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February 27 2014

Saving Primate Lemurs

Mother lemur and her offspring by Tambako on Flickr CC-BY-2.0

Mother lemur and her offspring by Tambako on Flickr CC-BY-2.0

A group of researchers from Madagascar, Canada, UK and USA published a detailed report in Science that alerts on the possible extinctions of 90% of the known lemurs of Madagascar following the prolonged political crisis in the country.  One of the researcher, Christoph Schwitzer,  explains to the Scientific American the dire consequences of such threat:

lemurs have important ecological and economic roles, and are essential to maintaining Madagascar’s unique forests through seed dispersal and attracting income through ecotourism.

Another researcher, Ian Colquhoun, explains what can be done to protect the unique Malagasy ecosystem in which the lemurs can thrive:

We highlight three key ways to save lemurs: community-based conservation management, the long-term presence of researchers at field sites, and ecotourism.

Savory Momos, Sweet Sel Roti and 5 Other Delicious Nepali Delicacies

Nepal, a land of diverse culture and tradition, has its own unique dishes that leave the taste buds craving for more. The delicacies presented here have been selected from hundreds of mouth-watering recipes originating from the high mountains to the Nepalese plains.

1. Sel roti

The famous Nepali crispy doughnut (sel roti), a must during the Tihar or Deepawali festival, is prepared from rice flour.

See NepaliMom’s instructions to cook the doughnuts:

2. Gundruk

Gundruk, a popular dish among Nepalis, is prepared by fermenting and drying leafy vegetables, namely mustard and radish leaves. The blog Nepali Local Food explains how to cook gundruk ko jhol (soup).

Gundruk ko jhol (soup)
Serves 6 to 8
Gundruk/Sinki 50 g
Onion 1 chopped
Tomato 1 chopped
Dry red chili 2 pods
Turmeric powder 1/2 Tablespoon
Salt 1 Teaspoon
Method: Soak Gundruk/Sinki in water for 10 min. Heat oil and fry chopped onions, tomatoes, chilies. Drain up soaked Gundruk/Sinki and fry, add turmeric powder and salt, and put 2 cups of water. Boil for 10 min, and serve hot with cooked rice.

3. Momo

A typical serving of a plate of Momo with Sesame Yellow Sauce and Red Ginger Chilli Sauce in Nepal. Image from Wikimedia Commons by Kushal Gayal. CC BY-SA

A typical serving of momo with sesame yellow sauce and red ginger chilli sauce in Nepal. Image from Wikimedia Commons by Kushal Gayal. CC BY-SA

Momo, a type of Tibetan dumpling, is so popular among Nepalis that it could be considered the country's top dish. The ubiquitous restaurants selling the dumplings generally stuff it with minced buffalo meat, chicken, mutton or vegetables.

Check out the step-by-step momo cooking guide in the Taste of Nepal blog. Or watch a YouTube video posted by Pucca syanu showing how to cook them:


4. Chhoila

Chhoila, a favourite dish among the Newars of Kathmandu Valley, has become popular throughout the country. Generally made from buffalo meat, the burnt version called “haku chhoila” (black chhoila) is very tasty. Check the We All Nepali blog for details of cooking chicken chhoila.

Watch Babus Cooking demonstrating chhoila preparation:

5. Chatamari

Chatamari, also called Nepali pizza, is a kind of rice crepe made famous by the Newars of Kathmandu Valley. The blog We All Nepali offers details on how to prepare it.

See how chatamari is made in this YouTube video by Marc Wiens:

6. Bagiya

Bagiya is a healthy and delicious dish made from rice flour savoured especially during the Deepawali festival in eastern Terai of Nepal. It is a special to the indigenous Tharus. While Tharus in eastern Nepal prefer flat bagiya with lentils, the Tharus in western Nepal prepare bagiya in a tubular shape without lentils, explains the blog Voice of Tharus.

Learn how to make it via Voice of Tharus:

Soak the rice is soaked in water and mill it in a dheki, the traditional rice milling machine. The taste of the flour ground in a dheki is many times better than the one ground in a rice mill.
Sift the flour and fry it in an iron cauldron (Don't add oil and keep in mind not to burn the flour).
Mix warm water to the flour and knead enough to prepare a tender dough.
Steam lentils and add spices, ginger, mustard oil and salt to it.
Make round dumplings out of the dough. Bore a hole, put the mixture of lentils and spice and flatten it with the palms at the middle and leave both the ends protruding out.
Steam the dumplings over a clay pot of boiling water.
Serve the steamed bagiya with chutney or vegetable curry.

7. Sidhara

Sidhara Cakes. Image via author courtesy Voice of The Tharus blog

Sidhara cakes. Image via author courtesy Voice of The Tharus blog

Sidhara is prepared from taro stem, turmeric, and dried fish. The aroma is pungent and the taste bitter, but still it is one of the delicacies eaten by the Terai dwellers especially indigenous peoples like the Tharus, Danuwars, Musahars and others.

The blog Voice of Tharus details the cooking of Sidhara:

Gather the Dedhna and Ponthi varieties of fish. Both the varieties are found in abundance in the paddy fields and public water sources.
Dry the fishes on sun. It will take few days to dry perfectly.
Gather Kachu (taro – Colocasia) stems and cut them into small pieces. Wash them thoroughly.
Grind or mill the dried fishes, together with the colocasia stem and turmeric, and make small cakes.
Leave the cakes to dry on the sun for 10-15 days and after that it store in a dry place for future use. Your sidhara is then ready to cook and eat.
To cook the sidhara, crumple and break the cakes into tiny crumbs. Fry the pieces of sidhara in mustard oil together with onion, green chillies, radish and spices. Add water and salt to taste.
Garnish the dish with green coriander leaves and serve with puffed and beaten rice.

February 26 2014

Lahore Brigade Working To Solve Civic Problems

The first meetup of the Lahore Brigade members took place on Sunday, 23 February, in Lahore University of Management Sciences (LUMS). The brigade consists of civic hackers – software developers, designers, urban mappers who will be working to solve civic problems in Pakistan. Code for Pakistan and Technology for People Initiative partnered to launch the Lahore Brigade.

