combines wildlife safaris with wilderness experience, photographic experience of the Rift Valley, unique geographical formations and ecotourism facilities. The area supports one of the highest diversity of vertebrate on the African continent, set against a backdrop of stunning volcanic lakes and mountains.

The South Rift is home to the Masai, a pastoralist community whose rich culture and tradition has survived over 600 years. Pastoralism here is a skilled job that involves the mind, body and soul. The Masai have had exchanges with the Cowboys of the USA and other pastoralist groups in the world. No wonder Billionaire, Bill Gates chose to celebrate a birthday bash with the people down the Valley at Shompole.

It is here in the South Rift you find the ‘Cradle of Mankind’- where the fossil or man’s origin is found. It is also home to Lake Magadi, one of the biggest breeding zones for Flamingos.

The experience

I was eager to experience the unique ancient traditions of the Masai culture, while exploring the untouched wilderness teeming with wildlife and learn about innovative conservative projects, including eco-tourism. My adventurous destination was Sampu Camp, a self-catering tent facility, owned and operated by the local Masai community within the Olkirimatian ranch.

I was excited to meet my first Masai friend, Kuluo, on the way to the camp. He is very gentle and calm, always with a welcoming smile. Kuluo helped shape my perception about the Masai: their attachment to their livestock, respect for wildlife, interest in education and determination to sustain livelihoods.

The friendliness of the Masai perhaps explains the wonder of man’s co-habitation with livestock and wildlife. And this was the highest point of my experience at Sampu Camp: observing wildlife and livestock grazing together! So close was I to nature that I heard the loin roar just close to my tent and the following morning I checked out that the animal had come drinking at a nearby stream.

The night and day game rides, led by John Kamanga, projected the awesomeness of nature!

I saw the footprints of elephants, giraffes’ sun-burning, wildebeests and zebras grazing, birds and baboons swinging. So many animals did I see that I wondered if the Zoo is the best avenue to keep wildlife. I was however sad to find most of the animals die due to the severity of the drought in East Africa. The pastoralists were much concerned because their cattle, sheep and goats were dying, a situation that prompted the conduct of a drought survey by the African Conservation Centre and the local community. Leader of the research team, Samantha Russell told me there are on-going projects to validate local knowledge while applying science to solve local problems.

There is no doubt that the South Rift region provides many opportunities for diversification of land use and livelihood generation. And I was motivated by local initiatives, spearheaded by the Masai women, to promote eco-tourism and education.

Back to base

I returned to Nairobi fulfilled yet worried about the future of such a beautiful environment. Would the land of the Masai be degraded by human advancement? Are policies going to be supportive of preservation of natural habitats? Would the young Masai succumb to the pressure of modernity to compromise the rich traditional heritage? How could the selfish wealthy poacher be stopped from hunting wildlife? Can the pastoralists continue to adapt to climate change?

Answers seemed far fetched but deep within me I had the conviction that Kenya’s South Rift Valley would stand the test of time and any harm to this NATURE would be one of man’s inhumanity to man.

Sitting at the departure hall of Kenyatta Airport, awaiting my flight back to Ghana, I watched people from all walks of life pass by with a ‘MAYA’ duty-free item in hand. Well, I was holding none except that my mind was enriched with the beauty of nature and humanity: the fascinating work of THE ONE ABOVE!

All I could say was God Bless Africa!!

Story by Kofi Adu Domfeh

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