Posts Tagged ‘africa’

Women of Minyore

Monday, May 21, 2012

Over the weekend, AfriGadget shared this wonderful short documentary by the Kenya-based Dutch journalist Ruud Elmendorp on trashpicking craftswomen near Nakuru.

The women, including Lucy Wambui, featured in a video and report on Elmendorp’s site, collect plastic bags from the dump and weave them into marketable goods. In an area of the world ravaged by poverty, HIV, domestic abuse and drug addiction, these women are bettering their lives and educating the next generation on the income they earn selling recycled plastic. Lucy, for example, pays her grandson’s school fees with part of her income.

I find this piece particularly compelling because I have been to Nakuru, spent the night in the national park for which the area is famed and even spent a night in town without ever crossing paths with a community of trashpickers. Elmendorp’s shot of the dump site with flamingo lake in the background beautifully illustrates the contrast between the two worlds. It reminds me of this photo, which I shared here in 2010, taken from the shore of the same lake.

Lake Nakuru

How different the planet appears from the other side of the looking glass.


Thursday, March 31, 2011

You may have read that a prison just for pirates opened recently, financed with UN money and appropriately located in Somaliland, the self-declared autonomous region of Somalia.

Somali pirates arrested by French commandos, photo via

A UN rep laments that they needed to build the prison because while countries will hold trials for stateless people, like pirates roaming the high seas, no one wants to make room for them in their prisons. So the UN decided to build one special.

This story, making the news wire rounds, puts Somali pirates in particular back in the international spotlight. It’s been a while, but you may recall the international melee a few years back when pirates off the coast of Somalia kept kidnapping Europeans and demanding high ransoms for their return. The most interesting part of the story, from a trash perspective, is that these pirates claimed to be defending African waters from the illegal dumping of toxic chemicals by huge European corporations.

As Bloomberg reports, the class, trash and power issues run deep:

Pirates operating off the coast of Somalia carried out 15 of the 16 hijackings at sea this year, according to figures released by the International Maritime Bureau’s Piracy Reporting Center on March 24. There are currently 28 seized vessels with 576 hostages held by Somali pirates, the bureau said.

Piracy has flourished off the coast of the Horn of African nation, where a two-decade long war has left the country with no effective government and a moribund economy. Remittances from overseas workers of about $1 billion a year are the country’s main source of revenue, according to the London-based charity World Vision, which runs health, water and education projects in Somalia.

Upcycled helicopter

Monday, March 29, 2010

A team in Somaliland built this helipcopter out of scrap metal and an old van engine. AfriGadget has the scoop (and points out that there is no footage of the thing in flight).  This new one isn’t as cool as the Nigerian one AfriGadget posted on a few years back, but is still pretty rad.

Football Made in Africa

Tuesday, September 29, 2009

via AfriGadget

Maker Faire Africa

Wednesday, July 29, 2009


Africa is getting its very own Maker Faire—modeled after the conference of DIY inventors, crafters and all around innovators started in the Bay Area in 2006—organized by the masterminds behind the blogs Timbuktu Chronicles, AfriGadget and MIT’s International Development Design Summit. The first African installment will take place August 14-16 in Ghana and will include tracks on Robotics, Agriculture & Environment, Science & Engineering, Arts & Crafts. Here’s a link to the event blog.

I cannot wait to see what inspirational designs emerge from this meeting. Prediction: upcycling like we’ve never seen it before.

La victoire sur les sachets

Monday, July 20, 2009

To commemorate the 60th anniversary of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights last year, the office of the High Commissioner of Human Rights at the UN collaborated on an Art for the World project to make a series of videos inspired by that document. This environmentally-themed clip highlights the reuse of plastic bags in Africa to create traditional Djembe drums: 2,000 drums = 20 tons of recycled plastic and offsets 20 tons of wood, which would otherwise have been used to make the instruments.

Via AfriGadget

Upcycle my ride

Wednesday, May 20, 2009

Check it: a group of students from Makerere University in Kampala, Uganda designed this “poor man’s car” from upcycled farm equipment and other salvaged materials, including an engine ripped from an old maize grinding mill.

Photo by  Dr. Yasin Naku Ziraba via

Photo by Dr. Yasin Naku Ziraba via

Supercool. To all who say Makerere has slipped in quality and no longer deserves the “Harvard of Africa” rep, I have two words for you: pooh and pooh.

Note: I found the post about this project via Nubian Cheetah, a blog suggested to me by Google Reader, presumably because of my ever-growing folder of African blogs. Yay technology.

Postcard from Kampala

Monday, April 27, 2009
Marabou storks trash digging through trash in Kampala

Marabou storks digging through trash in Kampala

Posting may be light or Victor-centric this week as I (Leila) am in Uganda for the day job. While waiting for my ride outside of the Statistics House in Kampala today, I noticed some Marabou storks lunching in a parkinglot accross the street and promptly dashed over, in heels and through a lot of mud, to take some photos. Let me tell you, I’ve always found the Marabou storks nesting in treetops around the city a bit creepy when overhead. They are even more so up close and on the ground. And so BIG. Imagine if pidgeons were larger than our children!

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