Code For Pakistan blog reports:

All the attendees introduced themselves and also proposed potential solutions to civic problems, pertaining to the areas of health, transportation, education, and governance. Some of the participants expressed interest in some of the projects that had been created at the Lahore Civic Hackathon. The ideas were all captured, followed by a rigorous discussion of them. A couple of Brigade Project Mentors were also present and they, like everyone else, expressed their interest in certain ideas. 6 promising project ideas or areas were agreed upon by the group.

Here is a collection of Tweets on the first meetup. According to the Appjuice, the group will be meeting every two weeks.

February 25 2014

Madagascar Still Awaiting a New Prime Minister, Government

A full month since President-elect Hery Rajaonarimampianina took position as the new head of state in Madagascar, there are still no indication who the new prime minister will be and what government he/she will assemble. Ma-Laza argues that the main issue is not really the identity of the prime minister but what he/she will bring to the table [fr]: 

 Un  technicien hors pair,  rassembleur, capable de mener à bien la politique générale du Président de la République. Ce Premier ministre ne  devrait appartenir à aucune mouvance politique, en principe.Mais il n’est ni contre Rajoelina, ni contre Ravalomanana. Bref, c’est un oiseau rare qui inspire aux bailleurs de fonds la confiance. Cette personne existe-t-elle ?  

(The prime minister should be) a person with outstanding technical know-how, a uniter who is able to carry out the policy of the President of the Republic. In theory, the Prime Minister should not belong to any political movement. He will not be against Rajoelina, nor against Ravalomanana (the two last presidents). In short, he will have to be that rare person who will inspire the trust of the investors. The question is:  does this person even exist?

February 24 2014

Praise for Southeast Asia’s Winter Olympians

Yohan Goncalves Goutt representing East Timor in the Men's Slalom event.

Yohan Goncalves Goutt representing East Timor in the Men's Slalom event.

It does not snow in the Philippines and East Timor but the two Southeast Asian countries were represented in the recently concluded 2014 Sochi Winter Olympics. Yohan Goncalves Goutt, who qualified for the men’s Slalom event, became the first Timorese athlete to compete at the Winter Olympic Games. Meanwhile, Michael Martinez of the Philippines became Southeast Asia's first figure-skater in the Games.

Yohan founded East Timor's ski federation and raised $75,000 to fulfill his Olympic dream. He competed in the games, completed the race, and finished 43rd out of 117 players. There were 72 other racers who did not finish or were disqualified during the competition.

Yohan shared what he felt after finishing the race:

WOW what an Experience for Me !!!! This race will always stay in my memory and i hope Timor Leste History. It was hard starting last in one of the hardest course of my life but I finish !!! 43 out of 117 !!!
You are Great thanks for all your support !!!!

After this Olympic Games I felt that i have learned a lot and that i come out of this Games as a grown up man !!!

Before the game, he received a letter of commendation from East Timor’s Prime Minister. Naturally, the Timorese are proud of Yohan’s achievements. Below are some of the messages left by Yohan’s fans on his Facebook account:

Popo Lay: So proud of you Yohan!! Congratulations on being the first person to represent our nation in the winter Olympics and making history. You are a true Timorese hero and a role model for the next generation!

José Antonio G. Casimiro: A top 50 finish is a great achievement. I watched so many before you fall and not complete the race. I was praying that you would get a clean run, and you did. Thank you for putting our tiny little nation on the map.

Many were touched that Yohan wore a Timor clothing during the opening ceremonies:

Jacinta Barreto: You just showed us how to wear Timor tais in winter time…cool and fashionable. Best of luck Yohan..

Carla Araujo Machado: Congratulations! What an emotional moment when u were holding Timor-Leste flag! We are all very proud!

The country’s Minister of State Agio Pereira issued this statement of support for Yohan:

We commend Yohan for his commitment and his pride in Timor-Leste. His efforts, along with those of other athletes that represent Timor-Leste on the international stage, raise the profile of our country and increase interest and engagement.

Yohan Goncalves Goutt at the Sochi Games

Yohan Goncalves Goutt at the Sochi Games

Meanwhile, Filipino skater Michael Martinez was the Philippines’ sole representative in the Sochi games. He qualified in the finals and finished 19th.

Many Filipinos were inspired by Michael who learned to skate only in a shopping mall and he succeeded in becoming an Olympian despite being an asthmatic.

But while Filipinos cheered his triumphant participation in the Winter Games, many people criticized the government for the little assistance it gave to the young skater. It was also reported that Michael’s family had to mortgage their house in order to raise funds for Michael's Olympic preparation. Apparently, the president didn't receive the letter sent by Michael's mother asking for financial support because it was tagged as spam.

Writer Jessica Zafra praised Michael’s mother for guiding the talented teenager to achieve his dreams:

I know nothing about Michael's mother, but I know that she urged her son to fulfill his dream, no matter how borderline bizarre it seemed. Parenting is tough, and parenting a genuine talent is especially hard. You have to be honest about your child's abilities, you can’t let him harbor false illusions. You have to calculate his chances of success and make the necessary sacrifice. Congratulations, Mrs. Martinez, you are the coolest kind of mom.

Michael is back in the Philippines and was welcomed as a hero by his fellow Filipinos:

February 23 2014

First Open Heart Surgery in Brazzaville, Republic of Congo

Child awaiting heart surgery via La chaine de l'espoir with their permission

Child awaiting heart surgery via La chaine de l'espoir with their permission

The health international network La Chaîne de l’Espoir (The Link of Hope) reports that 7 Congolese children in critical conditions benefited from open heart surgeries [fr] on February 14 in Brazzaville, Congo. With the help of the Congo Assistance Fundation as well, Prince Béni and Maya, both suffering from cardiomyopathy were operated for several hours as told in the following report [fr]:

Elle a dix ans et ne pèse que quinze kilos. Son cœur fonctionne mal. Il l'empêche de s'alimenter et donc de grandir. La petite fille doit être opérée le plus vite possible. L'intervention dure six heures.

