Thursday, December 02, 2010

Tis the season for giving - not wasting

I'm in conversation with the fabulously-powerful combination of good looks, intelligence and world vision;Anthony Anderson. "Living the dichotomy of the fashion world and sustainable living", Anthony does what he says while sharing the experience of his move from "an ethical vegan diet to raw food via a desire to lose weight for his modeling career", which spans Hugo Boss, Macy′s, Tommy Hilfiger, Gillette, Acura, and Paul Mitchell. Anthony is co-creator of  Blackbird Naturals, with Mum & daughter partnership Andrea and Alexandra Maw. Anthony also writes his own blog, Raw Model.
[bear hugging the African Blue basil]
When he's not at food fairs promoting "permaculture" and the raw and natural superfoods Blackbird has on offer, Anthony can be found building a self-sustainable home and an organic food forest in Minnesota, funded by profits from Blackbird. He's currently growing over 300 kinds of fruits and vegetables, including many species in his own Eden Project type geodesic dome greenhouse.
Anthony hopes others, including suburban and urban dwellers can take this model (pun??) and begin a life of increased "self-reliance". His desert organic garden and food forest in Paradise Valley, Arizona, is the model we hope to put into our communities in Kenya. Full details of the Minnesota model are available here.
With recent studies showing around 15% of all energy used in the US is swallowed up by food production and distribution; mechanised equipment, fertilisers, pesticides, processing, packaging, its insane to learn that EACH item of food on an average american plate makes an average trip of over 2,400km by boat, plane, train or automobile!!!!!!
Its also truly staggering to learn that between a quarter and a third of the food produced in the US gets wasted. To get some perspective that equates to 2.2 million terajoules of energy loss (US-2007) or the equivalent of 350 MILLION barrels of oil which is DOUBLE SWITZERLAND'S ENTIRE TOTAL ANNUAL ENERGY CONSUMPTION.
The first step to counter this involves identifying efficiency savings along the production chain, which is where Anthony is excelling Smile .. but also, what better place to learn how to get back to self-reliance, than Africa, or more specifically Kenya (of course).
Back in April I was en route from Nairobi to Maseno in western Kenya, with my 2 children and a volunteer/ biker friend Karl from Newcastle. My son (12) and daughter (14) were in the back seat of the car as we went along stopping occasionally to pick up sacks of home-grown, as-fresh-as-it-gets potatoes, cabbage and green beans and carrots and kale for a feast we wanted to take to the girls, resident at our main hosts, the wonderful and inspirational Mercy Home (link to US donor Vic's album of her last visit).
vic group shot dec 2009
As the backseat of the car piled up with raw produce we stopped at another busy roadside seller point, typical of the Kenyan highways, and got into a bartering frenzy over a couple of chickens. Bearing in mind this was my kid's first visit to Kenya/ Africa, despite living and being schooled for a year in rural China, they'd never experienced the truth of the journey from animal to plastic wrapped meat on a plastic tray in a supermarket! Within 5 minutes we had two of the cutest looking chickens tied loosely into a carrier bag with just their heads poking out.
sm dinner
The photo really doesn't do the situation justice but needlesstosay when we set off up the highway with the chickens looking out over the seat inbetween my son and daughter, it came as a total shock to me when my daughter became first angry and then inconsolably upset. There was nothing we could do to explain this reality of life - and death.
Within the hour, and after consuming a good few bottles of water ourselves, the kids must have come to terms with the situation because they then started to worry about the chickens! First they poured water into the caps of the water bottles then, in an epic moment, my son got Karl's HUGE fishing knife and cut the bottle at the bottom to make a water dish which was then offered to the immobile chickens.
They refused quietly.
Things then started to get tense as it was 3pm, very hot and the roads were insane (we'd also taken a wrong turning and ended up on the Kakamega road (NE of Maseno). My daughters tears had even dried up but then the "miracle" snacks started to get a response from our captives and before long my own dear children were fattening up their dinner with some kenyan version of doritos!
The kids were happy and the chickens were happy, and as Anthony just told me "its much more compassionate than keeping them in little cages their whole life - thats for sure."
After a tearful arrival at the girls home, Karl and my son then proceeded to shoot the entire slaughter and meal process on camera, for your viewing pleasure.
Here's one more valuable lesson. If you want to know what a raw food diet can do for just you, let alone your planet - look and learn!
Apologies for the blatant use of raw flesh

Let it snow - let it snow - let it snowwwww

Its such a pleasure, especially in this arctic weather, to work online.
No commute - no cost - flexible timescales - but mainly because I work with so many fabulous people.
Carolyn Adams is one of them.
Yesterday morning Carolyn was on the phone to the British High Commission, diplomatically screaming at Nairobi's bureaucracy, namely the Attorney General's department. I'd like to mention that the department were especially helpful and hopefully they will be pushing forward the progress on shipping a half container-load of Ksh7 million's worth of tax-exempt donated, recycled NHS medical and surgical equipment to Mombasa. From there it will be trucked to the ArrowWeb Community Hospital that has so far (since 2005) offered free and subsidised health services to over 50,000 slum residents around Kayole-Soweto, Nairobi and hopes to continue offering more, improved services for many years to come.
The Director of UK Trade and Investment for East Africa networked us with other officials who are now helping to draw up the Holy Grail of shipping; the tax-exemption certificate that means KRA can't get their hands on any of this equipment ! I love how KRA's website is currently listing a statement about them taking "great exception to continued unjustified slander aimed at tarnishing its name and that of its employees by some individuals and a section of the media" LOL Truth hurts.
MOU's - Ministry of Medical Services - Attorney Generals .... as Carolyn puts it its the "king asked the queen and the queen asked the dairymaid could we have some butter for the royal slice of bread...." However, I strongly believe media and the increasing reach of social networks and internet media are slowly but surely cutting through bureaucratic red tape and revealing the inefficiencies and corruption underneath.
We'll get there in the end.
Hakuna matata!
Bramuel, one of the founders of the hospital, is currently showing a few friends around Nairobi and the hospital. Claudius is touring East Africa and wanted to get involved in the project while James is in the country to oversee his own orphanage set up a few years ago. Kickstart Kids International was founded and run by young Australians, helping kids from advantaged countries to help “kickstart” the lives of kids who effectively have nothing. James, a medical student with Zoe, one of our 2007 volunteers and an active member of AVIF, want to get involved with a project medically and ArrowWeb are the perfect choice.
I know there'll be a big difference made by the partnership!
And it all happened here, over the internet, with a foot of snow outside!