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Moringa the advantages of using Moringa ...

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The advantages of using Moringa in malnutrition prevention programs

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come to : Moringa Oleifera

By Lowell J. Fuglie

The many additional benefits of Moringa

1. Moringa’s leaves, flowers, bark, wood and roots are used worldwide for a large variety of medicinal purposes. But there are also many other uses for the tree. Among these:

2. Alley cropping : With their rapid growth, long taproot, few lateral roots, minimal shade and large production of high-protein biomass, Moringa trees are well-suited for use in alley cropping systems.

3. Bio gas : Moringa leaves provide an excellent material for production of biogas.

4. Dye : The wood yields a blue dye which was used in Jamaica and in Senegal.

5. Fencing : A common use of Moringa trees is as a living support for fencing around gardens and yards.

6. Foliar nutrient : Juice extracted from the leaves can be used to make a foliar nutrient capable of increasing crop yields by up to 30%.

7. Green Manure : Cultivated intensively and then ploughed back into the soil, Manure can act as a natural fertilizer for other crops.

8. Gum : The gum produced from a cut tree trunk has been used in calico printing, in making medicines and as a bland-tasting condiment.

9. Honey clarifier : Powdered seeds can be used to clarify honey without boiling. Seed powder can also be used to clarify sugar cane juice.

10. Honey producer : Flowers are a good source of nectar for honey-producing bees.

11. Livestock feed : The high bioavailability of Moringa leaves and stems make them an excellent feed for cattle, sheep, goats, pigs and rabbits.

12. Oil : The seed kernels contain about 40% edible oil, similar in quality to olive oil.

13. Ornamental : In many countries, Moringa trees are planted in gardens and along avenues as ornamental trees.

14. Plant disease prevention : Incorporating Moringa leaves into the soil before planting can prevent damping off disease (Pythium debaryanum) among seedlings.

15. Pulp : The soft, spongy wood makes poor firewood, but the wood pulp is highly suitable for making newsprint and writing paper.

16. Rope making : The bark of the tree can be beaten into a fiber for production of ropes or mats.

17. Tannin : The bark and gum can be used in tanning hides.

18. Water purification : Powdered seed kernels act as a natural flocculent, able to clarify even the most turbid water.


Fuglie, L., 1995. RĂ©pertoire des associations villageoises en Casamance. CWS/Dakar. 132p.

Fuglie, L., 1998. Producing food without pesticides. Local solutions to crop pest control in West Africa. CWS/Dakar and CTA/Wageningen. 158p.

Fuglie, L. 1999. The Miracle Tree. Moringa oleifera: natural nutrition for the tropics. CWS/Dakar. 68p.Fuglie, L., and M. Mane, 1999. L’arbre de la vie. Moringa oleifera: Traitement et prĂ©vention de la malnutrition. CWS/Dakar. 76p.Fuglie, L. (ed) et al, 2001. The Miracle Tree. The multiple attributes of Moringa. CWS/Dakar and CTA/Wageningen. 172p.Fuglie, L. (ed) et al, 2002. L’arbre de la vie. Les multiples usages de Moringa. CWS/Dakar and CTA/Wageningen. 177p.


Lowell Fuglie and Moringa
: Establishment of new Moringa project in the North of Ghana
: “Intensive Moringa oleifera cultivation in the north of Senegal.” : Overview of CWS Moringa promotion project.
: Improving livestock nutrition with Moringa. : Traditional health alternatives: The Discovery Health Channel. : “Improving nutrition with Moringa “miracle” trees in Senegal.” Best Practices on Indigenous Knowledge : UNESCO/MOST.

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Moringa Miracle tree

Today after long I open blogger for the first time.
Been working on our new project, and it has taken up my time.

Moringa miracle tree

Long absence from

Today after long I open blogger for the first time.
I was busy with our new project.

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Sunday, June 10, 2007

Lychees, Longans and Pagodas

Travel to Southern Guangdong, China

When the Southern China Airliner descends for landing in Guangzhou's International, we see myriads of glittering lights below us. The time is early evening 1900 hours.In summer days, the air stands heavy and polluted in Guangzhou, the capital of Guangdong. A center of industrialization, the immense amount of manufacturing units add its share to modern days's plight of greenhouse emissions. We sigh when we leave the Airport, nearly melting in the humid, stifling atmosphere that has engulfed the city. Millions of people work here, like in the other big centers across China. Guangzhou is a showcase for the industrial revolution, its International Fair held twice a year draws Billions of foreign capital to the Chinese Economy. The official figures claim 10 Billion Dollars are received in orders during 10 days of Spring fair, and the same happens 4 times a year.

Our contact man Mr. Wu is expecting us at the Exit with a signboard exhibiting our names clearly. After an initial welcoming ceremony we tend to the waiting cab and speed off towards the main bus terminal. We will continue the journey to southern Guangdong without a rest in the capital. Buses in China are plentiful, we depart from the southern terminal near the railway station.

Along the highway the familiar sights of China, as in every province the huge signboards lining the roads, to lure customers to displayed merchandise, the modern capitalistic features of are everywhere visible. I wonder how many times I must have seen the "HAIER" advert, written in huge letters on the billboard that we pass. Familiar scenes cross my mind. China, a gigantic country by all standards, a society which is diverse, unique in its size and its achievements. Nothing will stop China from achieving superiority status, there is no other nation where people work as hard as in this progressing Nation.