(Mayala) is ten years old and weighs fifteen pounds. Her heart is malfunctioning. It prevents her from getting nutrients to all her cells and therefore growing. The girl needed an operation as soon as possible. The procedure took six hours.

February 21 2014

Photos from The Fashion Pakistan Week

Fashion blogger Amara Javed posts photos from the ongoing Fashion Pakistan Week in Karachi showcasing the Summer 2014 collections by many Lahore designers.

Developing Latin America: Winners of the Regional Acceleration Event

dal2013-2
Last year's Developing Latin America event evolved through several segments according to individual schedules for each of the 12 participating countries. The first segment was called the Apps Challenge, during which everybody had different activities such as conferences, hackathons, presentations of projects and other events throughout the month of October, ending the segment on 26 October with Demo Day [es].

The next segment was called Regional Acceleration. The 34 national winners resulting from the evaluations from Demo Day, who had a month to improve their apps, had the option of applying for this segment which consisted of building up the applications that had been developed with the help of Socialab, [click lower left corner for English] an organization specializing in supporting these enterprises.

After the period of nominations and evaluation by the jury, the six winners of the Regional Acceleration were announced on January 10, three in the form of in person presentations (in Santiago, Chile), and three remotely. They will receive Socialab support for three months.

The in-person Acceleration winners were:

Ayni [es] from Ecuador. “A web and mobile application that can geographically identify computer parts. It allows people to upload computer parts they are not using and generate a map of reusable parts. This map will be used by collectors (public or private entities) for faster recycling and clearer identification of each part.”

Dromos [es] from Ecuador. “Dromos is not just a transportation app. Dromos focuses on the landmarks of a city rather than routes. Using metadata tags to define each landmark it is possible to include criminalistics and tourist attractions, among other features. By not depending on the routes, we suggest intelligent alternatives estimating mobilization times, detours, safety and prices with a visually appealing app.”

Bizu Buzú [es] from Brazil. “Mobile application that offers a professional study plan focused on the skill the user wants to develop, taking advantage of free time on the trip to and from work, providing content in multimedia format so that the experience best fits one’s path of travel. These studies will be like a game and users accumulate points (Bizús) with which to establish a ranking.”

The remote Acceleration winners were:

Conciliador Virtual [Virtual Mediator] [es] from Brazil. “Our application will put interested parties in contact in order to reach a solution to their problems through a real mediator, as well as a real mediating session. In the end, the system will generate a signed and sealed contract.”

Tu Primer Trabajo [Your First Job] [es] from Argentina. “A game that allows young people to go through the experience of a job interview, get and then keep a job. The ability to advance in the game will be subject to the participant being able to correctly respond to questions about situations that could occur in the future. It also includes useful advice.”

Wedoo [es] from Chile. “Wedoo is a platform that seeks to promote the initiatives of NGOs and the laws that arise from them or that they hope to create. An NGO will be be able to not only publish an initiative (with its associated laws) and spread it via social networks, but may also, depending on the timing, encourage and coordinate specific actions by its members to boost their reach and influence.”

Given that two Ecuadorian apps took two out of three places in the in-person Regional Acceleration, there were various reactions from that country. For example, Fundapi, the the partner organization for Developing Latin America Ecuador, was among the first to congratulate them:

Congratulations to the Ayni and Dromos teams, who are the winners of the in-person Regional Acceleration

While the Center for Entrepreneurship at the Polytechnic School of the Coast (ESPOL in Spanish) commented [es]:

Felicitamos de forma especial a los ganadores de este concurso, ensalzando no sólo su potencial y talento sino de todos los ecuatorianos. Son un orgullo para nuestro país y para la ESPOL, siendo algunos de ellos ex-alumnos de nuestra institución.

We especially congratulate the winners of this contest, extolling not only their potential and talent but of all Ecuadorians. They make our country and EPSOL proud, since some of them are alumni of our institution.

Afterwards, ECStartups [es] organized a Hangout with the members of the Ayni group, headed by Luis Bajaña, and Dromos, led by Jorge Domínguez, José Espinoza and David Chang.

The Remote Acceleration starts this month, in February, and ends in April. During this time, Socialab will train the winning teams on topics such as Lean Startup, Business Model Canvas, Design Thinking, etc., and will give them the tools to measure the social impact.

In the case of the in-person Acceleration, which will start in March and end in May, apart from the training mentioned above, the teams will participate in an activity of co-creation “on the ground” with potential users and/or customers. They will also carry out their communication and financial plans, and seek funding for the sustainability of their projects. This is besides, of course, the prize of US $10,000 per team.

In conclusion, here’s a video summary of the Apps Challenge for Developing Latin America 2013:

Other related posts:

2011
Desarrollando América Latina – 30 horas de tecnología y sociedad [es]
Developing Latin America Open Data Project

2012
Developing Latin America 2012
Developing Latin America Draws Near
Day 1 of Developing Latin America 2012
Day 2 of Developing Latin American 2012
Winning Applications from Latin America's Biggest Hackathon

2013

Developing Latin America 2013: Apps Challenge for Social Impact
This Weekend at Developing Latin America Apps Challenge Part I
This Weekend at Developing Latin America Apps Challenge Part II
¡DemoDay en Desarrollando América Latina! [es]

Post originally published in Juan Arellano's blog Globalizado [es].

‘Central African Republic's Most Pressing Need Is Security for its People’

Mme Beatrice Epaye via Centrafrique Press blog -Domaine public

Béatrice Epaye via the CAR Press blog – Public domain

Béatrice Epaye is a former member of Parliament and today a member of the Central African Republic's National Transition Council (CNT), the body tasked with selecting a transitional president who will lead the war-torn country until the next presidential elections. When an uprising plunged the country into crisis in late 2012, the previous President-elect François Bozizé was removed by the Séléka rebels.

