post The Humble Barber

March 29th, 2011

Filed under: Literature Corner — Natty Mark Samuels @ 18:32

The Humble Barber

to the people of Ile-Ife

I’m just a humble barber
Yet Ogun always blesses my tools -
The scissors and the razor.
Spirit of iron and metallurgy
Of he who hunts the antelope
And he who drives a taxi.

Watching over my cutting in the morning
Still awake
When I cut at night.
Above me
Watching over the engine
And the pilot of the flight.

He of the mighty machete
Who cut the path to Ile-Ife
Heartland of the Yoruba.
I hear them calling his name;
The blacksmith and the mechanic
The engineer as well as the butcher.

At the shrine in my house
I celebrate him every day
Before the jobs of cut and shave.
I have done so since I remember
I’ll continue to do so
Until they take me to my grave.

At the annual Olojo Festival
The biggest of all our festivities
All of Ife remember him.
Some bringing palm wine
Others kola nut or plantain
I with a gourd of roasted yam.

To thank him for giving me customers
As well as a steady hand
So there’s always food for my family.
Heading the procession are the priests
Plus the dignitaries
Preceded by the Ooni.

In a field this morning
I heard the hunters
Singing their songs called Igala.
And in this procession now
Someone leads the singing
Accompanied by the drummers.

They lay their offerings first
The Ooni and the others
Those first in the line.
When laying my roasted yams
My heart wells up
Kneeling at Okemogun Shrine.

I feel privileged to be a Heartland Man
A resident of Ile-Ife
Where Oduduwa first laid his earthly head.
I’ll never be a rich man
But I am a contented one
Working in my barbers shed.

So I pray to the Great Master of Metals
Lighthouse to the ship
Watchtower to the incoming plane.
To watch over the Yoruba
Keep a vigil over Nigeria
Till I come to Okemogun Shrine again.

©Natty Mark Samuels, 2011.

post Is Shyness Curable?

March 26th, 2011

Filed under: Social Issues — Lissan Magazine @ 14:39

Curing Shyness and other Social Fears
by Vicki

source: Helium: Emotional Health & Wellbeing

Shyness and social fears can be dramatic side effects of deeper issues. Self-esteem plays a major role in the way people interact in all social aspects. Other factors to consider when determining the causes of social fears are life and social experiences. Our child hood experiences provide insights into our many adult behaviors. The way in which we are conditioned to interact or react to people and situations is a process in which we learn through out our lifetimes.

In 1902, after extensive research, C. H. Cooley introduced the concept of “The looking-glass self”. The Looking-glass self is created through the imagination of how one’s self might be understood by another individual. The “self” can be defined as ones sense of personal identity.

There are three components to the looking-glass self:

1.We imagine how others view us.
2.We imagine how they will judge us based on that view.
3.We develop our self through our ideas on how others judge us. (Yeung)

“The way we imagine ourselves to appear to another person is an essential element in our conception of ourselves. In other words, I am not what I think I am, and I am not what you think I am. I am what I think you think I am.”
Bierstedt, Robert.

“I am not who I think I am
I am not who you think I am
I am who I think you think I am.”

“Each to each a looking-glass
Reflects the other that doth pass.”
C. H. Cooley

Not every person will experience social fears at the same level. Some will find themselves mildly shy, and they will be able to warm up to a person or situation with a little time and comfort. Others with more severe distress may find it impossible to gain the level of comfort they need for security. Severe social distress or social anxiety may bring about ringing in the ears, tunnel vision, seeing spots or colors, trembling, a sudden rise in body temperature, a shaking or stuttering voice, and even entirely losing train of thought. Beyond shyness, social anxiety disorder or social phobia affects 13.3% of our population with a male to female ratio of 1:1.5.

Our parents, our peers, our environments, society, and we condition ourselves throughout our lives. In realizing that behaviors can be conditioned, and knowing how they are conditioned, we can come up with options for reconditioning the same behaviors to a more desirable and realistic view of what we perceive as the norm.

