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  • 11 Apr 2016
    The excitement! You could practically feel the buzz of anticipation in the air. Everything became before and after Germany. The visit became a measure of time. Everything went according to plan apart from my visa hitch which I am sure is common knowledge but that is a story for another day (I am greatly flattered to be confused for an Ethiopian lady but still..). The day came, we went, conquered (read shopped) and like everything with a beginning the end came and here we are. I immensely enjoyed the field excursions and the laboratory experiments. Not only were they eye opening but also very interactive. I am sure we all appreciate that a lot of work went into coordinating our activities and making sure our stay was as comfortable as possible and for that we are grateful. There are some things outside the class schedule however that have stayed with me. I was very concern about the immigration crisis especially in Germany before we travelled. We all know there has been backlash in some communities and I felt like the bulls eye. It is not like I could walk on the streets holding my passport or holding a placard showing I was there legally. Maybe this was me over analyzing things like I always do but I found comfort in the realization that no one cared who I was. People might have thought it, some even asked about it but at the end of the day I was treated with respect and I did not have to justify myself being in any place at any time. I was safe and I was able to make a few friends. It reminded me of home, of getting lost in the crowd and just being normal. It was refreshing after months of standing out like a sore thumb. I have travelled some and the norm is to find bottled water in my hotel room. So imagine my shock when we checked in to our rooms and there was no bottled water. Surely they must have forgotten, so I thought it was my rightful duty to remind them of this very important detail. The gentleman at the reception was kind enough to inform me that Germany has among the safest tap water in the world and went a step further to offer me a glass. This got me thinking, why do we pay taxes for our governments to provide services like supply safe drinking water and yet none of us is confident to drink tap water. We either boil it or buy mineral water. We need to demand better services which of course would require us knowing our constitutional rights but how many of us do? So they exploit us in our ignorance and we fill their pockets by buying more mineral water from unknown springs. I loved the commitment to keeping time. The assurance that if the meeting was at 9Am I did not have to worry about waiting for anyone. There is a popular African proverb that there is no hurry in Africa but we forget time waits for no man and it is money.  I am sure we all remember the long talk we had on the importance of keeping time before we travelled. What really stuck with me was equating time keeping to respect. It means you value and appreciate that the other person took the time out of their schedule to see you. Keeping time is you saying thank you, I appreciate you. Keeping time can also be equated to safety because you are not in a rush to go somewhere. In Kenya crossing the road has no set formula most of the time. In most cases no one really cares if the light is red or green unless a policeman is within the vicinity (people are more worried about paying a fine than safety). Motorists, pedestrians and cyclists are all in such a hurry that they prefer the chaos to order. In Tlemcen most drivers are extremely kind and will slow down and let you cross with or without the light signals or a zebra crossing. What I found intriguing is that in the cities we visited people actually respect the significance of traffic lights. Safety. I cannot tell you how many times we stood by a red light with no oncoming vehicle and I was itching to cross to the other side but they say when you go to Rome do as the Romans do. I am sure you noticed some locals did not pay attention to the red light but the majority did and that matters because it implies that you are in a society that takes personal responsibility in ensuring safety and order which may look insignificant but plays a huge role in the efficient running of these cities. I am sure we all saw something that we know could work in our respective countries at no extra cost; something that would improve how our communities are run and make our relationships better. I guess it all boils down to personal conviction; the acknowledgement that you and I have a role to play in making this continent a better place without being policed. If we can start seeing ourselves as part of a bigger society and not individuals we can change our communities. If we can keep time someone else will learn from us eventually. If we can see a red light as a sign of safety and not wastage of time lives would be saved. If we can appreciate each other in our diversity maybe we will be a step away from world peace. If we fulfilled our role as citizens and demanded better service delivery and accountability maybe we will become economies in transition. A lot of maybes but we will never know unless we try.  
