Details

The Website of Fam. Van Stam - Van Dijk, in Zambia

Greetings from Macha!



Merel's blog: http://merelvanstam.blogspot.com/
Gertjan's blog: http://gertjanvanstam.blogspot.com/

Janneke's Facebook: http://www.facebook.com/jannekehvandijk
Gertjan's Facebook: http://www.facebook.com/gertjanvanstam
 
Gertjan's Twitter: http://www.twitter.com/gertjanvanstam

Gertjan's Linkedin: http://www.linkedin.com/in/gertjanvanstam

Janneke's academic papers: http://erasmusmc.academia.edu/JannekevanDijk/Papers
Gertjan's academic papers: http://machaworks.academia.edu/GertjanVanStam/Papers


Skype: gertjan_van_stam
Tel: +260977623611


Book published: PLACEMARK


Gertjan's first book, Placemark, has been published. The observations from rural Africa, with forewords of Nobel Prize Laureat Peter Agre, House of Zambia's Vice Chairman Chief Chikanta, and others, edited by Sally Green, is a compilation of blogs on many subjects of the past years.

The book is available in Kindle format, and can be ordered at Amazon.com. Further, it is available for downloads here:
ISBN: 978-90-817939-0-2

Placemark

posted Oct 15, 2011, 2:56 AM by Gertjan van Stam   [ updated Oct 15, 2011, 3:07 AM ]

My friend Gertjan has many ideas. I never cease to learn something interesting. My advice: read further.”

Peter Agre, Nobel Prize Laureate, Johns Hopkins University, Baltimore, USA

As Chief and Vice-Chairperson of the House of Chiefs, I am really inspired by this book. It tackles cultural issues that affect rural communities across Africa and describes African realities of life. It might be the first of its kind describing integration of technology and culture. I trust it will inspire people on both sides of the digital divide, as it asserts the necessity for higher technologies and rural communities to merge in a collaborative effort to bring the two sides of our globe together.”

Chief Chikanta, House of Chiefs, Zambia

"I admire Gertjan for his creativity, unique vision and unbelievable stubbornness. Combine these characteristics with a good portion of humor and keen eye for worthwhile snapshots of life and you get the inspiring Placemark."

Jasper Grosskurth, author 'Futures of Technology in Africa', Nairobi, Kenya

Placemark is a readable and absorbing journey of experience, covering many topics in such a short book. The completeness of each theme embarked on is thrilling. The work is a witty re-collection and reflection of oneself and the environment and yet it sends a strong message to who ever wishes to stop and reflect on their past stand point and face tomorrow with different approaches to issues pertaining to the rural situation - whether one lives in Africa or the West!”

Alex Muyovwe, Chartered Accountant, Choma, Zambia

I have followed with great interest, admiration and respect what Gertjan van Stam and Janneke van Dijk have been doing in Macha. They follow their calling with compassion and perseverance, demonstrating what humble, servant leadership means.

The stories in ‘Placemark’ are testimony of years of hard work, of growing insight in the specific context of rural Africa and local, traditional culture, of frustration about bureaucracy and stubbornness of the development aid establishment, of lessons learned, of the possibility of sustainable progress, and of the joy of being.

I returned from my third trip to Macha, which was three years after my previous visit. The progress I have seen was amazing and inspiring. Empowered by being connected to the Internet, the rural community develops in many fields: education, healthcare, agriculture, sustainable energy, craftsmanship, entrepreneurship. Houses, lodging, a restaurant, care house, schools, and a radio station have been built and construction is continuing. Several villages in other parts of Zambia have been connected to the Internet and their peers from Macha are training local people. But maybe the greatest achievement is the fact that local talent has taken up leadership and is in full control of operations. Truly, there is hope for rural Africa!”

Gerard van Oortmerssen, Professor of ICT, Tilburg, Netherlands


PLACEMARK

Gertjan van Stam is an engineer living with his family in rural Macha, Zambia, since 2003.


PLACEMARK

Observations from Rural Africa

Gertjan van Stam

Chief Macha Area

Choma District

Southern Province

Zambia

No rights reserved. Any part of this publication may be reprinted or reproduced or utilized in any form or by any electronic, mechanical, or other means, now known or hereafter invented, including photocopying and recording, or in any information storage or retrieval system, without the written permission of whomever.