Social learning theory proposes that our behavior changes are affected by environmental influences, personal factors, and attributes of the behavior itself. Each may affect or be affected by either of the other two. A person must believe in their own capability to achieve social tasks and there must be a positive incentive over the negative expectations. The person must desire and believe in the outcome of the particular behavior modification one is working on.

Children raised with criticism are often stripped of their self-esteem. They may lack in will for accomplishments and withdrawal from social situations with peers for fear of judgment and criticism. Child abuse also discourages children’s desire to pursue closeness, and thus they do not allow themselves social situations that could potentially expose them to the risk of involvement.

Society pulls our children to strive for a set standard that some simply cannot seem to achieve. Societal expectations have grown, and not everyone is able to keep up with the standards. Those who cannot achieve societies set norms will often have feelings of depreciated value. They will feel as though the way they see themselves is the way others view them as well (the looking glass self).

The first questions to ask would be what it is that instills the social fear and in what situation is the fear most prevalent. It is a good idea to explore the triggers to the fear. Which are considered normal and which are heavy burdens to your functions in society? If your social fear is mild, you may not have to go as far in depth with the environmental details that conditioned your fears. However, the person who suffers severely, who is more controlled by the fears, would need more in depth reconciliation. The more severe cases benefit considerably from behavioral therapy, and many even find it helpful to utilize anxiety or depression medication for added support.

In either mild or severe situations of shyness or social fear, what is very important is that the will for change is there. The fact that the behavior was conditioned shows that it can be reconditioned with effort and the will to try, and try again. Modifying behaviors in day to day events is necessary and should be done over a period of time. Make sure you are working on all of your self-esteem issues, and realize you are not alone in this. So many individuals around us every day suffer some type of social fear; you will cross their paths daily. It really is a large portion of our population in the United States.

The focus should be on just doing it and believing you can. Put yourself in the situation repeatedly. Although it is hard to deal with the feelings of fear, it is necessary for change. Just like anything else to be mastered, you must practice until you reach the comfort zone you are out to achieve.

Change does not happen over night, and it will prove to be a lot of pain staking, emotional work. The more you place yourself in situations that drive that fear, reconditioning will occur with out a doubt. Believe in your capacity to function in a manner that you believe is best for you.

source: Helium: Emotional Health & Wellbeing

post Honoured by the Ashanti

March 17th, 2011

Filed under: Literature Corner — Natty Mark Samuels @ 11:07

to the Akan of Ghana

No one will cut me today. Those without breath shall not be placed within me. For they say I was created on Thursday: by God whom they call Nyame.

No farmer will use his hoe. Nor shall any tree be felled. Because today is the day of my ‘birth’. They call me Asase Yaa; some know me as Mother Earth.

I always give them yam and plantain. But today is my day of rest. The farmer and I will awake tomorrow; shining at our best.

Blood is poured on me. The flesh is mixed with yam. At the four corners of the farm, they deposit this fusion. It is planting time, so they have come to ask permission.

Like dutiful children they come to me; their humble petition. For protection from snakebite. To assist in cultivation. They come with a gift of water. To pay homage by libation.

And when a girl begins to become a women. Her mother will go around, informing the village of that new fact. Then she’ll return to pour wine over me. Invoking Nyame, myself and her ancestry.

They ask permission also, when it is time to put someone inside me. In a hole called peace. I become tomb. So many inside me. I am the Final Room.

When someone’s word is in doubt. Needing to prove themselves right: before their blood begins to boil. They get on their knees and touch me; their lips against the soil.

They have another name for me. They call me Aberewa – the Old Woman. But they are always respectful, reverential. The People of Gentle Petition.

I’m glad to be their Mother. To nourish and to nurture. I know I’ve been blessed by Nyame. So I’ll enjoy my sacred day celebrations. Honoured by the Ashanti.

