It’s been quite a long time, but a few degrees south and I am now in the Southern Hemisphere. I arrived in Nairobi today and what a difference, cool and somewhat dry almost like San Francisco. In the 70’s now, so tonight… no air conditioning. I’ve been out of communication for 7 days now, no Internet and no phone. I’ve been in the most populated country in Africa and no Internet. The place I was staying North of Lagos had no Internet, then when I got back to Lagos my ‘fancy’ hotel had a great wifi signal but it didn’t go anywhere. I had written this blog posting thinking I would be able to post it from Lagos but… Now I’m in Nairobi, it’s almost 10pm, I’m sitting down with a Kenyan beer and waiting for some chicken, so here’s the posting for Nigeria from Nairobi!
I’ve been in the Southwestern part of Nigeria for a week now based out of Ile –Ife (go google Ile – Ife, Nigeria). It has been déjà vu of the old days, I have had no contact this week with anyone due to no Internet and with my iPhone being broken I cannot use cellular for email or Internet. I’m back in Lagos tonight where I do have access albeit very slow, seems to be the status quo in Africa.
Ile –Ife is an 8-hour drive Northeast of Lagos and I now have a new country I will say has the craziest drivers I’ve ever been in. It was 8 hours of white knuckles as the traffic in the most populated country in Africa causes congestion like you cannot believe. Once you leave the city it’s like any developing world, potholes, moto bikes, pedestrians, bicyclists, animals all on the two-lane freeway. But they make it a three-lane freeway, passing one car on the left, the next car on the right shoulder. Give my driver a couple of kilometers of free road and he’d hit 160kph (100mph), he did slow it to 100kph after the sun went down although he had his chin right on the windshield. Took me half an hour to pry my hand off the handgrip.
Yes, Nigeria has been in the news a lot lately around the world I hear, due to the ‘200 Girls’ that Boko Harem kidnapped a couple of weeks ago. I’ve been following Boko Harem for about a year now and that is all going on a ways north of where I was. They had CNN on TV the other night where I was eating dinner and the reporter was interviewing the Brigadier General of the Nigerian army, everyone in the place was laughing at his dodging all the questions. Not sure they have a lot of confidence in their armed forces, but they don’t like what Boko Harem has done and would love to get them out of Nigeria.
This has been my first time in Nigeria and what a difference from the last 5 to 6 weeks of working in the Sahel. HUMIDITY, to put it in one word but the second word would be GREEN. Nigeria is on the northern edge of the rain forest across Africa and it is made up of very dense jungle forest. The humidity is always above 90% this time of year and along with the heat… well you get the idea.
(All Blog photographs © Bartay)
I’ve been here working with the IDRC out of Ottawa on a project they’re funding on teaching Nigerian women the benefits of growing local vegetables. I’ve been out in the field working with one of the main partners, Osun State University in the city of Ile –Ife. We’ve been going out to the co-op farms they’ve set up for their project, some around Ile -Ife and others surrounding Ibadan. I learned Ibadan is the largest city (in area) in all of Africa. It’s more of a settlement really, one maybe two-story buildings side by side that just goes as far as the eye can see.
The project is a 3-½ year study and it comes to an end this August so the co-op farms are on the mature side. The first farm I went to was started in the wetlands of Ile –Ife. It was filled in and the co-op farmers started out with a fresh plot of land. After a short period they were growing vegetables as large as this fluted pumpkin.
Basically they’ve started teaching the farmers how to carefully prep the seed, seed the land, and what crops to grow. Some of the vegetables can be harvested every 15 days and plants replanted every 3 years. That fluted pumpkin gets harvested every 15 days and the plant gets replanted once a year. So this way there is always steady income for the farmers.
They will section off a plot of a particular veggie with string and marketers will come and pre-order and pre-pay for a section. Then the farmer tends to the plot and when it’s time to harvest the marketer comes back, harvests the vegetables and takes them to market to sell. When the marketer pre-buys the farmer puts some of the money into a co-op account and then they can borrow against it to purchase seed, fertilizer, whatever they need.
Here are a couple of marketers who have been harvesting their section, and then they will take it off to the market to sell.
The kids? They don’t get left at home, they’re either in school or they come with mom or dad to spend the day at the farm.
Osun State University has also been doing morning broadcasts to get the word out not only to other possible farmers, who might want to join or start their own co-op but the campaign has also sent the sales at the markets higher since the broadcasts started. Everybody seems to be winning on this project. It has been so successful the University is seeking to extend the project and to expand the area.
Now stopping by the market was a rather spooky hour or so. It is right along a very busy road and remember what I said at the begging? This 2-lane road turns into a crazy, crazy road. Happily I had someone watching my back from the moto’s, cars, pedestrians, you name it. When a very large bulldozer on a flat bed was coming (no room for anything else) we decided it was time to leave.
Hopefully I’ll have Internet for a while now. I’m headed to Nairobi Kenya tomorrow for an extended shoot. I think we’re headed out east of Nairobi towards the grazing lands near the Somalia border, it’s dealing with disease in cattle. I hope to let you know how it goes.