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I’ve just finished reading a fastinating book by Tim Butcher. Subtitled ‘A Journey to the Broken Heart of Africa’ it tells of how he managed to re-create the journey of Henry Morgan Stanley from the Eastern shores of Lake Tanganyka across country to the Congo River and then down the river to the Atlantic Coast.  Stanley (of Dr Livingstone I presume fame) was a journalist with the Telegraph newspaper and could see the commercial potential of this vast un-mapped country with a wealth of natural resources.

The Democratic Repubic of Congo is unique of all countries on earth in that it is evolving backwards. Stanley claimed sovereignty of the country for the King of Belgium, King Leopold (the king only not the Belgian Government) in 1879 and then began one of the worst colonial regimes imaginable. By 1964 when independence came the Congo river was navigable between the two main sets of cataracts, there were railways and roads but they had been built at a price to the local population.  Various regimes have been in power since and a five year war in which millions were killed, finished in 1999.

The Congo has since literally returned to its roots. One leg of the journey, about 1,000 Km is done in a traditional dug out canoe.  At one point, as he is travelling through dense rain forest in which he cannot see the sun for the tree canopy, his foot catches on something in the ground – he scrapes away the earth and it is the remains of a railway line. There is no indication at all around him that a rail track ever went through the area. His journey was truly of epic proportions. He has empathy with the people who helped him and the plight that they find themselves in; one contact asked Butcher to take his 4 year old son along with him, as there was no prospect for him in the Congo.  Mostly this is a highly readable account of a journey which should have been impossible but he managed it.

I posted a few weeks ago on the TED prize winner Neil Turok’s vision to find an African Einstein with the setting up of 15 advanced centres for Mathematics and Science based in Africa.  He donated his £50,000 prize fund to Aims – the African Institute of Mathematical Sciences, which he founded.

Professor Sir Stephen Hawking has made the journey to South Africa to launch the project today, along with 2 Nobel laureates in Physics, the Head of NASA and the South African Education Minister.  The British Government have declined to provide funding so the organisers have turned to high-tech entrepreneurs and scientists to back the plan.  The complete TED talk is here and well worth taking the time to watch.  There is also an interesting article in the Sunday Times today.

I was going to post about World Malaria Day which was in fact two days ago, and as part of the research checked the Tukae site. I’m delighted to see that it has been totally revamped and has a very clear message on the work that is being done there. It looks good and there’s some slick flash animated quotes at the top (not sure how accessible it is but that’s a different hat I wear!) The mission is very clearly stated and there is a seperate page on the job creation and revenue raising activities that are an essential part of their work at Emau Hill.

The Malaria project is ongoing – this is to implement a practical, community based, 4 point programme to control and treat malaria, with a particular focus on children. It will reduce the incidence of malaria through:

1 Providing long-term treatment bednets,

2 Providing resource for insecticide treatment of dwellings,

3 Giving access to rapid diagnostic testing,

4 Holding a stock of malaria treatment.

This is a very ambitious project and the funding needed is considerable – £12,000 initially and £36,000 over a 13 months period. £7,000 is already raised.

Today the newest project from Jamie Catto and Duncan Bridgeman is aired on Channel 4 at unfortunately silly o clock – 12.05 am. It’s called What About Me? and follows the 1GiantLeap idea in getting people from all over the world to talk, sing or play music to a beat or in reply to some previous singing or music. The latest trailer is here and the trailer for the first episode Bombardment is here.

The synopsis for Bombardment says “The backing track for this chapter was written one windy night in my van in Cadaques Spain. I had copied the riff from a sample of some Thai instrument. Sounded very different on my guitar, and as I played it to other musicians around the world it took on a whole new sound.”

Thanks goodness that Channel 4 also has a play again service so I’ll be watching it later on 4od.

And why not – here’s a taste of the first album.

The latest TED conference took place last month in Monteray California. If you haven’t come across these talks they are awe inspiring. TED stands for Technology, Entertainment and Design and began in 1984 as a conference devoted to the converging fields of technology, entertainment and design. Over the years, the scope has broadened. But the formula remains the same: Gather the world’s leading thinkers and doers; offer them four days of rapid-fire stimulation. The result? Unexpected connections. Extraordinary insights. Powerful inspiration.