The terrible religious conflict continues still in the Central African Republic (CAR). On February 19, heavy fighting erupted near the airport in the capital Bangui. Anti-Balaka groups tried to block the evacuation of Muslims and disrupted a visit by a top United Nations (UN) aid official.  

Epaye agreed to answer our questions on the current situation in the Central African Republic and the steps which need to be taken to avoid a human catastrophe in her country. In addition to her role on the National Transition Council, she is the president of the “La Voix du Coeur” (Voice of the Heart) Centre, which is currently a place of welcome and support for street children in Bangui, the capital of the Central African Republic. She also sits on the Economic and Monetary Community of Central Africa's parliament (CEMAC) in Malabo in Equatorial Guinea, where she represents the Council.

Global Voices (GV): What's the latest situation in your area? 

Béatrice Epaye (BE): Je suis une habitante de Bangui la capitale de la RCA, une ville meurtrie par le conflit. Tous les jours, de chez moi, j'entends des coups de feux venus de certains quartiers de Bangui. Ma maison comme beaucoup d’autres accueillent des proches venus de quartiers plus fragiles. Les gens fuient et beaucoup se sont regroupés dans des lieux qu'ils estiment sécurisés : Aéroport, Mosquées, Églises, dans des familles, en brousse dans la périphérie de Bangui ou en République Démocratique du Congo de l'autre côté du fleuve Oubangui.

De même, le Centre « Voix du Cœur » que j’ai fondé est devenu un lieu de regroupement pour les enfants de la rue en détresse. Là chrétiens et musulmans se côtoient, s’entraident.

Béatrice Epaye (BE): I live in Bangui the capital of the CAR, a town battered by conflict. Every day from my own home I hear shots coming from different areas of Bangui. Like many others, my house welcomes friends who come from the most fragile areas. People are fleeing and many gather together in areas which they feel are more secure: the airport, mosques, churches, with families, in the bush on the edge of Bangui, or in the Democratic Republic of Congo on the other side of the Ubangi River.

Likewise, the Voice of the Heart Centre which I founded has become a gathering place for distressed street children. Christians and Muslims come together and help each other.

GV: How do you manage the uncertainties? What are the most pressing needs so far?

BE: Effectivement c'est une situation difficile et précaire pour tout le monde : à tout moment le pire peut se produire! Quand on sent le danger, on cherche un abri.

Le plus difficile pour les familles et sur les sites des déplacés, c'est de ne pas avoir à manger ni avoir la possibilité de se soigner. Les salaires ne sont pas payés depuis 4 mois, et l'aide humanitaire n'est pas suffisante, ou même parfois inexistante. Dans leurs fuites les populations ont laissé derrière elles le nécessaire pour le quotidien et manquent du minimum pour la survie. Ensuite les enfants ne vont pas à l'école… on en est à un tel point que je ne peux pas le décrire.

BE: It's really a very difficult and precarious situation for everyone: the worst can happen at any moment! When we sense danger we look for shelter.

The most difficult thing for the families, and at the internally displaced persons sites, is having nothing to eat and no possibility of taking care of yourself. Salaries haven't been paid in four months, and humanitarian aid is not sufficient and sometimes even non-existent. As they fled, populations left behind things necessary for daily life and don't have the minimum needed to survive. Then children aren't going to school… we've reached such a point that I can't even describe it.

GV: How has the violence between Christians and Muslims increased so quickly in a country that isn't known for religious conflicts?

BE: Effectivement, le pays n'a jamais connu de conflits religieux. Les deux communautés ont toujours vécu ensemble en cohésion. Les familles s'échangent les repas lors des fêtes de Pâques, de la Tabaski, du Ramadan, de Noël et lors des mariages religieux. Lors du coup d’État nous avons vu parmi les rebelles des étrangers, engagés comme mercenaires. Depuis le début de leur progression ils ont utilisé les communautés musulmanes avec un discours de libérateurs des musulmans face aux mécréants qui les maltraitent. Ils ont pu enrôler beaucoup de jeunes qui les ont aidé à s'attaquer aux biens de l’église et faire les exactions que nous avons tous connues. Jusqu’à maintenant, nous avons toujours recherché à vivre en harmonie entre Centrafricains, avec nos différences de confessions ; comme nation, nous avons aussi accueilli beaucoup de personnes et de familles venant des pays voisins.

Cependant, il y a l'attitude de certains agents de l’État face à des concitoyens ou des résidents qu’ils supposent musulmans. Ceux-ci sont freinés dans leur démarche pour un papier administratif ou pour passer un barrage des forces de l'ordre. De même, les populations du nord-est de la RCA proches du Tchad et du Soudan (Darfour), vivant à plus de 1000 KM de la capitale, et majoritairement musulmanes, bénéficient peu du soutien de l’Etat parce que l’administration et les services publics sont quasi inexistants dans cette région, ce qui peut amener les habitants à se sentir laissés pour compte. Ces populations sont plus liées aux populations frontalières des autres pays voisins, ce qui est normal et parlent ensemble la même langue, ont une culture proche, mais ils sont alors perçus comme étrangers et eux-mêmes se sentent loin de la majorité chrétienne du pays. Au cœur du conflit que nous vivons, en ce moment, la grande majorité silencieuse des Centrafricains refusent la violence et beaucoup ont eu a agir pour protéger ou sauver la vie d’autres, souvent d’une autre communauté religieuse qu’eux.

BE: The country has never really known religious conflict. The two communities have always lived together with cohesion. Families exchange meals at Easter, Tabaski, Ramadan, Christmas and at religious marriages. When the revolution happened, we saw foreigners amongst the rebels, taken on as mercenaries. Since they started to advance they've made use of Muslim communities by making speeches about freeing Muslims from infidels who have treated them badly. They were able to recruit many young people who have helped them attack church property and carry out abuses which we've all experienced. Until now, we've always sought a harmonious life between Central Africans with our different faiths. As a nation we've also welcomed many people and families from neighbouring countries.