©Natty Mark Samuels, 2011.

post Biofuel Development

March 7th, 2011

Filed under: Environment — Lissan Magazine @ 21:31

Current biofuels development status in Ethiopia
By Hilawe Lakew and Yohannes Shiferaw
source (pdf):

Biofuels development as a primary product was first initiated by the private sector when Sun Biofuels Ethiopia (National Biodiesel Corporation), a subsidiary of a UK based private limited company, was allocated the first land for cultivation of jatropha for production
of biodiesel in Benshangul Gumuz regional state in 2006. The coming of Sun biofuels awakened other players in the sector, including the government, the private sector, NGOs and civil society organizations. As the first project in the country, there were several drawbacks in the legal process of business formation and actual implementation of the project in the field. Since then several private companies have come to the scene. Fincha Sugar Factory, however, has been producing bioethanol as a by-product. Several local and international private and non-private biofuels developers have registered in the country since then. Most of these companies have the intention of going for large-scale commercial development. Currently there are over 50 developers registered for the cultivation of energy crops for biodiesel production. For bioethanol, however, there are only six developers in the country of which four of them are government owned sugar estates. At present only one of the sugar estates, Fincha, is producing ethanol. The rest are at the pre-implementation stage either retrofitting existing factories for ethanol development, or at the very early stage of land cultivation for plantation of sugarcane. All of them are intending to produce ethanol as a product of sugar production.

Status of Operational Biofuels Development Projects
Due to limitation of time only five regions were identified to conduct a brief assessment about the current development of biofuels in Ethiopia. These regions are identified based on the current trend of biofuels development expansion in the country. Local experts were assigned to gather primary and secondary information about the biofuels projects in the regions.

Information about the number of organizations involved in biofuels development was searched from government offices at regional level, the Ethiopian Investment Commission, and other sources. In a few cases, the team managed to contact the developers. However, the full list of developers that have started operations could not be obtained from offices at regional level as some developers directly contacted Zone and Woreda offices for allocation of land without the need for getting permits from bureaus at regional level. The full list of companies including those that have not yet obtained land is put in the annex. This section gives an overview of developers that have actually received land but may not have started operations. The findings are presented as reported by the informants as follows:

Benshangul Gumuz Regional State
In Benshangul Gumuz region, information is obtained only for three private developers that received land for biofuels development.

i. Sun Biofuels Ethiopia/ National Biodiesel Corporation
Sun Biofuels PLC is a UK based company that owns 80% of the shares in the National Biodiesel Corporation PLC (NBC). With 365 million Birr investment capital NBC aims to become the largest producer and seller of biofuels in Ethiopia. Description of Location NBC has obtained 80,000 ha of land leased for 50 years in Metekel Zone in Dandure Woreda at a lease price of ETB 25 per hectare for jatropha plantation. The area of land allocated covers four Kebeles namely Jantaya, Gublak, Dabata, Dilkanbikokil and Jarduban.

Land Use and Environmental Aspects
The land cover is mostly forest, woodland and range land with very little agricultural activities. There are various types of plant and animal species in the area9. The project stopped operations after clearing 60 hectares of land for trial plantation. One of the reasons for stopping the operation was that the land was not suitable for growing jatropha. The productivity of the land was very low, so the company would hardly make any profit from the investment. Had the project continued at the proposed scale severe environmental damages could have happened. Loss of biodiversity and wildlife would be the immediate impact which could be followed by soil chemical composition changes due to change in land use, increased soil erosion and land degradation due to increased runoff, and a severe impact in the watershed. An environmental impact assessment was not conducted in the area.

Socioeconomic Aspects
The community uses the area as a source of firewood, food and feed for their cattle, and medicine. They collect fruits, seeds and roots from the forest. It is a place for hunting and honey collection. The rangeland is used for farming and grazing place for their cattle.

ii. Ambasel Jatropha Project
Ambasel Jatropha Project is a local private limited company involved in biofuels development in Amhara regional state.

Description of Location
The project obtained 20,000 ha of land with a possibility of expanding to 80,000ha for jatropha plantation in Qoto (or Koto) kebele in Metekel Zone Beles Woreda. The project plans to install oil expelling machines and has a target of reaching up to one million metric tonnes of oil per year. The product is mainly for the domestic market, with the possibility of exporting the excess.

Land Use and Environmental Aspects
The existing land cover is a natural forest. The project has to clear the forest for cultivation of jatropha trees, which will result in severe environmental consequences including loss of biodiversity, wild life and their habitats. Soil erosion and land degradation are possible long term impacts due to the project intervention. The project has not conducted any form of environmental impact assessment so far.