ISBN: 978-90-817939-0-2

Produced in Macha, Zambia, 12 September 2011

For my parents, Jacobus and Hendrina

CONTENTS

Epic

Hot

Pick A Baggy

Sharp Shooting

MICS

Cross Cultur

The Bore hole Pump

Sports, part of Vision Community Works

Existence Farming

Internet in African Bush Changes Lives

Africa is Large

Innovating and Learning versus Reporting

Living at Altitude

Resource alleviation collateral

Excruciating costs of Internet in rural Africa

Greet and Smile

Heeding Calling

A Triangle of Partnerships

Ideas on involving grassroots levels in Africa

Oral Communications Culture

Integral International Development

Visitors

Broken Bicycle Seats

How DO you?

I am, because You are

Nomad-ness

Sustainability

The one-billion dollar question

The Art of Living

What About The Children?

Personal Ethics

Balancing Act

Pre-conceived Ideas

Community Dissemination

Visionary Drive

Lessons Learned

Developmental Spiral

Virtual Realities

Internet needed in rural Africa

The Relationality Of It All

Integration of Cultures

Being Together

Scientific Proof

Strengthen Those That Drive Progress

Here and Now

Awe-struck, Jaw-dropping Wonder

Demand Driven Solutions

It’s About People

Impact Indicators

Cultural Bumps

Reminiscense

Respectfully Yours

Introduction


Our kids play outside as usual. Merel (10) and Elmo (8) have grown up in rural Africa. Both of them show remarkable social skills that, like others around them, they demonstrate daily whilst roaming our rural neighborhood with their group of friends.

I am wondering if I ever will get it right here in Africa. My engineering background and experience might be helpful in observing, but they are not necessarily conducive to participating in this enthralling environment. Well, I will continue to try, and mark our rural place.

Since 2003, we - that is Janneke van Dijk, Merel, Elmo, Beauty, and myself – have been living in the rural community of Macha in Zambia, Africa. Macha is our home, amidst a sea of undulating bush land where people live along with extended family, in homesteads; where daily life centres on communal activities like working in the fields growing food, and where everything is discussed, discussed, and discussed again.

Rural areas are deceivingly tranquil. For us, the 10 consecutive years in rural Africa resemble more of a rollercoaster ride. Amazed by the ‘deep waters’ people dwell in around me, I endeavour to gain insight and to draw out purposes, visions and plans in those who cross my path. I observe, and try to participate in the community, hopefully contributing and facilitating, through interaction with and introduction of technology, to strengthen the infrastructure for human interaction and training.

In Macha, an interactive community development structure is cultivated and solidified through the collaborative efforts of many. The model focuses on inspiring people in rural communities to reach their collective and individual potential. Now dubbed ‘Macha Works’ a co-operative of local heroes marches on for the betterment of their rural communities.

From 2008 onwards, my observations spilled over onto the Interneti. In the form of blogs, they are there for all to see, in the hope that these words could build bridges between international communities. This book compiles these observations and emerging thoughts in chronological order. The subject matter is a haphazard mix of aspects of daily life, reflections on rural Macha and the world, the Internet as a stepping-stone towards sustainable progress, and culture.


This book is dedicated to my parents, who shot this arrow. Sally Green edited its content.


Of course, these observations formed while being guided by many individuals, present and not present. It is with gratitude to them – and foremost my family as life partners in this journey – that I present these observations as a Placemark ‘for what it is worth’.





Gertjan van Stam, Macha, September 2011

Epicii

The screen in the airplane seat in front of me shows a curved line from IAD (Washington) to JHB (Johannesburg). The line touches West Africa, somewhere below Mauritania, but then quickly goes back over blue, the Atlantic Ocean. Now the screen switches to numbers. Height: 10,073 meters, Outside temperature: -47 Degrees Centigrade, Ground speed: 905 km. Distance traveled: 4064 kilometers, Distance to destination: 9160 kilometers, Time to destination: 10.26 hours. Time at destination: 04.37 hours AM, Time of arrival: 02.57 hours PM.

This is an epic journey:

about 15 hours of flying time, from take-off to landing, direct from Washington DC to Johannesburg SA, from winter to summer, from North America to South Africa, from here to there.. An aeroplane is a marvel of engineering indeed.