However, there is an attitude which certain public officials have concerning fellow citizens or residents who they believe to be Muslim. The movement of these people is slowed down by checking administrative documents or going through a security checkpoint. In the same way, populations in the northeast of the CAR close to Chad and Sudan (Darfour), who live more than 1,000 km from the capital and the majority of whom are Muslims, receive little benefit from state aid because the administration and public services are almost non-existent in this region, which can lead to local residents feeling overlooked. These populations are more closely linked to border populations from other neighbouring countries, which is normal, they speak the same language together, have cultural similarities, but then they are seen as foreigners and themselves feel a long way from the country's Christian majority. At the heart of the conflict which we're living in at the moment is the large Christian silent majority refuses violence and many have had to act to protect or save other people's lives, often from a different religious community to their own.

GV: You say that it's critical that the communities talk to each other and have a dialogue in order to solve problems. In your opinion, what conditions are needed in order to set up this dialogue? How can the international community help in this area?

BE: J'estime que parallèlement à la sécurisation du pays il faut commencer la réconciliation entre les communautés.

Tout d'abord, rassurer la communauté musulmane qui est en train de quitter le pays, elle fait partie prenante de la RCA. Il s'agit de réfuter toute idée soit de les chasser, soit de scission du pays. Il faut éliminer dans les mentalités la confusion systématique entre Seleka et musulman.

Inviter à ouvrir un processus de dialogue politique entre toutes les parties prenantes aux conflits, mais aussi avec les acteurs non-armés afin de lancer un processus de réconciliation nationale à même d'apaiser aujourd'hui les populations désemparées et leur redonner confiance dans l'avenir.

Dès la rentrée scolaire, qu'on commence à mettre en place un programme sur le vivre ensemble pour les enfants, et aussi l'élargir dans les quartiers et villages.

Il faut renforcer la sensibilisation déjà initiée par la plate-forme inter-religieuse dans les Églises, les Mosquées et autres Temples, ainsi que d'autres initiatives locales qui concourent à la paix”. Il est vrai que l'idée d'organiser des élections fait partie des priorités de la Communauté internationale, mais cette idée fait certainement peur à la communauté musulmane centrafricaine. C'est pourquoi il serait souhaitable que parallèlement au processus électoral, soit amorcé un programme de réconciliation nationale, une démarche qui assure à chacun qu’il sera reconnu comme centrafricain à part entière.

BE: I believe that parallel to securing the country we have to start the reconciliation process between communities.

First of all, we must reassure the Muslim community, which is in the process of leaving the country, that they are a stakeholder in the CAR. We have to refute any idea of banishing them or splitting the country. We have to eliminate the systematic confusion in people's minds between Seleka and Muslim.

We must encourage the opening of a political dialogue between all parties taking part in the conflict, but also key players who are not fighting, in order to start a national reconciliation process to give comfort to helpless populations and give them back confidence in the future.

Once the new school year begins we must set up a children's program about living together and also extend this to urban areas and villages.

We have to support the raising of public awareness, which has already been initiated by the inter-religious platform in churches, mosques, and other temples, just like other local initiatives which lead to peace. It's true that the idea of organising elections is amongst the priorities of the international community, but this idea also scares the Central African Muslim community. That's why it would be desirable to launch a national reconciliation program alongside the electoral process, an approach which assures everyone that they will be recognised as fully Central African.

GV: What are the other pressing needs for Central Africa at the moment? What solutions can be put forward?

BE: Le besoin le plus pressant pour la RCA c'est d'abord la sécurité pour son peuple. L'idéal serait que les familles rentrent chez elles avant les premières pluies du mois de février, que l'aide humanitaire arrive aux habitants partout où on peut les trouver (alimentation, eau potable, soins, couchages, produits d'hygiène, vêtements…). Ce serait aussi le paiement des salaires aux fonctionnaires.

BE: The CAR's most pressing need is security for its people. Ideally, families would be able to return to their homes before the first rains in February and humanitarian aid would arrive for local people wherever they are (food, drinking water, medical supplies, sleeping bags, hygiene products, clothes..). Also, public officials would have their salaries paid.

February 19 2014

“Now is the Time for Men of Goodwill to Stand Up” in the Central African Republic

Andrew Harding on Africa Review reports on the courageous acts of a congregation in the shabby town of Boali, Central African Republic and notably one Father Xavier Fagba. The St Peter's Parish church has sheltered Muslims seeking sanctuary from ethnic cleansing perpetrated by anti balaka gangs:    

“Now is the time for men of goodwill to stand up and prove the strength and quality of their faith,” said Father Fagba, [..] ”When I did this, nobody in the community understood me. They attacked and threatened me.” The Muslims – about 650 in all – arrived at the church on January 16 and 17. ”The Muslims discovered in our church that the God we worship is the same as their God,” said Father Fagba.

On twitter, a hashtag #CARKindness reports the local acts of kindness amidst the unspeakable wave of violence that plagues the country. Here is another instance of such kindness:

February 18 2014

YouTube Chefs Are Cooking Up a Storm in Indian Kitchens

YouTube Chefs are cooking up a storm and gaining celebrity status in India and abroad

YouTube chefs are gaining celebrity status in India and abroad.

Recipes are no longer just about cookbooks or top professional chefs hosting cooking shows on TV. A new breed of Indian culinarians are cooking their way to celebrity – via YouTube. As they demystify Indian cuisine and offer step-by-step guidance to creating mouthwatering Indian dishes, these talented men and women are inspiring a whole host of Indians to pick up their ladles and try out various yummy recipes in their own kitchens.

Move over recipe books, the YouTube chefs are here. No longer does the amateur home chef have to flounder with trying to understand what exactly the recipe instruction meant when it said things like, “the batter should be of pouring consistency”. Now you can see the chef demonstrate on video what exactly “pouring consistency” ought to be like. 

VahChef

Sanjay Thumma, more popularly known as VahChef, is the founder of food website vahrehvah.com. His prolific recipes channel on YouTube, which he launched in 2007, has catapulted him to culinary stardom.