The bus speeds through the night, leaving the capital behind us, turning towards the southern parts, our destination unknown except for the name. We are anxious to see where we shall end up. Along the road huge Banana plantations which cater for the whole of the Chinese market, Guangdong's climate is ideally suited for the growing of fruits.

Where we will end up this night ? We wonder, and Mr. Wu tries to elaborate on some scenic spots along the road. Since months have we prepared to reach this part of China, and now the time has come to see the 'fruit city', famous for its Longans and Lychees, throughout the dynasties Emperors in Beijing demanded the best fruits from here.

After four hours of ride we finally reach, the Terminus looks typically provincial. Lots of characters linger around here, which I dislike. One should be careful at night, always watch ones bags. A Taxi in form of an 'Wulungxie' the Chinese version of a Minibus takes us to Mr. Wu's residence, he insists he wants us to stay at his home. Mr. Wu is a teacher in the Gaozhou 'Normal school', a Middle school with approx. 5000 Students. His residence is far outside, we cross rice fields, typical Chinese village like structures, and I regret not having insisted on staying in the city center. When the house is reached we recognize the residential structure of an apartment building, the ones covering China from North to South, East to West. Simple with basic utilities, enabling millions to live in an affordable home.

Through the dark staircase we reach the third floor, carrying our bags and start to sweat from the physical effort. As always I don't like to carry much baggage with me, this time I blame myself for not being persistent enough. Always revenging itself, a heavy load of baggage adds to your inconvenience when going to distant places.

When we enter we realize that we made a mistake to follow Mr. Wu's advice and lodge with him. The place is Spartan, to say the least. Our bedroom features two beds, hard wood as the source of a mattress, and a straw mat. There is lots of personal junk from the owner lying around. We decide to make it through this night, (anyway we do not have much of a choice). Mr. Wu is in high spirits, and he wishes us a good night before retiring. No one can find sleep, we are too tense, although very exhausted from the trip. When we doze off it is close to 0500 hours in the morning.

We awake to sounds of birds singing, the windows open and we can see rice paddies in front of the building. It's a lovely scene and we feel better than the night before when we arrived. Looking for a bathroom we find a basic, bare concrete floored shower and toilet room, enough to make you run back to where you came from. We look into the kitchen and see a heap of unwashed dishes, signs of Bachelor's life, and a rice cooker. Beside it a note, inviting us to have our breakfast consisting of rice congee. Two bowls and 2 pairs chop sticks lay beside the rice cooker, the congee is hot, the cooker was left on 'warm'. We are hungry and taste some congee, the common breakfast in China, 'Xi Fan' as it is called.

The note also says he had to attend to his class and will be back around 10 AM. We have made up our minds, we will leave at the earliest opportunity, trying not to offend the host. Hard to understand without knowing the mentality of Chinese People, they offer you their home and you do not want to accept it.

When Mr. Wu finally arrives we are ready to leave, he looks surprised. He is of the opinion that his house is more convenient than a Hotel, however he agreed and calls a Taxi. Again I carry the unnecessary weight of our luggage down the stairs.

Do to the remote location it takes almost 30 minutes till the 'Taxi' arrives. A Motorcycle with sidecar, and the luggage is all stowed away. Rattling through the suburbs, we now fully realize how far the place is from the center of town.

A hotel is quickly found and we now settle into a somewhat more familiar surrounding. Mr. Wu has accompanied us and helps us to settle in, with instructions to the chamber maid the 'Foo Yuan' in Pinyin. We need rest, for the night we spent without much sleep and ask to be excused for a few hours. Mr. Wu leaves and promises to return in the afternoon.

We drift into a deep sleep and I wonder, like so many times before, what will wait for us here. .

Next : The gardens of Eden.

Tuesday, May 29, 2007

Mandiana - Niani - Mali border

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.I depart from Mandiana customs check point in the afternoon and hit the road towards Niani.Without a proper map (as there is none) the road is not clearly marked, especially its condition. To my astonishment I find it in much better condition than the ones I got used to since entering Guinea.

At 40-50 mph this seems a real highway to me. A few checkpoints on the way, nothing spectacular, the usual 'pay 'n drive' method works well here.