The talks are made available on the TED website and one of the latest is by Professor Neil Turok, who is a theoretical physicist who grew up in Africa. He was the founder of the African Institute of Mathematical Sciences in Cape Town, South Africa. As he says “If you don’t have math, you are not going to enter the modern age.” At AIMS “We emphasize problem-solving, working in groups. Everyone lives together in the hotel, lecturers and students, so it’s not surprising to find impromptu tutorials at 1am. We specially emphasize areas of great relevance to African development”.

His wish is to create 15 more across the continent.

The physics stuff in here is pretty mind blowing – well it is for me, but the ideas and thoughts behind the AIMS project are truly inspirational. See the whole talk – here.

You can become a member of TED for free and even attend one of the Conferences – if you have a spare $6,000.

I’ve just found a brilliant blog from a couple from America who are having the honeymoon to beat all honeymoons.  Steve and Christy McCrosky married in California in June last year and have since been travelling all over Europe, Africa, South East Asia and Fiji.  They planned to be away for seven months so must be nearing the end shortly.  They have an amazing photo site here.  The reason I found it was they spent part of their time camping at Emau Hill and talking to Steve and Pia.  The camp site sounds great – it wasn’t finished when I was there but the fully erect and equipped tents sound good.  Have a read for yourself here.  And yes Steve and Pia are some pretty amazing people.  Oh and congratulations Steve and Christy  I’ve added your blog to the blogroll on here.

I’ve written quite a bit about malaria and the campaign that Tukae are running to raise money for a clinical officer and technician to be based at Emau Hill for a year. They will provide free malaria treatment for all children under the age of 13, following Tanzanian government guidelines. So I was interested to read in the latest copy of Scientific American that a company is developing a chemical that kills viral pathogens but also suppresses the development of the plasmodium parasite that causes malaria.

The so called ‘provector’ will use visual, olfactory and chemical signals to entice the mosquitoes to ingest the antimalarial and antiviral treatments. They haven’t finalised the delivery method yet, but it looks like it might be in the form of an artificial flower which while being shielded from other insects, will have a protective surface that will allow the mosquitoes’ proboscis to get through to reach the petals. This is a totally different way of looking at Malaria prevention, in that they are targetting the pathogens themselves, rather than the mosquitoes, which are just the carriers. Whatever it takes, it is important that this killer disease is conquered. It can and does kill children in the East Usambaras where Steve and the team are working. The World Health organisation fact sheet on malaria has the chilling statistics – ‘an African child has between 1.6 and 5.4 episodes of malaria fever each year’ and every 30 seconds a child dies of malaria.

Animoto seems to be all over the blogs at the moment. It’s a great site that creates professional standard videos from your photos. There are a number of music tracks you can choose and you can do a 30 second video for free. See here for my trip to Emau Hill.

I’ve just been directed to this site by Michael at East Michigan University. It’s a sort of social mapping thing which uses Google Maps but what I like about it is you can add other locations that you like. I’ve managed to add Emau Hill next to the village of Amani in Tanzania as a location, but seem unable to add the website link to it. Hopefully the webmaster on the Tukae site will add the url so we can link up to it. You can add other blogs that are already registered, and there are pitifully few, so for it to work it will need far more registrations and people linking their own blogs to each other. I’ve invited a couple of folk, and will invite more as I trail through my feeds. A direct link to the location of the blog is here and I’ve inserted a widget in the left hand side bar.  Astonishingly, with 12 hits I am now in the top 100 on the site!  Won’t last long.

There was a comment from Althea on yesterday’s post regarding the future staffing of the Amani women’s workshop extension.  They are on the look out for a qualified person to teach Batik techniques.  The person would have to be a volunteer and pay their way and there is no electricity so it would certainly be a challenge.  However there is fresh running water (in the stream down the hill) and a brand new workshop and it is in a beautiful part of the world with just delightful people.  Steve would really like someone who could also develop design skills and take inspiration from the natural environment.  I’d do it myself if I could leave work and oh yes, do batik!  If anyone is interested you can contact the Tukaepartners site or just leave me a message on Facebook.

On a seperate note you can order books and gifts from Amazon through the Tukae partners site and a small percentage goes to Tukae.

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