Archive for the ‘journalism’ Category

He Can’t Read or Write, But He’s Changing a Continent

Tuesday, December 8th, 2009

Yacouba Sawadogo is a farmer in the western African nation of Burkina Faso. He recently revived an ancient planting technique and adapted it to the more arid climate of Africa today.

It had long been the practice among Sahelian farmers to dig zai–shallow pits–that concentrate scarce rainfall onto the roots of crops. Sawadogo increased the size of his zai to capture more rainfall. But his most important innovation, he says, was to add manure to the zai during the dry season, a practice his peers derided as wasteful.Sawadogo’s experiments worked: by concentrating water and fertility in pits, he increased crop yields. But the most significant result was one he hadn’t anticipated: tiny trees began to sprout amid his rows of millet and sorghum, thanks to seeds contained in the manure. As one growing season followed another, it became apparent that the trees–now a few feet high–were further increasing crop yields while also restoring soil fertility. “Since I began this technique of rehabilitating degraded land, my family has enjoyed food security in good years and bad,” Sawadogo says.

The changes have been adopted by other farmers and have helped rehabilitate more than 12 million acres of degraded land.

The tree-based farming that Sawadogo and hundreds of thousands of other poor farmers in the Sahel have adopted could help millions of their counterparts around the world cope with climate change. Already these practices have spread across vast portions of Burkina Faso and neighboring Niger and Mali, turning millions of acres of what had become semi-desert in the 1980s into more productive land. The transformation is so pervasive that the new greenery is visible from outer space via satellite pictures. With climate change, much more of the planet’s land will be hot and arid like the Sahel. It only makes sense, then, to learn from the quiet green miracle unfolding there.

8 Painful Years

Wednesday, October 7th, 2009

The Afghanistan war enters it’s eighth year today. To date, 869 service men and women have made the ultimate sacrifice.

Roughly 4,000 have been wounded. Due to the nature of the  I.E.D.  style of combat, many of the  injuries are catastrophic.

The past and present political administrations have a ban on media coverage of the fallen returning to the United States from overseas. I however, am under no such compulsion.

Most of the military has seen multiple,  near year long deployments.  Something that seems to be forgotten in the news, are the families of these men and women. The strain they are under is probably even greater than those deployed to the combat theaters.

If you happen to be out and about and see some military folks, send over a pitcher of beer or piece of cake.  A gesture like that goes a long, long way.

The Faces of Real Journalism

Tuesday, September 8th, 2009

Laura Ling and Euna Lee were imprisoned for entering North Korea while covering the plight of refugees escaping to China.

When we set out, we had no intention of leaving China, but when our guide beckoned for us to follow him beyond the middle of the river, we did, eventually arriving at the riverbank on the North Korean side. He pointed out a small village in the distance where he told us that North Koreans waited in safe houses to be smuggled into China via a well-established network that has escorted tens of thousands across the porous border.

Feeling nervous about where we were, we quickly turned back toward China. Midway across the ice, we heard yelling. We looked back and saw two North Korean soldiers with rifles running toward us. Instinctively, we ran.

We were firmly back inside China when the soldiers apprehended us. Producer Mitch Koss and our guide were both able to outrun the border guards. We were not. We tried with all our might to cling to bushes, ground, anything that would keep us on Chinese soil, but we were no match for the determined soldiers. They violently dragged us back across the ice to North Korea and marched us to a nearby army base, where we were detained.

I was struck by several things in the piece-

1) The precaution they took to protect their sources both before their arrest and during interrogation.

2) Getting the story involved huge risks with little payoff. People here barely care about refugees in the United States let alone halfway around the world.

3) The fact that they may have been set up by the leader of South Korean underground railroad.

4) Their courage.

There’s a lot of criticism directed at journalists these days. ‘The media’, ‘They don’t ask the hard hitting questions,’ ‘It’s all fluff.’

That all might very well be true but like most broad sweeping statements it demeans an awful lot of good people, most of whom we never hear about. I’m put in mind of the adage; for every ant you see there’s a 1,000 you don’t.