Screenshot of Sanjay Thumma's YouTube channel

Screenshot of Sanjay Thumma's VahChef YouTube channel

Over the years, VahChef Sanjay has put up over 1,100 easy-to-follow videos demonstrating mainly Indian (and some international) recipes. Currently, his YouTube channel has about 234,985 subscribers and has clocked 159,266,645 views. On Facebook too, he has garnered about 164,405 likes. Sanjay is also currently hosting cooking shows on a regional TV channel in India.

Food Blog Wandering Spoon notes:

It’s refreshing to watch someone demonstrate mouth-watering dishes with uninhibited joy, a matter-of-fact globalism and minimal make-up. It helps that I love so many cuisines in India, but what immediately appealed to me is his stance as a teacher.

In the video below, VahChef Sanjay demonstrates how to cook fennel and pepper chicken:

Manjula's Kitchen

Manjula Jain grew up in a North Indian vegetarian family. Though she married and relocated to the US in the late 1960s, her family and she remained vegetarians as they were Jains by religion. Since 2006, Manjula has been blogging recipes and creating cooking videos on YouTube that offer “simple and practical recipes” to authentic Indian vegetarian cuisine. Her recipes include vegan and gluten-free dishes as well.

Manjula's Kitchen website and blog

Manjula's Kitchen on YouTube has 146,873 subscribers and has racked up 73,769,313 views. Her Facebook page has 260,833 likes. Recently, Manjula has also published her first book, ”Manjula’s Kitchen: Best of Indian Vegetarian”which is available on Amazon.

In the video below, Manjula shows us how to prepare a tasty snack which is also a popular street food in Mumbai, India: Batata Vada or Aloo Bonda (fried potato dumplings):

Nisha Madhulika

It's not only English-language recipe videos that are doing well online. Meet 55-year-old Nisha Madhulekha from Delhi. After she retired from a full-time job, Nisha grew restless and turned to her passion for cooking to keep herself occupied. She started posting recipe videos online in Hindi with English subtitles for the non-Hindi audience. With over 800 videos uploaded to date, plus tonnes of recipes on her Hindi website (there is also a subset English version here), Nisha Madhulika is quite a culinary force.

nishamadhulika.com - the Hindi website featuring Indian vegetarian recipes

Hindi website nishamadhulika.com features Indian vegetarian recipes

In the following YouTube video, Nisha shares her story about how she started her journey as a YouTube chef:

As of today, Nisha Madhulika's YouTube food channel has 114,339 subscribers and has nabbed 33,236,034 views. Her Facebook page has close to 40,000 likes.

In the video below, Nisha Madhulika shows us how to make sweet puffed rice balls (somewhat similar to Rice Krispies Treats, but with jaggery instead of marshmallows):

Some of the other popular YouTube home chefs who post videos of Indian and/or South Asian recipes include Bhavna with her “exotic vegetarian cuisine recipes from all around the world with a hint of Indian flavor” at Bhavna's Kitchen (134,091 subscribers, 52,497,677 views) and the Hetal-Anuja team with their “step-by-step and practical approach to South Asian Cooking” at ShowMeTheCurry.com (120,696 subscribers, 65,979,089 views).

Screenshot of India Food Network page

Screenshot of India Food Network page on YouTube

In fact, YouTube video tutorials and recipe demonstrations have become so popular that a group of home chefs and food bloggers got together in 2012 to create the India Food Network on YouTube. According to the description on their Facebook page:

India Food Network is your step by step guide to simple and delicious home cooking. From regional Indian cuisine to popular dishes from around the globe, our focus is to make cooking easy

So next time you want to cook your way into someone's heart, don't reach for a cookbook. Log on to YouTube and let some of these new-age celebrity chefs show you the way.

SmartNomination, a Counter to the Binge Drinking Game Neknomination

The online drinking game Neknomination that promotes binge drinking for teenagers has outraged many people around the world. Neknomination asks participants to film themselves drinking an alcoholic beverage in one gulp, upload the footage to the web and nominate others to do the same. Julien Voinson, a young frenchman from Bordeaux, decided to counter the drinking game with a more positive initiative called SmartNomination [fr]. The idea is to film oneself doing charity work and then nominate a friend to do the same. Created on February 12, the facebook page has already close to 9,000 likes. In the following video,  Voinson explains the details of his project  [fr]:

Adapting to Extreme Climate Change in Mali and Madagascar

Forest in the Kayes Region in Mali CC-NC-2.0

Forest in the Kayes region of Mali CC-NC-2.0

Mali and Madagascar have faced many similar challenges over the past five years. Political turmoil punctuated by coup d'états that saw the removal of their president-elects before the end of their terms. As a consequence, both economies had steep dives in terms of GDP. Today, Madagascar and Mali are both trying to rebuild their broken political systems via newly elected executive branches.

A lesser known challenge that both countries face is their struggle against extreme climate change. Fragile countries are often more vulnerable to extreme weather, but that adage could not be more evident than in the recent evolution of the ecosystem in Madagascar and Mali.

An undeniable impact

In Mali, the forest is slowly given way to the Sahara desert in the north. The Kayes region is symptomatic of the seemingly unstoppable progression of the desert in a region that used to host a buoyant forest and is now home to vast areas of sands and rocks.

Adrien de Chaisemartin and his colleagues from the McKinsey's Johannesburg office reported on the impact of climate change in the Malian region:

Mali is a mostly dry nation, subject to frequent droughts. Increasing temperatures and decreasing rainfall tell of a shift in climate zones as the desert moves south over productive land. In these regions, farmers dependent on agriculture and livestock already face trying periods of drought and have few options to overcome them. Many are moving to the cities, others to the country’s less arid south.