Now trying to have body, mind and spirit moving at the same pace while I am travelling.

Hotiii

Arriving back in Macha, it is all hot. The temperatures are high - over 40 degrees these days. My family is hot - their love is by far the hottest thing existing. Ubuntu Campus is hot - with a great new jungle gym. And the thoughts are hot - how to deal with it all. It is boiling!

It was good to be in the USA for two weeks, after 5 years absence from it. The West is an important world-player and seemingly dictates many priorities in the world. I noticed a lot less explicit grandeur in the US compared to previous visits. The cars are smaller, and advertisements feature less boasting 'I am #1'. Still lots of ‘vogues’ and the latest 'cool thing'.

Recently, I was viewing the animated movie, Story of Stuff, whose link was sent to me today through the Internet. It puts it all in a rather bleak perspective.

It is good to be back in Macha. Heartwarmingly, a number of people visited our house to welcome me back home today.

When looking around, it is obvious that some of the answers to the problems of the world are here, for grabs, right at our rural African doorstep:

* the value of relationships

* the value of sustainable progress that benefits all

* the value of lessons learned through history

* the value of not giving up and persisting in face of whatever adversity

* and the value of sheer enjoyment of life.

It is wonderful that many people met in Washington, New York, Boston, Norfolk, Santa Barbara and Los Angeles resonate and confirm this insight, hopefully offsetting the CO2 added to the atmosphere by my recent journey. Now it is important to continue forward and expand our community, so there will be true, continuous and inclusive collaboration all over the world.

That will be cool!

Pick A Baggyiv

Johannesburg International Airport is becoming renowned for its bag-picking. Once again, something was stolen from my luggage this week. It is pretty amazing, as my hard suitcase was locked and arrived locked. But a relatively small external computer DVD-drive was taken out of its box whilst in the bag. It was in the locked suitcase, and in a box, in another box, in the suitcase. The box was neatly closed again, as was the suitcase. And nothing else was missing! It took a pretty sophisticated thief, one who needs equipment, I guess, to know what was in the suitcase.

It is not the first time that my stuff has gone missing at Johannesburg International airport. Early this year two duffel bags, with building materials from people coming to help in Macha, went completely off the radar, never to be seen in Lusaka, nor where they came from. Specific electronic equipment also went missing - video and photo equipment, watches - have all been removed from suitcases of family and friends flying through O R Tambo International Airport.

But the huge, wonderful gift from friends in the USA - a full size Yamaha electronic keyboard - went through untouched.. Maybe it was too big? Yes, ok, it got delayed for three days and went completely off the radar in the baggage system, but, thank God, it showed up at lost luggage in Lusaka on Friday. Flying Mission picked it up and flew it to Macha, and now Merel, Elmo and their friends don’t talk about anything else apart from 'The Piano'. It is another miracle: a full size electronic piano at our village residence. Merel is scheduled to receive piano lessons from friends in the USA via Skype.

Sharp Shootingv

In the pursuit of sustainable progress at Macha, we take an holistic approach to relational thinking. That has delivered tangible results.

It is always good to come back to Macha from other places in the world to see what is being achieved. We are able to bring together a broad coalition of partners in the South and the North whose aim it is to inspire local talent to take the reins in their communities, realising their collective and individual potential. It is being done at the Centre of Experience in Macha. We hope for many more Centres of Experience to follow - ideally at least one rural site in each province – so we can harness the local and rural experience and bring it ever nearer to all those who can benefit from this resource.

The three key ingredients of the approach are:

1. internet connectivity

2. local talent in the driver’s seat

3. scalable solutions that work in rural settings.

Man, are we making progress! Everywhere I go I find people busy.

Today I touched base for two hours, after a two-day visit to Lusaka. In that short space of time I saw all this mind-boggling amount of activity – and this is just the tip of the iceberg of what is actually happening:

* local talent working on clearing for high voltage power lines to go to the Ubuntu Campus

* local talent working on new roads to a proposed site for Bio Energy production

* local talent working on the replacement of a worn-out water pump

* local talent working on building a classroom for LITA (the ICT-training branch of the proposed Works Academy at Macha)

* local talent working on finishing the MICS House, the housing facility intended for destitute children at MICS including housing for dorm parents who will guide the children

* local talent finishing the first two rondavel housing experiments at Macha

* local talent improving the roof of Vision Broadcasting House at the onset of the rains

* local talent working on new technology implementation at LinkNet in a makeshift laboratory environment, in both network mesh technology and access and accounting technology.