The scenery has changed into complete Savannah now. Grasslands and scrubs, solitary Baobab trees, but no more the dense tropical jungle.
Life in these areas is dreadful, no running water, no electricity, as in dark ages. People though can adapt to any condition that is put upon them.
We reach Niani at night close to 19 hours P.M. and my fuel is close to nil. Of course Niani, the border town must be having fuel, or so I think. What I finally find is not the usual filling station.After crossing the town, which is not much of a settlement, I am directed to the 'station'. I can not somehow forget this scene, it is another milestone on a long road through Africa.I find a petroleum lit grass hut, crooked stems serve as poles, a straw covered roof. The fuel is all filled in beer bottles of 0.7 ltrs, lined up in a row on front of the 'gas station'. If it were not for the acute shortage, I would laugh at this, but now I realize I have no choice, for after Niani there is a 100 miles nothing except bush and unknown territory.So I fill a 50 bottles of 'beer' gas, its price almost double inflated to the normal rate. I do not even want to look for food, for I know I have to continue to Mali tonight. So I leave, with a unforgettable memory in place.The evening brings some cool air, I sense the mighty river nearby. And when I reach the bonfire that is lit near the main road I recognize the Guinean border guards who camp here.To describe this would take another chapter, however this is an entry / exit point and I must say the guards are the friendliest I ever found in Guinea. The exit stamp in my passport, i carry on, the dark road passing through the middle of the bush, beside the river. Driving carefully in the dark, against my mentors advice, I focus my full attention on the rough road ahead of me.  The river Sankarani I cant see, as it is dark, but to me it is more a lake than a river. Floating gently, but mightily. A build up to the mighty dam that feeds three quarters of Mali with electricity, the Barrage de Selingui. A gigantic project as I am to see later on. A premonition overcomes me I can't explain why, but I slow down my vehicle to a mere 10 mph. I cannot see the road ahead of me, and the high beams are not helping much either. I notice the concrete structure that stands in the dark was once a bride crossing a creek beneath. Now, the bridge has been washed away, and I am standing 6 meters over the creek that floats beneath under it. In the darkness I maneuver the car back and find a diversion I passed minutes ago, leading to the creek's bottom. The normal type of vehicle would not be able to drive through this makeshift road, but I manage to cross the waters which aren't deep surprisingly and climb up the other side to continue my journey.The road turns to the left and leads into pure grassland, with bumps shaking us to the brink. In the distance a see a shimmering light, a line decorated with obsolete plastic carrier bags in all colors indicate a further check point. No one in sight, in the middle of the Savannah. I blow my horn. It is now 20 hours and I still have to make headway, I force myself. After a few minutes a customs guy appears and tells me the border is closed for tonight, from his uniform I can see we have reached the Malian customs.I beg, a common way of getting things done in these parts, to let me pass, as I have pressing business in Bamako. After consultation for which he disappears back into the dark, he reappears and removes the rope that serves as a barrier. We cross the line and follow him, guiding us to a shelter build from grass, roots and pieces of logs. The papers I am asked to submit. He disappears into the hut, and I wait. 5 minutes, 10 minutes pass. After 15 minutes I follow him and see three customs officials inspecting my 'international vaccination card'.I am asked if all my vaccinations are in order, which I confirm. Something they must find, and in my case they ask me for a valid 'Vaccination contre Meningitis' as you guess right the vaccination against Meningitis is what delays my departure. 5000 CFA change their hands and I carry on through the night. next episode : night in the bush

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Monday, May 28, 2007

A world beneath - the tragedy

I was trying to find out about a missing link in my family's annals. It was sixty five years ago when my uncle, then nineteen, enlisted in the German Navy. I am not proud of this , neither am I ashamed of the fact, it was as it was, and parallels can be found at any time in history, even to this day. He chosde to be in the Navy and was trained on a German sub. He must have felt proud then, to fight for his 'homeland', same rhetoric used  till this day, to win hearts and minds of subordinates.

Whilst he underwent training in Pilau U-boat training school he sent a post card to his family in June 1941. Another one was sent in winter 1941, showing the U-boat in the icy sea off Newfoundland. It was on 24th July 1942 when their U-90 sub incl. all 44 men were sunk by the Canadian destroyer 'St.Croix'.

It is difficult to imagine the last minutes and the agony that he went through, only 19 years of age at the time. In the year that followed the vessel 'St. Croix' itself became a target to the German sub U-305.

The irony - U-90 never sunk one enemy ship. After 65 years  we knownow  the events relating to his death. His death was documented in 1943 in the registrar's office in Wilhelmshaven, Germany.

Yet, as it seems that we never learn from the past, as I am writing, many innocent lives are lost becauseof  yet another 'wannabe'. And the world is unable to stop him. And with every innocent life lost the danger of escalation rises. What a world of hypocrites we still live in, with those crying for 'justice' and 'freedom'. Yet they themselves far away from the guns, when in fact they ran away from performing their duty - to serve their country when called to do so.

Monday, May 21, 2007

Mandiana Customs scam, night in the Savannah, Barrages de Selingui, Mali

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Once dawn breaks I am up again, trying to locate the facilities of this shabby place I spent the night. The couple with the motorcycle episode still on my mind, I find my way to the washroom, and what a washing room it is.

There is flowing water however and I have my shower under the fresh morning sky, the cold water from the well helps me to clear my mind at once. I have a difficult task ahead of me, and I need lots of luck to get my merchandise out of the customs clutches. So mad the whole story sounds, no one would ever imagine the agonizing moments I go through with these officials. Like leeches they prey on their targets, remorseless their approach to empty your pockets.

The night before I visited the local hawkers and to my astonishment I found quiet palatable food. Without a meal the whole day I longed for a dinner, and I found it in form of a decent Spaghetti Bolognaise, and some 'sauce 'd arachides' a peanut butter based sauce with stewed rice. Amazingly, the dishes were of agreeable taste, and reasonably cheap.

The appointment is set to 80.00 AM and I drive up to the main junction that links the western border Bougoula, with the northern and eastern route, to Kankan and Niani. The customs building is a simple tin roof thatched house, but the main negotiating room is on its left, and is comprised of a raw concrete floor, some wooden chairs, and a grass covered rooftop, open to all sites, so that the traffic can be observed. Whatever passes through here, is subject to pay road tax, in one way or another. The capital is far and here the officials can act as they see fit.

The night before I drove up to the main junction, the Customs officials on duty sitting near a bonfire in one of the huts erected to control vehicles that pass through here. I was asked to report the next morning, having no choice I will follow the order. Again the officer who we found at the entry point to Mandiana tells me that I do not have valid car papers, and thus adds to my already big problem..