Kayes region  in Mali at the border with Senegal via wikipedia CC-BY-2.0

Kayes region in Mali at the border with Senegal via wikipedia CC-BY-2.0

Here is how they assess the current situation and the potential economic loss for the country:

The climate zone shift—the combined effect of rising average temperatures and declining average rainfall—has already pushed the country’s agroecological zones to the south over the past 50 years, with average rainfall down by about 200 millimeters and average temperatures up by 0.5°C over the same period. [..] The pessimistic high-change scenario could involve losses of about $300 million annually (some 15 percent of the value of agriculture and livestock); the optimistic scenario, losses of $120 million annually (6 percent)

In Madagascar, the impact of climate change was even more dramatic. Following two consecutive cyclones (Giovanna in 2012 and Haruna in 2013) that made landfall on the island and displaced at least 100,000 people, the southern region was plagued by a locust invasion. How those events are related is explained by Emmanuel Perrin on maxisciences [fr]:

Le cyclone Haruna a touché l’île de Madagascar. Or, son passage a créé les conditions d'humidité favorables à la prolifération de criquets migrateurs. Les autorités n’ont pas réagi à temps et, aujourd’hui, leur population atteint 500 milliards d’individus, estime une récente mission de comptage.

Cyclone Haruna hit the island of Madagascar and its landfall has created the humid conditions that favors the massive proliferation of locusts. The authorities did not react in time, and today their population reached 500 billion in the most recent estimates.

Locust invasion in down town Fianaratsoa, Madagascar

Locust invasion in downtown Fianaratsoa, Madagascar

The World Food Programme states that 60 percent of rice production will be affected by the locust invasion. Cyclone Haruna's direct impact was also dramatically felt by southern farmers as 6,351 hectares of their crop fields were flooded. Raw footage of the floods can be seen in this video from YouTube user ongbelavenir:

How to adapt

So what can local population do to withstand the climate assault on their way of life? Here are a few ideas by Michael Kleine and his fellow scientists or researchers from the International Union of Forest Research Organizations solutions (IUFRO):

New modes of governance should enhance effective stakeholder and community participation, transparent and accountable decision-making, and the equitable sharing of benefits. And strategies for adapting forests to climate change must be coordinated with those of other sectors and integrated into national and regional development programmes and strategies.

In the field, new strategies are dependent on the local context and the type of activities in the region. For instance, declining crop yields can be countered with the following measures: increase crop diversification and plant early maturing crop varieties such as the NERICA rice variety. 

Dr. Balgis Osman Elasha emphasized the importance of grasping the local context and gaining buy-ins from community leaders to implement the new measures:

The same policy could yield contrasting results ,for different sectors or different activities in the same sector, e.g. removing subsides on inputs, from agriculture produced positive impact on traditional rain fed sector (using minimum inputs), and negative impacts on mechanized irrigated agriculture (using intensive inputs) [..] Community Leaders are key players in the policy process , they possess a wealth of indigenous knowledge regarding the wise use and conservation of natural resources, moreover, customary rules and orders issued by them , are considered sacred by their local community. 

February 14 2014

Ending Illegal Logging and Launching Forest Carbon Credits in Madagascar

 Illegally logged rosewood from Masoala and Marojejy in Antalaha, Madagascar via wikipedia CC-BY-2.0

Illegally logged rosewood from Masoala and Marojejy in Antalaha, Madagascar via wikipedia CC-BY-2.0

The new administration in Madagascar is seemingly making a concerted effort to curb down deforestation in Madagascar. First, new president Hery Rajaonarimampianina has made ending illegal logging of Madagascar rosewood a priority at his first executive meeting[fr]. Second, the Wildlife Conservation Society announced that the Government of Madagascar has approved carbon sales with Microsoft and its carbon offset partner, The CarbonNeutral Company, and Zoo Zurich. The funds from carbon sales will be used by Makira REDD+ Project for conservation, capacity building, and enforcement activities related to conservation of Madagascar's rainforest. It is yet to be seen whether these measures will be implemented in the field. 

“Another Face of Africa”: Call for Photos, Stories

Addis Ababa, Ethiopia

A group of young volunteers from southern Germany, many of whom have lived in Africa, are calling for photos, essays, videos, blog posts or poems by locals of five major African cities: Lagos, Addis Ababa, Gaborone, Kigali and Kinshasa.

With a forthcoming exhibition called “Sichtwechsel,” their goal is to show another face of Africa than what typically appears in German media — modern, urban, rapidly developing societies.

See their website at Missing-Images.com in English, French and German. The deadline for submissions is March 31, 2014.

What Guinea Needs Now is Peace and Stability

Conakry Ville via wikimedia license CC-BY-2.0

Downtown Conakry via wikimedia CC-BY-2.0

Serge Lamah reports on his blog[fr] that Oyé Guilavogui, the communication minister has pointed out the pressing needs for Guinea today :

Vous vous rappelez, en 2011, les avions en direction de Conakry ne désemplissaient pas. Les hôtels étaient pleins à tout moment, aujourd’hui, allez-y, il y a de la place toutes les saisons. Les avions viennent à moitié vides parce qu’il n y a pas eu de calme, on ne s’est pas acceptés. Donc on est obligé de tout remettre à plat pour faire revenir les investisseurs. Pour qu’un investisseur mette son argent dans un pays, le premier critère est qu’il faut qu’il y ait la stabilité, la paix.

You remember in 2011, planes bound for Conakry never emptied. Hotels were always but today, there are always empty rooms all year long. The planes are half empty because there is always uncertainty and we have yet to learn to live with each other again. So we are forced to get back to the drawing board and in order to appeal to investors again. For an investor to invest in a country, the first criterion is that there must be stability and peace. 

February 11 2014

Art Arises From Snow-Covered Tokyo

The heaviest snowfall in 45 years hit Tokyo over the weekend. The unusual amount of snow triggered traffic accidents, killing 11 and injuring thousands, and travel was disrupted across the country.

However, amid the cold and white, some used the snow to create beautiful, fun and sometimes strange artwork. RocketNews24 has compiled photos that were taken and shared by Japanese Twitter users.

When Algeria's Police Fail to Act, Citizen Journalists Step in

Not long after evidence of police abuse was exposed by citizen journalists there last month, cyber activists in the city of Ghardaïa have once against uncovered failings of Algeria's police forces, this time for not stepping in to protect a man who as killed in public after being kidnapped by a group of local gangsters.