While going around I met local talent from which I learned about our financial and accounting processes; also outstanding draft reports and funding requests. With other talents I learned about the implications of the ethics of administration and our wish to be fully transparent to the local community, the country of Zambia and also the international stakeholders and the international community at large. Then we continued, discussing the flight schedule of the airport with the local leaders at ABFA-MACHA Aerodrome, bringing new drugs to be tested at MIAM that I transported from Lusaka, handing over an old battery that I received in town for a local person in the rural area. All the time we were discussing how to make a culturally appropriate response to the realities we had observed during this short tour. With us was also a Dutch student who just arrived in the country yesterday.

I continued working on putting the verbal information into written format. It covered locally-defined and tested ideas, plans for health, education, transport, communications and agriculture. Great! I have got access to the Internet in the whole of Macha on any device, so we can continue communicating and interacting over cultural, geographical, time, or any other barrier.

MICSvi

This morning I went to observe proceedings at Macha Innovative Community School (MICS). For the first time this season we had steady rain in the early morning, so it was a nice, fresh start today at MICS House. It was impressive to see the discipline of local teachers being supported by others from various backgrounds and areas from Zambia and overseas. There is strict and tight planning, and lessons start on time and hit the ground running. There is drive and power in all involved, which is rubbing off. The head teacher commented: "These children learn more then I did during my primary school".

The Christmas play was being rehearsed. During the first years of education the focus is on Reading/Writing and Mathematics. This provides the foundation for further development. I observed Grade 4/5 breeze through a school DVD on the subject of paragraphs and, when probed, the students had no problem giving the definitions of imperative, exclamatory, and interrogative questions. In Grade 3, I saw the children working on the different prefixes and suffixes of words, and on sentences. In the Reception Class the children were at "W", almost at the end of the alphabet. During activity classes each grade worked with gusto at puzzles of different complexity.

It is wonderful to see that MICS is succeeding in integrating high quality education with local resources in a rural African setting. It was special to see how the teachers communicate within the context of the cultural setting in a truly African way. They focus on positives, affirming good behaviour and results, all in a collaborative and inclusive environment.

MICS currently has about 100 students, with numbers estimated to double at Ubuntu Campus in about three more years. At the same time MICS acts as an example-school, inspiring and encouraging growth in the other primary schools in the area (and beyond). This will up the need for resources, with an ever-increasing demand for class rooms, teachers and housing. All this is to assure quality and quantity growth. The current team has grown MICS from the ‘proof-of-concept’, with one class room in 2006, to ‘proof-of-reproduction’ with two class rooms in 2007, to ‘proof-of-production’ with 7 grades operating in 2011. They have never ceased to work hard in a difficult and resource-challenged area. To grow this work is a massive, important and rewarding challenge.

Cross Culturevii

This morning I saw two ladies sitting at the Vision Community Works, Library and Craft shop in Macha. They are from Mabombo area in Chikanta Chiefdom. The previous night they had travelled the 60 kilometre distance over near-impassable dirt roads. They come to try to sell their locally-crafted Tonga baskets and will go back with money to pay for transport, their children's education, clothes, and other goods that will help them in daily rural life.

It is moving to see that opportunities in Macha are drawing people from far. These ladies come with their hands full of goods they have made. In the process they chat with people from Macha and learn about the developments that are taking shape. They will go back inspired by fresh ideas for adapting their own communities in order to reach their collective and individual potential; empowered by what they have seen with their own eyes.

It reminds me what a long road it has been to come this far as a community; I have had to learn a lot, and I continue to learn every day.

First of all I had to get rid of my drive to help. In this inclusive environment, everybody is geared towards helping each other, and this includes geared towards helping me. I had to re-assess the virtues of rationality, as in the rural African context first and foremost relationships, relationality is where it is all about.

Further, I needed to reorient from looking at goals set by answering 'what?' questions, to goals that are enshrined by answers on 'who?' questions.

My western sense of individuality also needed to go, since, in rural Africa, the individual is defined as being part of the collective, the community.

And on it went. Next to go was my understanding of (legal) security. This needed re-routing to link security to relationships with persons in authority, as they have received such authority to secure that all people take part of the community.