I drive up the yard, and after the initial exchanges of welcoming : 'bienvenue', the officials, three of them, begin their process. All eyes are focused on the big Renault articulator, now parked at the side, under scrutiny of the customs. They will not let go of this truck till they receive their share The one in charge appears, with the copy of the transit invoice in his hand and tells me the amount involved. The figure is somewhat less than at the Bougoula border,  but it is still beyond my acceptable figure 

When I insist that the value on the invoice is incorrect, the official displays the transit documents, and I realize the blunder made by my own staff. The valuation on the documents contained an error, committed by the Ivorian Customs. The whole crew of the truck has by now assembled around the vehicle and I request the original invoice issued by our company back in Ghana. Here the amount is a complete different amount, and I produce it as evidence. Seeing an opportunity slip by, the man in beige now tries to be stubborn. I am now in full steam and ask him to physically check the load instead. Upon his instruction a few bales loaded are released and the weight is being taken. By multiplying the number of packages he derives at the figure on my invoice. This solves the puzzle and he grins. We know the icebreaker worked. We have all settled into the straw- hut and two official in a hammock are explaining the procedures, and warning of the 'brigade', the customs flying squad that seizes all goods that are not properly declared. All to intimidate us and to find ways to extract more money.

Once the final calculation comes out we are to pay in the region of 3000 US Dollars, still high but of course much less than the previous figure. Now it comes to the finals, the crew is invited to have lunch with the officials, I politely refuse indicating to my stomach. They withdraw behind the house to  .savor he local specialty 'cailler'. When I see the fermented milk, with thousand flies swarming around it, and the sugar being added in large amounts, I return to the point of the vehicle, finding a place in the shadow under a large Acacia tree and wait for further developments. I feel the deal is nearly done. With the meal over, the people return to prepare the final release documents. Without telling anyone in the group I know I have a most important meeting to attend in Europe, after 3 days in Prague to be precise. How I will reach there I don't know. We are in the middle of the bush, no airport, only rough roads leading into three different directions, one of which is towards the north to Mali, and I know that I will have to take this route. I urge to conclude the deal, already 10 days have passed since the truck has entered Bougoula border (Encounter at dusk, part II). With a few twitches in the final figure we agree to the amount. Now all the attention is on how much money everyone will collect from the deal.  Smiling faces abound, I realize we are done. I am preparing to depart, handing over the amount to the woman in charge of the consignment, to be paid against official receipt. And with the new friends made waving goodbye, I set off towards Niani, the border with Mali. The time is 15.00 PM, and I have to drive approx 300 km through Savannah road to reach the border town, also know to be a smuggler's haven.

Continued : Night in the Mali savannah .

Saturday, May 19, 2007

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Kek Si Lok temple at night :

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Encounter at dusk, Odienne forest, border Guinea

Encounter at dusk, Odienne forest, border Guinea

The Renault truck was loaded to the top with no room left to spare. 30 tons of merchandise consisting of packaging materials and other goods had crossed from Gonokrom, Ghana towards Ivory Coast, Agnibilekrou On the first night they slept at the border to complete formalities to obtain transit documents, a cumbersome affair.

They had made friends with the border customs officials in order to facilitate the process faster. The wife of the head of the customs border point invited them to dinner, consisting of Fufu (mortar pounded Manioc, plantains and yams), and the delicious peanut butter stew.

The days that followed were in stark contrast to this, the truck transiting Ivory Coast from the north to the south, just 150 km before Abidjan, and then turning right towards Yamoussoukro. It took 3 days before Yamoussoukro was reached, and heavy rain poured down on them in the center of the metropolis built by Houphouet Boigny, the former president.

They slept the night in their vehicle, the crew of 4 and the woman in charge of the goods. It was cramped, uncomfortable and sticky hot, but they had managed all through out their journey the conditions were similar.

The made an attempt to call to inform their whereabouts but no telephone line was available to contact those waiting for news.
Next morning the truck moved north towards the regional capital of Odienne, and the driver took the decision to cross the rainforest into Guinea, without knowing the road and its condition.

Being on African roads is a danger in itself, with vehicles parked in broken down condition during nightfall, blocking the roads, and without a warning triangle as the norm. Many people lose their lives this way, from passenger cars ploughing into those trucks on the road. Thousands of people die as a result but nothing is being done to alter the situation. No government since 50 years has ever been able to control this number one cause of road accidents.

The road through the forest is unpaved, a stretch of 50 miles of green, impenetrable jungle awaits them, only cut by a narrow, laterite road that serves as the main route to the border with Guinea. So narrow is the path that no two vehicles would be able to pass each other would they meet. On some areas the road is wider, and this would be the only way to allow two trucks to pass side by side, leaving only inches of room.

The truck could not move at more than 10-15 mph due to the bad condition of the road. In the afternoon the torrents pour more water on them, the jungle becoming a morass.
Visibility is reduced to a few meters. The driver does his best to continue, he is aware of the many dangers that lurk in this thick, green hell. They must make it to the border post. The rain still gushing down on them, he was crossing a creek overflowing its embankments. The floods are dark from the soil of the rainforest, and the driver can't see the huge rock that is laying in the middle of it. All he feels is a heavy jolt on his truck, and he forces the car to move out from the creek to stop on the other side and inspecting his vehicle. He had unwittingly damaged his radiator whilst running over a big bolder of rock hardly noticeable because of low visibility and the dark brown floods.

Desperation overcomes them when they see the damage. No way could they continue till the water tank had been repaired. They decide to stay over the night and remove the tank the following morning.
It was late afternoon close by the time they had crossed the flooded creek. Tropical rains happen to be a regular menace to drivers and as fast as they come they will go. At 6 PM all was over and the forest was getting dark, quickly.