Sectarian tensions in this region situated in the heart of the M'zab valley are high, and cyber activists and citizen journalists are doubling their efforts to expose the violent clashes between the Ibadites minority (a.k.a Mozabites in this region) and the majority made of Muslim Sunni communities, publishing video evidence on YouTube. The publicity generated by the activists’ first videos showing police abuse against Ibadites prompted Algerian authorities to launch an investigation and sanction the officers involved.

The goal of these citizen journalists is clear: share the reality on the ground with the Algerian population, whose awareness of the situation is obscured by the lack of reporting in the mainstream media. In fact, many facts and elements of the situation are not reported. For instance, the media seldom reports on the complicity of security forces with local thugs who vandalize and wreck havoc in the city to increase sectarian conflict between the Ibadites and the Sunni. The photos below taken by Mozabites activists show the reality of the crimes occurring in Ghardaïa right under the nose of police:

Photo gardaia activistes

Photo posted on Facebook by Ghardaia activists showing crime evidence in the city. Used with permission.

Among the crimes exposed by the activists was the case of 21-year-old Mozabite youngster Babaousmail Azzedine. Azzedine was attacked in public after being kidnapped by local gangsters on February 5, 2014. The youngster succumbed shortly after to his injuries, as a result of 20 knife wounds he received.

The crime shook Ghardaïa to its core. Yet Azzedine assassins are still free. Activists retrieved amateurs photos of the murder captured by eyewitnesses and assembled all the video and photographic evidence adding captions as well as geographical and historical annotations. The footage shows Azzedine's aggressors as they assaulted him:

Disseminated via YouTube, citizen journalism website Envoyés Spéciaux Algériens (Algerian Special Envoys) [fr, ar] and independent news site Algérie-Focus [fr], the video went viral and sparked public outcry. It comes at a time when the Interior Minister and the Chief of the Algerian Police were visiting the region in an attempt to appease the situation. Still, local authorities have yet to arrest anyone in the murder, but an investigation was launched by the national armed forces to track down Azzedine's murderers, who can be clearly identified in this video:

In the meantime, numerous online communities are working together to alert Algerian authorities to the situation in the region and to pressure them into acting against against sectarian violence in M'zab. Ghardaïa News [fr] and Ahdath Ghardaïa  (Gharadaia Events) [fr, ar] are two news sites that regularly fight to report on the violence against the Mozabite population.

The tremendous work of these activists was not in vain. The impunity of the criminals was publicly revealed, putting the Algerian authorities in a compromising situation and forcing them into action. Violence hasn't stopped in Ghardaïa, but this a positive step forward for the local population.

February 10 2014

INFOGRAPHIC: Pursuit of Happiness in Africa

Happiness Value Index for the African Continent via Afrigraphique CC-NC-2.0

Happiness Value Index for the African Continent via Afrigraphique CC-NC-2.0


The Afrographique blog mapped the happiness index for the African continent. Topping the ranking are Angola and Mauritius who hold the same happiness index as Albania and Russia, respectively. In related news, the Pharell’ single “Happy” has been used by dancers around the world to celebrate the new year 2014. All the videos are compiled at the blog We are Happy from . Below are the videos from Antanannarivo, Madagascar:

and Cotonou, Benin:

February 09 2014

India's Solar Vision Promises Clean Energy And Happy Farmers

Solar array pattern captured at Auroville, Pondicherry, India. Image from Flickr by Amaresh Sundaram Kuppuswamy. CC BY

Array of solar panels at Auroville, Pondicherry, India. Image from Flickr by Amaresh Sundaram Kuppuswamy. CC BY-NC-SA

Around 628 million people around the world do not have access to electricity and 290 million of them are from rural India. Many Indian farmers have to rely on archaic power grids and fossil fuels to run water pumps for their irrigation.

The Indian government is aiming to replace 26 million diesel-powered groundwater pumps with more efficient solar-powered irrigation models. This will save about six billion US dollars a year in electricity and diesel subsidies for the country. This will also help tackle the rising demand for coal as two-thirds of the country's electricity is generated by coal. Additionally crowd-sourcing of unused solar power will also add a lot of energy to the national grid.

India nearly doubled its solar capacity in 2013 to a cumulative 2.18 gigawatts of power. The country plans to install 10 GW of solar plants by 2017 and 20 GW by 2022, according to the the second phase of the Jawaharlal Nehru National Solar Mission (JNNSM), India’s flagship solar policy. India is also considering to apply to the World Bank for a 500-million-US-dollar solar loan to build the world's largest solar power plant (4GW) in Sambhar in the Indian state of Rajasthan.

Yadav K writes in Indian Public Sector blog details about the 4GW power plant in Sambhar:

The project will spread across 19,000 acres at Sambhar in Rajasthan and will entail an investment of Rs 7,500 crore in the first phase. [..] The solar PV (photo-voltaic) power plant will use PV modules based on crystalline silicon technology and with an estimated life of 25 years, the solar plant can supply 6,400 million units of energy per year. It eco-friendly project will help reduce carbon dioxide emissions by over 4 million tonnes per year.

Katie Fehrenbacher writes in technology blog Gigaom:

As more devices become connected to networks and the Internet — here comes the Internet of Things — more and more of them will seek to have their own power source, and currently solar power is one of the cheapest and most mobile forms of distributed energy available. [..]

If India does reach these numbers of solar-powered water pumps, it would be the largest deployment of this technology in a single country. Reducing the grid electricity usage, and the use of expensive diesel, will not only lower carbon emissions, but it could also help the power grid operators better run their networks and reduce the power costs for the farmers.

Here are more reactions on Twitter:

However, the rapid development requires industrial production of Solar plants which may create new bio-hazard:

Blogger & Solar Energy expert Ritesh Pothan thinks that there are a number of issues that must be resolved if 2014 is to see India make any progress towards its solar ambitions.

More info on India's solar developments can be found in Renewable Energy India and Solar Power India Facebook pages.

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