Socioeconomic Aspects
The forest used to provide a free grazing area and a source of firewood for the local community. There might be new short-tem job
opportunities for the local community. In the short term, the project needs about 10,000 labour force, which sounds overly optimistic, for the preparation of land which will be mainly clearing of the forest. However, once the forest is cleared and the plantation in place, there will be relatively few jobs, and the community will have lost their forest resource forever.

iii. Jatropha Biofuels Agro Industry
Jatropha Biofuels Agro Industry is a national private limited company with 123 million Birr investment capital. The company obtained land leased for 50 years at a price of ETB 25 per hectare for large scale
commercial plantation of biofuels using jatropha plant. The Project is located in Metekel Zone, Dangur Woreda in Bengaz Kebele. They received 100,000 hectare of land but have not started operations yet.

iv. I.D.C Investment
IDC Investment is a Danish private limited company that started investment in biofuels development in Ethiopia. It has received 15,000 ha of land in Benshangul Gumuz in Assosa Zone, Oda Woreda. The company started cultivation of land for jatropha plantation in November 2007. It has a plan for setting up a processing plant.

Amhara Regional State
Several developers have applied for allocation of land for development of biofuels in various Woredas in the region. However, information has only been obtained for five developers that have actually started operation. For some developers, one of the main reasons for not starting operations, as reported by the developers, is that the amount of land they are offered is too small compared to the land they have asked for. Current status of biofuels development in the region based on information obtained so far is presented below:

i. Organization for Rehabilitation and Development of Amhara

ORDA is a non-private organization established by the regional government with the intention of assisting rehabilitation and development activities in the region. ORDA has several development projects in various Woredas in the region which are related to land rehabilitation by plantation of trees and building erosion protection structures. ORDA believes that plantation of jatropha in degraded lands would bring dual benefits. In some of the areas that ORDA is working, the jatropha plant already grows wild. Some of the project sites that ORDA is promoting jatropha are Gaint, Ibnat, Wadla, Lasta, Bugna, Sekota, Kobo, Habru, bati and Metema.

Description of Location
ORDA is now involved in biofuels development in Metema Woreda. With a capital of one million Birr the project obtained 884 ha of land free of charge for jatropha plantation. The site is located in Metema Woreda in North Gondor Zone.

Land Use and Environmental Aspects
ORDA has several sites where it uses the jatropha plant for flooding and erosion protection. The biggest project is in Metema. So far about 2.3 million jatropha trees have been planted. The organization has a plan to install peeling machines, an oil expeller and perhaps a biodiesel processing plant near the cultivation area in the future. The land use type prior to the development of the project was barren or degraded land with little or no economic benefit to the nearby communities. In certain seasons of the year the area has been used as grazing land for cattle. The area is commonly known as “aygebire” which literally means non-productive. The project has not conducted any Environmental Impact Assessment. Preparation of land for jatropha plantation may bring some disturbance of the flora and fauna but this is assumed not to be worse than that caused by flood and erosion otherwise.

Socioeconomic Aspects
The project creates job opportunity in the area in the short term as they prepare the land for the cultivation of jatropha plantation. Since the communities around the area own the project, any future benefit from the cultivation of jatropha, however small it might be on a degraded land, will bring additional income.

ii. Jemal Ibrahim
Jemal Ibrahim is a private investor with a project capital of ETB 2,551,896. He has been provided with 7.8 ha of land for cultivation of castor oil for biodiesl production in Habru Woreda. Detailed information has not been obtained regarding previous land use of the location but the satellite image seems to indicate a wide area of cultivated land.

iii. BDFC Ethiopia Industry P.L.C
BDFC is a subsidiary of the US based B&D Food Corporation. With 300 million Birr capital it has received 18,000 ha of land from the Awi Zone to grow sugarcane with the intention of producing sugar and ethanol. It has also a plan for an additional sugarcane supply from out growers, which is expected to reach up to 30,000 ha. This project was previously planned for development by the then Tana Beles Project based mainly on the Beles River. The Company has already received land and has a plan to produce 70,000 tonnes of
sugarcane and 30,000 tonne of ethanol per year10.

iv. A Belgium Company (Name not identified)
Three Belgian investors have received 2.5 ha of land in Genete Kebele in Armachiho Woreda in Semen Gondor Zone. The investors have started plantation of jatropha and castor seed which they imported from Togo and Brazil. It was also reported that the investors have applied for an additional 5,000 ha for cultivation11.