They prepared for the night in their cramped vehicle once again, only this time in the middle of the jungle, and without knowing their exact location.
After the rain the canopy over them turned into a lively neighborhood with green monkeys jumping from branch to branch, amidst loud screams they were protesting the human presence below them.

Night fell and the jungle voices rising, myriads of mosquitoes descending on them. Windows could not be closed completely unless they would suffocate, so they fell prey to the blood sucking insects. It was real hell, no food except a few loafs of bread was with them. A negligence they realized at that moment.
The night creeping endlessly, with the occupants feeling prisoners in their tiny cabin which had two bunks infested with another insect, fleas. In addition to their already dreadful condition, the fleas attacking them in the bunks and menacing them.

When daylight comes they are relieved, move out from their vehicle and disappear in the bushes behind. The creek is now at its normal level and the rock can be seen clearly. Nobody will move it except by nature's force. After a meager breakfast of a few chunks of 'tea bread, water from the creek, the driver and mate remove the radiator, a task of two hours. It is near 10 AM when they depart back to where they came from, carrying the heavy tank on the drivers head, the African way.

No one knows how long it would take them to return. A pathetic thought in the middle of nowhere, only a breakdown in the desert could be of similar magnitude. So they wave goodbye and pray to return safely.

The day passes slowly, the jungle steaming with the day heat, the sun now over the canopy they melt in this near 100 % humidity environment. They watch the monkeys over their heads, and pass the time with telling their own problems to each other.
The owner of the vehicle was a laborer in London, UK and saved up in many years to be able to acquire this truck to enable him to make a living back home. Many tales are told on this day, for there was no other means to beat the time.
They wonder where their companions may have reached, their hopes are dim, knowing the condition of the road.

Afternoon brings again the daily rain. Everyone is waiting for the storm to finish before preparing for the night once again. A bucket of water is carried for the woman to the vehicle to the rear of the cabin to take her bath. She has no choice and uses her African printed cloth to wrap it around her big bosom and cover herself from the view of the others. Sitting on the back on the top of the spare tire, she manages to take her shower.
The water is fresh and invigorates her after the hot day. Proceeding with lotion her body, using a perfumed body lotion to smoothen her skin, she suddenly hears a sound from the side of the road behind her.
She calls the attention of the vehicle's owner and points to the shadow that comes towards her. As dusk has set in she is unable to see clear, yet she notices the abnormal size of what comes towards her. She tells Paul in the front to look at this big dog. When the remaining mate sees it he is shocked and calls in a quiet voice, she should move into the cabin, as this was not a dog, that rather it was a lion. With her Adrenalin rising in a flash, her 220 pounds of flesh moved as fast as in no time before. She jumps to the cabin like a 14 year old schoolgirl, slamming the door behind them. They see the Forest Leopard standing behind, whacking his tail nervously, confused. The scent of perfume is an unknown odor to him, and this saves the life of the female. They see him and hear him, a few meters away from the vehicle, growling deeply, his spotted skin vaguely visible in the dark.

They had crossed the path of a Forest Leopard, and escaped his attack by a margin. The margin was the body lotion that sent the Leopard into confusion. God was on their side. The Leopard still standing, and growls on more time in a deep, catlike outburst of dissatisfaction, till he finally disappears back into the jungle.

Continuation : Bougoula border, Guinea........

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Encounter at dusk, Odienne border, Ivory Cost part (II), Bougoulla border post, Guinea

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.Encounter at dusk, Odienne border, Ivory Cost part (II).

..The Forest Leopard turns, his tail still twitching, and in a sudden movement towards the edge of the forest, it disappears into the thick.

In the time that follows, everyone in the vehicle is silent, deep sunk in his or her own thoughts, figuring out what could have or could not have been, was it not for some greater power protecting them.

The night drags along, with no one moving out of the vehicle, in fear of being eaten by the large cat.

When morning breaks they dare leaving the vehicle, but the fear will never leave them as long as they stay here.

After three days of no food, their stomachs are empty, their moods are changing fast. Desperately hoping for the return of their comrades, each one hoping for a quick end of their plight, to get out of this dense jungle. After the incident with the predator they have no interest to explore their surroundings any longer, they stay near the cabin.

In the morning of the fourth days they notice a movement over the creek. Noticing the familiar features of their comrades, they sigh in relieve, breaking out into jubilation, in typical African fashion. Immediately they set off to fix the welded radiator tank, so they can make their way further to reach the border.

In an hour the car is moving again, amidst the cheering of everyone. They exchange their experiences, without realizing the dangers that besieged them. Great is their surprise when they arrive at the border post, a mere 1 hour drive from where they had the break down.

The danger is past, the guardian saint derided, full of courage they face the Guinean border guards' viciousness for the first time. Unknown to them, the Guinean Customs unleashes the first attack whilst inspecting the goods. Like a predators prey they are now at their mercy.. Same frowns on their faces, same story all over, same tactics used to extort money from the unwary, calling for an amount of 70 000 000 Guinea Francs, about 33000 U.S. Dollars of Duties and Taxes. Quick to demand and eager to extort, the usual procedures begin. Bargaining is the way to survive here.

After nearly four days without proper food, they search now frantically for something edible. The border has some stalls where food is being sold and they go for it.

The negotiations have started, and they do not end for another three days. Without success the Guineans do not budge away from their demands. They remain stubborn, their leader being the root cause. He wants the biggest cut for himself. For unknown to the people, border posts have their own laws and rules. They will not declare the taxes to the Finance Ministry, they will share it amongst themselves. This fact is known to the government in Conakry yet they have no means to stop these mal practices, corruption reigns in Conakry and spreads throughout the country

continued : The confiscation ..