And my drive to accumulate tools to get the job done was challenged by the environment, where one acquires the resources, including tools, for the job only through tested relationships.

It takes a considerable length of time to become a member of the rural African community, and experiences from my previous “non-rural African” life were unhelpful! An important barrier to being together was removed when I realised that my ‘default’ linear view on time clashes with the more corkscrew or circular notion of time in rural Africa. To begin with, I was mainly motivated by opportunities in the future. It all became more wholesome when my appreciation grew for the community, where people work from wisdom and knowledge distilled from past experience.

It is a privilege to be together with the ladies from Mabombo. I recognize that it is almost inevitable that new entrants to rural Africa go through sometimes severe culture shock and strain in their personal lives as they adjust to the local environment. We have done that for almost seven consecutive years. It is worth it!

The Bore hole Pumpviii

Water comes from deep down in Macha. In this area, boreholes are over 70 metres deep. The yields are low, due to the solid rock formations in the ground. Boreholes often run dry. Continuity of water supply in rural Macha is a challenge. Today we had a miraculous saving of our lone borehole and pump at Ubuntu Campus.

We had to drill three boreholes in order to find one yielding water - rated 1.5 litres per second, 60 metres deep - at Ubuntu Campus. Costs of drilling one borehole range between EUR 4,000 and 8,000, depending on the supplier and relocation costs of the drilling rig to our rural area.

Our one-horsepower borehole pump cost EUR 1,500 one year ago, excluding transport costs, and it stopped working about a month ago. Diagnosis: burned engine! Result: no water at Ubuntu Campus. Leaving people hauling drinking water in all kind of barrels and jars to Ubuntu Campus, I made a trip to Lusaka with the pump for assessment (transport cost USD 800). The diagnosis was confirmed: a burned engine due to a worn-out pump. As we have ‘run dry' in more than one sense, I bought a new 1.5 horsepower engine, with pump, with private funds and took it back to Macha.

Upon assembling the pump and pipes, and lowering it all into the borehole, it was found that our two operational generators were not strong enough for the new pump. Fine-tuning of the voltage from a newly-acquired generator took another couple of days.

After a few minutes of pumping, the new borehole pump stopped working. The electronics became hot and the pump needed to be stopped. No water was flowing. Assessment was made by the experts from Lusaka by phone: it was a wiring error. Our chief technician took the Thursday plane from ABFA- MACHA Aerodrome to Lusaka with pump, engine, electronics and all 100 meters of wire. That same day, it was assessed that, although the wiring was OK, the pump was full of mud, drawn in during the short exercise. After the cleaning of the pump, Lemmie took the whole assembly back to Macha. He arrived home at 02.00 hours after taking a taxi in Lusaka; bus from Lusaka to Choma; then taxi from Choma to Macha.

On Friday morning the restored pump with the well-tuned generator was pumping from a higher position and water filled the tank at Manzi Office (manzi = water). After 15 minutes the borehole ran dry and the pump had to be switched off.

Yesterday the whole assembly had to come out again. With the pump lower, it worked well for 10 minutes, and then again water stopped flowing.

Now in crisis, as users were out of water again on days of almost 40 degree temperatures, good relationships ensured that 10 people would work on the bore hole site this Sunday morning. Disaster really struck when the nylon pulling-rope, attached to the pump, broke, just when the pump, engine and pipes were reaching the surface! The sisal-based rope was probably weakened by a year of soaking in water in the borehole. Now the pump, with about 20 metres of 40 mm diameter piping, full of water, was hanging only on the electricity cable attached to the pump.

At this point I was invited to come to the scene.

I saw a hugely-strained electricity cable holding many tens of kilogrammes of pump, engine and water-filled piping about 10 metres under the surface, in the borehole. The risk of losing the borehole pump and the borehole itself was huge, as upon dropping the assembly could clog up the usable range of the borehole.

Well, there were no other alternatives so we started pulling on the strained electricity cable. Five or so men carefully pulled the heavy load. When the pipe came in sight, the wire started to slip and it felt like the electricity cable would snap and the whole assembly would soon disappear into the deep hole! We blocked the cable and reviewed our options. There were none so the unanimous decision was to keep pulling. Apparently 'down there' something got some grip, the electricity wire was still in one piece, and the pump came further out. Then the electricity cable slipped down again.