Oromia Regional State
Information from the Federal Investment Authority and other sources indicate that there are over sixteen developers that have received investment licenses for development of biofuels in Oromia region. However, many of them have not yet received land. Information is found only for three companies that have started operations in the region.

i. Flora Eco Power Ethiopia Plc.
Flora Eco Power Ethiopia is a subsidiary of the German based Flora Eco Power private company. The company required 200,000 ha of land to plant castor seed for biodiesel production.

Description of Location
Flora Ecopower has so far developed about 15,000ha of land in several Woredas in East and West Hareghe Zones. Babile, Fedis, Midega Tola, Lebu and Hawi Gudina are the Woredas that the company is operating in at present. Out of the total land area cultivated by the company for castor bean plantation, about 10,000 ha is from clearing virgin forest land and the remaining hectares are with the out-growers scheme. The Company plans to expand castor bean plantation to a total of 50,000 to 70,000 ha of land in eight Woredas in East and West Haraghe Zones.

Land Use and Environmental Aspects
The land use type in Babile and surrounding Woredas is grazing land, cultivated land, forest and bush land. Cultivated land in this area accounts about a fifth of the total area, forest area covers between 10 to 20% of the total land area. There is extensive communal grazing land encroaching a large part of the Babile Elephant Sanctuary12. The land that is being used for castor bean plantation is obtained either by clearing of forest areas or taking cultivated land in agreement with the local farmers.

The Company proposes four different options for obtaining land for large scale commercial plantation and the out-growers scheme. In all cases the damage to the environment and the consequence in terms of food insecurity will be high. The area is a sanctuary for various types of wild animals including elephants, lions, leopards, etc. The clearing of the forest and bush land will cause severe environmental damage which will result in loss of biodiversity, and land degradation due to inevitable soil erosion with increased runoff….

read more here (pdf):

post The Girl and the Sapling

March 7th, 2011

Filed under: Literature Corner — Natty Mark Samuels @ 21:27

The Girl and the Sapling

A Poem for Voices
to the Ndembu of Zambia

Brother: My sister’s breasts have begun to grow. So it’s time for her Nkanga: creating excitement throughout the villages.

Nkongu: I am the chosen woman. The Nkongu, chosen to guide her out of girlhead. Under the young mudyi tree and in seclusion; from there on into womanhood.

Mother: We have trampled an area around the special sapling. A circle consecrated, waiting to receive you. Come little heartbeat of mine. It is your turn now. We are here, to escort you through to womankind.

Nkongu: Into the matrilineage.

Ist Woman: Times to celebrate.

2nd Woman: Times to cry.

3rd Woman: Sometimes girl, you’ll wish that you could fly.

Brother: My own transistion, from boyhood to the beginning of manhood, also began there. Under the mudyi tree. They cut me there, in my time called Mukanda.

Mother: I will be complicit in your death today, little heartbeat, to raise you again at nightfall.

1st Woman: Wrapped in a blanket, she must lay all day and she cannot speak.

2nd Woman: Yes, she must lay all day, no food between her cheeks.

3rd Woman: Lay all day; immobile as funeral teak.

Nkongu: We will sing around her; our invitation to an initiate

Mother: We will dance around her; our welcoming party to womanhood.

Nkongu: Under the tree that will bestow white sap. Until twilight, she will lay quiet and still like stone. Soon, both the girl and the sapling, will be offerers of milk.

Mother: Under the mudyi, the Sacred Milk Tree; where our ancestress slept and received the first instruction, the original blessing. Watch over her Nzambi. Ancestress, please help her when she asks you for it. Let there be respect always, between her and her husband. Let her heartbeat not cease before mine.

Nkongu: And after this, onward to the place of seclusion.

1st Woman: Away from this spot of suffering, called ihungu.