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Where the river turns black - Border Niani, Guinea part (I)

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Mandiana to Niani, Guinea

During the night I feel tense. The devastating effect of the heat radiating from the uncovered Aluminum roof that covers my shabby Hotel room is having its effect. It leaves me drenched in sweat, a torture; unwanted Sauna in the tropics.

I know my car is parked in the unsecured, open yard of the compound that has one watchman who I can't trust. I have my emergency cash stuffed in a pillow I use to support my back from the steady bumps along the horrible road that crosses Guinea from the south to the north, a thousand kilometers full.

Every now and then I toss myself, restless, from one side to the other, trying to find the best sleeping position, in vain. At 3 AM I glance at my watch, lighting my Communicator which serves as a torch, and word processor. I hear a disturbing noise, I am certain from the car, outside the room, parked at a distance of 6-7 meters away. My mind is fully alert, I notice the strange sounds, like someone attempting to open the locks. At the moment you are paralyzed, thinking of the dangers that accompany any attempt in a lawless place such as this, to challenge an intruder

I struggle to my feet, Nokia in hand, still powered, slowly tapping to the door, unlocking it, and I open it in a sudden move. I glance at my car, nothing unusual. The noise has stopped at this moment.

Puzzled, I move towards the vehicle in the dark, the whole town lies in darkness, no source of electricity powers any part of this mining place.

Suddenly the noise again starts, coming from my left. The LED light of my communicator is not strong and I see a movement, about  meters apart from where I stand. A torchlight is lit and its beam cuts towards me. I hear the voice of a man and a woman speaking in French. When I finally realize I begin to relax.

A man and a woman standing in front of their 'Hotel room', attempting to kick start the motorbike they use. Here in the middle of Mandiana, a couple had rented a room to find some privacy. He apologizes for the noise and soon they continue before I return back to my room, relieved and exhausted.

This particular scene is always in my memory, it shows that even here, in the last corner of civilization, people are basically the same. I try to catch some sleep, the ambient temperature has dropped now with the morning dew settling on the roof, I am finally dozing off.

.............Mandiana Customs Officials, the arrangement episode.  .

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Sunday, May 13, 2007


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Wednesday, May 9, 2007

On a wing and a prayer, Freetown, Sierra Leone

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The Meetings have passed with ease, our contact is happy with the arrangements made.

Return flights to Accra from Freetown are once a week, we opt to fly out on a Sunday. The weather has been moody, in Freetown it rains every day, the clouds are hanging low over the foamy sea. Last nights dinner was sumptuous, as always, the quality of food outstanding considering the location and the time. Credit to the Italian Management Paolo, and his girlfriend and the fact that we have the right contacts.

Late night we are informed that the Hovercraft is non-operational, and we must fly  with a local commuter plane departing Hastings airport to Lunghi International. Also we are informed that the rooms are all fully booked, so we have no choice but to leave. Military personnel from all over, U.N. UNHCR, Peacekeepers, High ranking officials from OAU, CIA, Mercenaries alike, all are lodging at the Cape Sierra, a somewhat funny arrangement, yet without choice. Cape Sierra is the only foreign run Hotel in war torn Freetown.

Early morning we move, after breakfast we say goodbye to our friends, and move with the Car provided by the Hotel.

Hastings airport is about an hour drive from Cape Sierra, we pass the U.N. Security barrier, the OAU barrier, slipping through devastated Freetown in the middle of misery and carnage that befell this city. We can see houses destroyed, tin roofed buildings in desolate condition, people without hope. Yet somehow, life goes on. Talking about it brings back memories that are not at my top list. I try to forget the kids without limbs, but somehow the sight keeps coming back. A pity to see small children in their misery, for what ? Power, greed, money. Same story happens today in another part of this planet, without making direct reference.

When we reach Hastings airport, the rains pours down in full force.  Nigerian OAU troops are guarding the airport, their Captain shaking our hands, welcoming us. We sit down on a wooden makeshift bench, one hand holding our valuables in an attache case, the other bag with our necessities.

We are told the plane coming from upcountry is due to arrive shortly and will take us to Lunghi Int'l. I wonder, with a visibility of 50-100 meters, the clouds so low that you can almost touch it, it needs a special Pilot skill to land in such weather. Although the ILS is working, the Pilot cannot see the tarmac till he almost touches down. We are conversing with the Captain about the war and its repercussions on the civil population. One thing that strikes me is the explanation that behind all the carnage in Sierra Leone is one man, Charles Taylor He supplies arms to the main rebel leader Fodeh Sankoh and his URF United Revolutionary Front in return for Diamonds, which both should make them rich. However, for every seller there must be a buyer. And I know that De Beers has its offices in Freetown, throughout the war. We can debate the negative ness of this, but one thing is sure, that I won't buy anymore diamonds for anyone as long as I live. (I already have, anyway).

We hear the distant rumbling of a planes engine, a turbo prop twin of Czech origin drops out of the sky, lands safely, taxiing to the main tarmac.

 Hastings is  a small airport, we can follow all the movements precisely. We grab out bags, and walk towards the parked plane, to take a ride to Lunghi. Njet, Njet says the Russian pilot. No way he flies again in such weather. We stand like paralyzed, trying to convince him to take us. The OAU Captain does its best, to no avail. The guy remains stubborn, nothing will make him move this plane again today. as long as the clouds hang so low. We glance at our watches, the time close to 11.00 AM, our Ghana Air flight departing at 13.00 PM from Lunghi.