Against all logic, we kept pulling and, miraculously, the water piping now appeared from the borehole. When it was halfway out, we noticed the electricity wire had come completely loose from the pump and was entangled in a bunch of thin earth wiring between the borehole pump and water pipes. Further pulling of the bundle revealed that the earth wire also had come loose, and become entangled with the remaining nylon rope. In the end only the rope was attached to the load.

Although there are still many obstacles to overcome before we have water running again - like where and when to get new nylon rope and new water pipes - this morning, when it was all over, it took over 15 minutes for the adrenaline in my body to settle to normal levels. Elation over the miracle of saving the borehole continues!

Sports, part of Vision Community Worksix

At Macha we have many students visiting us from various 'walks and activities of life'. They take time to be part of what is going on in Macha. Some do so as part of their studies, others as an extra activity. They become human resource for those tasks that need attention, and might fall in between the cracks. Most students come to be involved in the medical fields at Macha. Some students are easy-going, some need lots of attention, but for each individual it is a worthwhile and moving experience to live within the rural African community. Students frequently keep blogs about their experiences and, with a Google search, you might find several of them.

Today a student gave his final presentation after a three-month period in Macha. He is a Physical Education (PE) student at the University of The Hague and has been instrumental in helping the activities of Vision Community Works and Sports take another leap forward. Pim worked under the supervision of local community works expert, Fred Mweetwa.

Sport is instrumental in facilitating opportunities in rural community development. It provides tools in the development path between value systems. Those value systems pertaining to traditional and ritual ways of tribal group life and those that incorporate higher authority and direct, absolutist rules. It trains participants in asserting themselves and handling dominant behaviour and power; it imparts the real-life skills needed when confronted with a changing world. And, of course, sport is conducive to good health.

Although we have been trying for years, it has been difficult to get attention on, and funding for, sports development in rural areas. As Macha is now used to 'new developments', Pim entered a fertile area. Like most students, he worked diligently and supported the teaching of Physical Education at various schools, including Lupata Basic School and MICS. This inspired local educational talent to consider questions such as 'why sport?', 'how do we provide sport education?', and how to use sports equipment. This went alongside training and participating with local talents in organising sports events, workshops and more.

We intend to measure the effectiveness of visiting experts and students in the amount of co-production with local talent they produce. To this end, Pim worked with Mr. Kennedy Kanane, Physical Education and Mathematics teacher at Macha's Francis Davidson Secondary School, to draft a 'rural proof' syllabus for Physical Education.

There is still a lot to do and there is a lot of room for further study. For instance, how to understand the rural mindset and view of sports. And how to build and maintain an innovative Vision Sports Facility at Ubuntu Campus. However, it is clear that sports activities are another important area for holistic and sustainable progress in rural Africa.

Existence Farmingx

This morning whilst cycling with Elmo, Beauty and Merel to the primary school at MICS, the air was full of noises of people working in the fields. Men cheered their oxen pulling the plough, and children joined their mothers and grandmothers in working with the hoe in the fields. Holes are made, seeds are dropped, holes are covered and prayers go up for good rains and affordable fertiliser.

Yesterday afternoon the first good rainstorm hit Macha. So today people plough and plant. Last week we brought 1,200 kg of seed maize from Choma to Macha for the workers at Building Activities. Just then all was still very, very dry. Today looks different, with muddy paths and messy roads. One big rain storm makes all the difference. People are working in the fields, working quickly from sunrise till going to work in the hospital, the schools or the main works at Macha. Every piece of land is being used.

The encyclopedia defines Subsistence Farming as: a form of farming in which nearly all of the crops or livestock raised are used to maintain the farmer and his family, leaving little, if any, surplus for sale or trade. We might have to define 'Existence Farming' too.

This morning alone, I counted four power outages of the electricity grid, and power has been off since 05.45 hours. I am writing this text while on generator. There are no banking facilities in Macha, and business loans are not readily available to people in tribal lands; to hardly anybody in Zambia actually. Heavy machinery and other production assets can only be bought in major towns, hundreds of kilometres away from our rural area. Fuel and other consumables are not readily available. Most supplies need 'imports' from other clusters of activities, like towns. Then transport is hardly available, and if it is, it is very expensive. So much for technology.