2nd Woman: To the teachings from us and the great Nkongu.

3rd Woman: To emerge sometime later, a woman of Ndembu.

Mother: I shall prepare cassava and beans.

1st Woman: We shall brew millet beer……

2nd Woman: To make libation……

3rd Woman: For all to enjoy and share.

1st Woman: So women of the next village……

2nd Woman: And those in the next village to you……

3rd Woman: We invite you to celebrate with us, a new woman of Ndembu.

Brother: She will be gone from here soon and I will miss her, my younger sister. After today,she’ll go to seclusion, then onto marriage; to the house of betrothed husband. Alongside blood, there must be milk.

©Natty Mark Samuels, 2010.

post Magicians of Indigofera

March 1st, 2011

Filed under: Literature Corner — Natty Mark Samuels @ 11:46

Magicians of Indigofera
to the Master Dyers of Kano

We’ve become Magicians Of Indigofera.
Those of us who have worked long,
At the pits of Kofa Mata.

I was seventy-five two days ago.
And since the age of six,
I have worked the dye pits of Kano.

Everyday I have dipped and soaked.
To embellish the turban,
The robe and the cloak.

Here comes the Tuareg man.
Here comes the men of the Emir.
Here comes the humble Mallam.

These pits five centuries old.
Indigo, water, potassium and ash;
The craft of working blue gold.

Recognised trademark of the Hausa
To the blue- robed black- turbanned men,
Away across the Sahara.

These pits six metres deep,
Have bestowed upon me dignity,
Blessed my children with peaceful sleep.


Many elders have seen their last sun.
Ancient skills gone elsewhere.
Where are their sons and grandsons?

The Battles of the Foreign Fabrics
Have taken them away from here,
To try other trades and tactics.

Though the foreign cloth is cheaper,
Magnet for the poor man;
Our hand-woven cloth is stronger.

So many pits lying fallow,
Full of rubbish and of stones;
I cry for you great Kano.

I work beside the crumbling walls.
Alongside the disused pits,
Diminished piles of indigo balls.

Ancient Brew of Indigo Blue.
From the dye pits of Kofa Mata,
From the weaver to me to you.

©Natty Mark Samuels, 2011.

post MONI: Humor in Hardship

March 1st, 2011

Filed under: Life Stroies — Admassu @ 00:01

Ethiopian songs, theaters. books, and paintings usually send messages full of melancholy, tragedy and sadness. Love songs express the ultimate suffering of the involved pair. Singing about bleeding hearts, broken bones, tormented bodies and lost minds are traditionally the best way to show how genuine that particular love is. By listening, reading and seeing our work of art, one would mistakenly categorize us as the most traumatized, humorless and sad population.

Fortunately, the reality is completely the other way around. Though I have no clue why our music, literature and art products did not succeed to transmit our jovial side, the reality shows that we all have naturally ironical and humorous way of expressing our misfortunes when it is over. If our misfortunes did not completely destroy us, they most probably end up being hilarious jokes that we never tired of reciting for the rest of our lives. I am sure, laughing at our past and present hardships is the best medicine that helped us to endure many hardships that occurred in our society for the past endless years. Yes, the story of our hardship is endless. That also means that we have endless gushing streams of humor-loaded stories.

This video was recorded some years ago in Addis. We were sitting in the good old café of Cinema Ambassador. Ambassador café has not lost its old flair even though it visibly became old and shabby. Actually, the right place to rewind and travel through past memories.  I laughed on that day the way I hadn’t for a long long time.

Most of the stories were told by Moni. He is always so funny that his way of telling stories makes one think that Moni could be a great stand-up comedian if he were somewhere else where talents like his be appreciated and paid for.

In this video, Moni is telling us a story on how he and his friend spontaneously attended a funeral ceremony on their way home. For they were too hungry to walk on and for they had no money in their pockets, they thought that joining the funeral ceremony would be the easiest way to have a quick meal. As they assumed, they had a nice meal for sure. But they haven’t predicted what the consequence would be, when the others in that tent get aware of two complete strangers who were only there to fill their bellies but not to pay respect for the departed….

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