We are sitting on needles, I turn to the Nigerian Captain, asking him if they have choppers stationed here. He nods, but says he can't ask them to take us. I say: 'Come on, help us, if we can't leave today, we won't be able to leave till another week'. He moves away to see what he can do, but returns with resignation, no way.

I do not know what happens on this day, except that somewhere some angel must guard over me, for in about 20 minutes I hear the distinctive whirl of a chopper, a large Transporter or fighter, we cannot see because of the fog. It comes closer and gets louder by the second, then the craft slips out of the sky like the twin before it, I notice the distinctive marks of a MIG 8. The MIG rolls along the runway, turns towards the Hangars, its Rotors spinning in near half throttle, anyone would know he does not stop here.

Our Captain gets into action, runs towards the monster, now turning its tail 30 degrees towards us, the Captain exchanges a few words with the pilot who opens his cabin and leans out. A mighty white, hairy arm waves towards us, come on and hop in, the Captain now running back towards us, waving us to hurry up. Needless to say, we grab our bags, and run with our business attire towards the chopper. The captain receives a buck from us for his troubles, and advices us to tell the Pilot that we love Cuba. We reach the chopper, after waving goodbye to the soldier who helped us, and we are both helped into the vibrating aircraft, its Rotor blades now picking speed we can hear the from the turbines sound.

The Interior is a junk yard and a warehouse, two machine gunners with heavy submachine guns guarding both entrances, open door, we lift off almost instantly.

Flying very low over the Mangroves that occupy the are between Hastings and Lunghi, I wonder what it would be like to make a hard landing in this waters below us. I have time to study the interior, they carry supplies to the troops, from rice in bags, to toilet paper rolls, all is stuffed in the craft, and so are civilians who are sitting in the back. I am amazed to see how much stuff goes into that craft. Vibrating, with the gunners watching carefully the Mangroves below, we fly towards our destination, a mere 10-15 minutes ride, our lifeline to the outside world.

And when we reach Lunghi, I see the Ghana Air F27 approaching and land on the runway. The Pilot moves the MIG to a close area near the main building, and we thank him, amidst the noise jumping out of the aircraft, and running to the main building. The departing passengers give us a curious look, because from where we come not other passengers appear. Immigration, Customs are passed quickly, leaving our last Leones, the main currency. The plane meanwhile has parked and we are the first, occupying seat Nr. 1 + 2 in the front. I recognize another friend who is a member of the security forces of Ghana, accompanying the plane from Banjul, Conakry, Freetown on to Abidjan and Accra.

Long after taking our seats, the plane has taken off, I realize how fortunate we are, for if this chopper hadn't taken us we would be still waiting for another week in this forsaken place, but with uncertainty where to sleep, as all the rooms are booked out. We sip on our welcome drink and try to relax.

In the news a week later we hear that Freetown  has been overrun by the Rebels again, and we know that the favorite place of the rebels is the Cape Sierra Hotel, the Hotel staff explaining to us whilst we are there. If this is not luck, then what is....

We thank those brave soldiers of the Nigerian peacekeepers for making our return possible, to the Pilot of the MIG; and I pray for those children who lost their arms, that they will find a somewhat normal life again. It remains a vague hope though, because one can imagine what it means to live without his right or left hand, or both. God bless those who can.

Freetown, Sierra Leone, part 2. .

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Saturday, April 14, 2007

++Dusk to dawn at near 5000 meters altitude amidst alpine meadows ++

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The hike has taken all my strength and I feel overcome by exhaustion. I relax while in the kitchen the grandfather is preparing dinner. An old man of nearly 80 years, his leather tanned face radiates much warmth and kindness. He is genuinely proud to have a foreigner as guest at his home.

His wife is herding Yaks still further up the mountain, a 3 hours walk from where his house stands, barely noticable from here.

I notice in spite of the warm jacket I am wearing my body starts to shiver, and decide to draw the warm blanket up to my chin. I sense the deep exhaustion now overcoming me.

With every minute the shadows are getting longer now , my friends calling me to watch the spectacle that follows. Sparrows give their last  concert, the Eagles have long disappeared; the whole area is shrouded in twilight, a breath taking scenery.

My companions have tended to the horse and other animals on the farm. We stand on the porch overlooking the whole mountain range , a truly magnificent view. One forgets time here, a soul searching contest with oneself has begun. And here time has stood still, no materialistic goals, no work related stress, no human misdemeanor, no misunderstanding, no crime, just pure, basic human values. One can not but feel comfort in such environment.

Dinner is ready,  chinese cabbage, the "xiao bai cai", steamed round rice, chicken with vegetables. An excellent meal, the old man proofs his cooking skills. After dinner we converse, many questions are asked about my home and what it was like.

Mountain folks retire early and for a good reason: they must be fit in early morning. We take a stroll in the now dark surroundings and shoot some photos in the dark. Everyone senses the tranquility that has engulfed the mountains by now. A real heaven under the sky. Then the house falls silent, no sound is heard.

I dream of a friend who has passed away, noticing I can converse with him freely here. On frequent occasions did I have such experiences, in serene and calm surroundings in Africa, Asia and Europe. How I wish I could have shown this heaven to those who needed it most. Yet, it is not for everyone to reach such divine places. As one friend put it : "You are blessed to be able to discover this jewel ". One can believe or not, reality speaks for itself.

And the night embraces us amidst a divine calm, with the stars as our guardians..