On the other side, the perils of the economic trouble in the world are hardly known to people in Macha; its effects noticed only when taking a long term view on the future, which is not a prime feature of the local culture. It is all going by as an iceberg in the far distance. An analogy is climate change: Africa is the region in which the impact of climate change on agriculture is predicted to be the most severe. Well, only a few in rural Africa know, do observe, and try to play part in preparing for what is to come. Hopefully rural Africa will become empowered to manage it all and be part of a solution.

About 20 per cent of sub-Saharan Africa’s GDP is generated by agriculture. In many countries, agriculture is the main source of employment. Our next chiefdom, Chikanta, even with very poor infrastructure (no electricity or means of communications whatsoever) and further away from centres of activity than Macha, is renowned in Zambia for its production of maize. Yes, maize for sale too!

Unfortunately, food production in most of sub-Saharan Africa has not kept pace with the population increase over the past four decades. Lack of access to markets constitutes a binding constraint to the agricultural sector in most of the continent [Source: United Nations report "Trends in Sustainable Development, Africa Report 2008-2009"]. Previously, harvested maize produced the seeds for next year. Now, with hybrid seeds, that is not possible, so we need cash-in-hand to buy seed. One has to put aside all these gloomy pictures and press on..

So, today, people are again planting fields that were used by their ancestors, given by the chief to the family in the oral tradition of the land.

When we are blessed with good rains, then we will harvest, and eat. Whatever happens with the electricity, heavy machinery, bank loans, buildings, and fuel, we will eat and live. Therefore we go early morning, digging and planting. And later in the season, weeding in the early mornings. We will eat, understanding the works of our own hands, like our ancestors did.’

I look forward to innovations in the area of agriculture:

* when we start planting oil crop for local and small scale production of bio-fuels, growing a diversified economy

* when knowledge will emerge on new crops like sunflower and soya beans, indirectly stimulating crop rotation and thus the yield of the land

* when we can supply for local production of healthy, High Energy Protein Supplement foods, especially for those affected with HIV.

It is about the 'human measure', the collective to understand and comprehend, to align with and preserve local culture. It is all about continuity of existence. Today people farm for their existence. We want to, and will be, part of it. Let's put our hands to the plough.

Internet in African Bush Changes Livesxi

Internet is a powerful engine for development. Today it made another big impact in our family life.

The biggest impact of having full-time availability is in inspired lives, some examples:

* Esther Kalambo is now a certified pastor in the Brethren in Christ Church, after numbers of years of hard study ‘at’ a college in the USA: connected from her home in Macha. She did so while uninterruptedly serving patients in Macha Hospital and the rural community at large.

* Fred Mweetwa is well underway in his Bachelors studies at the University of South Africa. He does so from his tiny room in the Ark, while continuing to serve as an emerging leader in Rural Community Development.

* Jonathan Sitali is studying for a Masters in Public Health from his house in rural Macha, while continuing to serve as Medical Doctor at Macha Hospital.

* And in Mukinge, long time matron of Mukinge Hospital, Lynn Hacker, has commenced an online MBA study.

Most professionals I know in these rural areas are now studying online, or have plans to do so. This development in the minds and skills of local people will have lasting impact on society.

Everyday life of most professionals in Macha is now intertwined with the rest of the world. Sending and receiving e-mails is a continual routine; searching the Internet for answers too. Exchanges of pictures of medical cases to check with colleagues are nothing special anymore. We are all connected through Facebook and Instant Messaging, we post and discuss, and put Standard Operating Practices on Intranets. Local and online file servers, document servers, and application servers do their job, and Internet libraries are open 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. Some even buy cars in Japan, and all flight tickets and most hotel bookings are done online. In Macha it is now news when the internet is down, not when it is up. It is like tap water, after its introduction, one only takes note when it is not flowing.

Of course, this is not applicable to everyone in Macha. In fact, most people are not yet connected to, or using, the Internet, just like many do not have running water or a mains power connection. However, Information and Communications Technology (ICT) are now available and accessible so that most professionals in the community are able to use this connectivity to communicate with family and friends and do online studies. Through peer-to-peer communication with others, the quality of work improves. One can even start thinking about 'efficiency' in rural Africa as personal effectiveness is enhanced. We now run between 4 and 10 Gb a day through the internet from this rural village. That is almost a DVD full of information flowing through this rural area, every day. It was only a few years ago that the sole means of communication was by weekly post batch or by radio, with data connectivity of 300 bits per second a few times per week.

Today, for our family, there was an apotheosis. At 17.30 hours, Merel sat behind her kindly donated, full size piano keyboard, glancing at the computer screen in front of her. Through the Internet connection she was able to hear and see what her teacher Kristin was saying and showing on her piano, over 15.000 kilometers and 8 hours time difference away. Diligently she played on the piano keys for the first time, keenly watched over by her teacher in her music studio in Lakeville, near Minneapolis, USA. Merel played "kitten are we, cute as can be, playing the keys, meow", and other rhymes.

We live as a family in rural Africa. This implies advantages and disadvantages for our children. I saw our daughter doing piano lessons today..... there are no words to describe how I felt. Wow, I thank God, technology, all involved, and anybody else! This is life to the fullest, which should be available for all on earth, also to those living in rural Africa.

Africa is Largexii

On my way from Lusaka to London on a day flight, there was plenty of opportunity to see Africa. The flight took almost 10 hours, more than 7 of which were above Africa. It is the Gall-Peters projection that shows areas of equal size on the globe equally sized on the map, and see: Africa is really long!

When looking down, and thinking of the tens of hundreds of millions of pe

Janneke publishes review Feasibility and Challenges in Providing Antiretroviral Treatment to Children in Sub-Saharan Africa

posted Sep 20, 2011, 11:24 AM by Gertjan van Stam

Janneke published a generic on review on feasibility and challenges in providing Antiretroviral Treatment to children in Sub-Saharan Africa in Current Pediatric Reviews Volume 7 Issue 3. The article is open access, and can be downloaded at http://www.benthamdirect.org/pages/content.php?CPR/2011/00000007/00000003/D0003PR.SGM. The article deals with the scale-up of pediatric antiretroviral therapy (ART) in sub-Saharan Africa over the past decade that involved unprecedented political and donor commitment. These pediatric ART programs have demonstrated they can provide ART to human immunodeficiency virus (HIV)-infected children and that these children achieve treatment outcomes comparable to children in high-resource settings. Several obstacles, however, have hindered program implementation and impacted treatment outcomes. Challenges particularly affecting children include shortages of properly trained healthcare providers, lack of laboratory capacity for infant diagnosis and pediatric treatment monitoring, poor adherence, disclosure of HIV infection status and attrition. Innovative solutions to these challenges have been developed and programs are demonstrating they can successfully expand services to increase ART coverage in affected communities. As programs optimize the care and treatment of children, and more efficiently provide HIV services within the health care system, new challenges arise, including integration of child and family health services, use of electronic health records and the potential need for rationing antiretroviral drugs. Further evaluation of innovative solutions to these challenges and barriers to care, as well as continued commitment on the part of governments and donors, will be required if all HIV-infected children are to receive proper care.

Gertjan's parents visit Zambia to celebrate 50 years' wedding aniversary

posted Sep 20, 2011, 11:16 AM by Gertjan van Stam   [ updated Sep 20, 2011, 11:23 AM ]

GEvertjan's parents, Koos and Driena van Stam - van Eijk, visit the family, in their festive season. On 12 September 2011 it had been 50 years ago that their marriage took place in Bergambacht, Netherlands. Now, fifty years later, this was remembered at Livingstone, during a day of sight seeing at the Zambezi Gorges, and during a dinner on the mighty Zambesi itself. Gertjan published the book Placemark, as it is dedicated to his parents. They were the first ones to see the book, on Kindle, this day.

Further festivities during the visit are Koos' 74th birthday on 18 September, and the birthdays of Janneke and Gertjan, also both in September.

Twee containers vanuit Nederland arriveren

posted Feb 16, 2009, 11:38 AM by Gertjan van Stam

Van 't weekend zijn twee containers uit Nederland gearriveerd. Het was een hele reis, met diverse oponthouden. Maar nu waren ze er dan toch, en het was een grote klus de 25 ton goederen uit te laden. Maar de klus om ze er in te krijgen was vast nog veel groter! Tafels, stoelen, kasten, en veel, heel veel andere dingen, we hebben weer een peun vooruit!

Uitladen van de twee containers


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