Next : The day break and descent ...

Wednesday, April 11, 2007

++Between realism and fiction , Dege - Western Kham ++

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Dege, Western Kham, Border with Tibet

Long before the sun rises we are up. Behind the mountains it begins to dawn, we are engulfed by the beauty of the morning.

The night had been noisy, with Tibetan lemurs rummaging overhead in the double wooden ceiling, sleeping was difficult. Where we sleep, kitchen, hall and bedroom in one, the typical Tibetan house. Throughout the night I carried a flashlight to spot the noisy little creatures who were after the Chambar, the rye flour stored in the kitchen in a wooden box.

The breakfast is painstakingly prepared with Chambar, salted tea and yak butter, yak cheese, mingled in a cup and bare fingers. The hospitality of the Tibetan  people has no equivalent, we are honored guests in their house, and dare not to refuse their persuasive welcome.

Red Tibetan furniture all around us, wooden tables, an open kitchen furnace, we sit on our bed eating and drinking the salted Lapsang, planning for the day. We will ascend to the mountains staying overnight , where wolves and bears still roam freely. As a result, every Tibetan carries a dagger, richly decorated with Silver and gemstones, according to his social standing.

A car takes us to the school where Mr. Chen's wife is teaching Tibetan kids, in a scenic settlement 30 miles outside the city of Dege. We visit the school, its basic facilities and see only smiling, curious faces. Horses were called in the day before to carry me to the mountain, an almost impossible thought to bear. The means of communication is by word to mouth, as no transport other than by foot or horse can reach to this remote parts in 4000 m altitude.

We start our ascent at 0900 AM and the breathtaking beauty of the valley immediately takes me into a trance. My guide's pace is fast, difficult to follow pace, I grasp for air in such high altitude. Alpine meadows on our way, tall yellow and purple cowslips along the trails, in the mountain meadows make me remember my own heritage. So similar is the vegetation here, I almost forget I am 8000 Miles from home  in a far away location.

The trail is steep, the first plateau reached we stare at the mountains around us, the valley below, fields of rye in golden yellow. The main route to Chamda and to Lhasa, a 5 days journey by car. So vast are the distances here, one needs to shut off his sensing of time entirely for the duration of this journey. Time has no meaning, we are only temporary on this Earth.. Tibetan wisdom comes in many shapes.

The stream we now try to cross is covering the trail over hundreds of meters and we attempt to jump from stone to stone with limited success. Ice cold fresh mountain spring water, a definite substitute to the bottled water in PET packing. Prayer flags with diverse colors line the places where the water is deep, marking the auspiciousness of the location. Mountains and cliffs towering over our heads as we progress into the high altitude dwelling place of my guide's grandparents. Eagles cry, circling above in the clear blue sky, looking for prey.

An hour into the walk we meet our horses, sent to take us on horseback to our destination. I chose not to ride and pack our luggage on the horseback, a white  mare. Noticing the rider's pregnancy I wonder how strong these people must be, living year in year out in such remoteness. No medical facilities, totally dependent on Tibetan Traditional Healing, easier in the summer months, unimaginable in winter when ice and snow cover the mountains.

A two and half hour ride on horseback, she immediately sets off to return back to her home. Astonishing endurance, strength, people here are robust like no other. I encounter the first Edelweiss on my trip, it makes me forget the strain on my body, for too long I was out of practice since leaving my home country. Recalling my Military training, Hauptmann Lukesch, and the 50 Miles we marched in Alpine regions, I think back and realize how time has passed so quickly.

Here in this region I find a variety of plants, wild fruits,  Gooseberries, wild Strawberries, Raspberries in deep red growing nearby. Reminding me of my youth and the Alpine world I grew up with, where we would roam in the meadows after school, using the mountains as a playground, once again I see reflections of my early days appearing with every step I climb these trails.

We zigzag along the rocky paths, it takes all my strength for its steepness. The higher we reach the more spectacular the views, the more you feel yourself free. Only a mountaineer can understand this feeling, perhaps I felt a similar sensation the night I found myself in Beyla, Guinea.

The serpentine paths become more steep, walking dangerously close near to cliffs I realize I made a good choice not to move on horseback. Not being a good rider it would have been too risky, a reckless idea I contemplate.

Well into the afternoon, long overdue we reach the first house on a long stretch of green, rye growing up in this altitude of 4000 meters. We set of at 3000 meters, but the ascent was so strenuous it took me 8 hours to climb. Here in the mountains everyone knows each other, so our arrival had been heralded and we are invited to the first dwelling we see.

Sitting in the dark kitchen with only basic amenities, the lady of the house and her grandson invites me with the same hospitality I am so used to since coming to these parts. All I take is some fresh mountain spring water, trying hard to recover from the climb.

One can not describe the condition of this dwelling place, were it not to hurt the genuine people's feelings. All they have is this, and this is their life. The rye gives them food throughout the year, and represents their staple diet. All houses in Tibetan tradition are built of raw timber, logs of Fir and are painted with a red mixture that contains yak butter. The yak butter helps to preserve the logs for a long period of time. When entering these parts one immediately notices this phenomena without realizing the deeper meaning of it.

I dread to climb further up and really push myself to reach the last 300 meters where the grandfather is anxiously awaiting us. We can see the house further up the mountain and can see the grandfather standing and looking towards us.

The last stretch lasts forever and I take a rest every now and then, grasping for air. When we finally reach, I feel totally exhausted.

Next : Life in the mountains, Dege, Western Kham, Road to Lhasa

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