    4969 Posted by Eva Kimonye
  • 13 Feb 2017
    Every week we go to the market to buy groceries and this past week was no different. We mostly almost know what we are buying because frankly the choices are quite limited. One of my favourite things to do is picking cauliflower because of its colour and the contrast it gives in the sea of green and red vegetables. However, I could not make up my mind this week. The cauliflowers looked unhealthy and they had started yellowing and none appealed to me. I remember standing there and not wanting to make a choice and Diana insisting that her hands were full (how this related to making a choice is beyond me but I digress) and I needed to make up my mind. I did finally make a choice of 2 but I was not pleased with what we took home. I am almost sure other customers experienced my dilemma because according to a research done by Food and Agricultural Organization (FAO) food at the retail level is mostly bought because it looks good. That which does not appeal to the customers is left to rot or pulled off the shelves. It is no wonder then that a third of the food produced in the world goes to waste post harvest translating to 1.3 billion tons of food every year (FAO, 2011). A quarter of this wasted food could be used to feed approximately 900 million of the world hungry. This wastefulness does not begin at the retail or consumer level but starts with the farmer sorting, storing and transporting their produce. Research shows that farmers in developing countries lose as much as 15% of their income to post-harvest loss. The impact extends to water resources with around 25% of global fresh water and a fifth of farm land being used to grow crops that are never eaten.  These figures are staggering considering most of these wastage can be easily corrected through attitude and behavior change. Another solution lies in governments providing a suitable environment for innovations on ways to conserve food for longer periods and regulating market standards. Every time I have been to the market I have always noticed vegetables going bad and by now Diana considers my voiced concern as a rhetorical question. Unfortunately, this is not an issue that is unique to Algeria but something I have witnessed in the different countries I have visited as I am sure most of you would attest. It always baffles me that so much food goes to waste and is pulled down the shelves for disposal while we have so many people starving in our societies. France however is working towards changing this status quo through the introduction of legislation that requires retailers to donate unsold food or face a fine of 4,230 dollars. Other European countries like Germany, Britain and Denmark have also made strides in the reduction of food wastage. In Cologne for instance a “waste supermarket” was opened at the beginning of the month where only salvaged food is sold and consumers determine the price of the products. The owner of the store in an interview with DW confessed her aim was not so much as her selling food that would otherwise be considered waste but to stimulate a conversation on how much food the Germans waste and promote behavior change. On the other side of the globe the Kenyan president declared drought as a national disaster with the Kenya Red Cross estimating that 2.7 million people are facing starvation. It saddens me that we continue to lose lives and livestock because we cannot feed our population. The  more I think about it the more I become disgusted at our society that is so profit driven that you would rather have produce rot at the shelves or farms than donate it to the needy and at our government for failing to act in a timely manner. If we are to achieve the sustainable development goal 2 on Zero hunger by 2030 we not only need to promote sustainable agricultural practices but consumption habits as well. The governments need to come up with penalties to discourage retail wastage and drive awareness campaigns to change the way consumers view food and the consequences of food wastage for the rest of the population and the ecosystem.   Useful Links
    3599 Posted by Eva Kimonye
  • 08 Mar 2016
    I wonder when ethnic groups realized they were different, not because of their culture or practices but because of the color of their skin. When did skin color become more important than the blood that flows in our veins and when did the inner spirit that truly defines a person become second class? The emergence of the word race dates back to 17th century and is mostly used to categorize people primarily by their physical differences. I wonder who coined the word. I can imagine them sitting down in a dark room, smoking their pipes and sipping their fine scotch as they decided that the color of the skin, hair texture and facial features defined a man and his superiority. They must have had a water tight strategy because the propaganda spread like wildfire. It is no wonder the cosmetics industry has capitalized on this; there are countless lightening products in the market today and the buyers are not lacking. Think of all man has done, found cure to deadly diseases, travelled out of space, survived wars and natural disasters and yet he is unable to reconcile himself to the fact that he is one species; the human race. Not white, yellow, red, black, brown or whatever other classification you want to use. He is one species and we are all members of it I trust we have all watched or read the news on racial hate attacks or profiling. I used to think it cannot be that bad. The victims could rise beyond the hate, develop a hard skin and move on. After all, sticks and stones can break your bones but words cannot hurt you. Oh how terribly wrong I was, because when I came to be on the receiving end of the racial slur all I wanted to do was to crawl in a hole and hide. I wondered how someone could look at me and see an inferior being, a la couleur or even worse use the N word. I dreaded going out because it felt like I was walking into a lion’s den, I could feel the stares, feel them get ready to pounce as I walked on the streets and as if not ones to disappoint the shouts and crude remarks would start. I cannot tell you how many times I felt defiled or like a lesser human being.   I remember calling my best friend and bemoaning of how miserable and lonely I felt and I will never forget the words she said to me because they redefined my outlook on life here. She told me it would be a shame to live in a new country for two years and not know a soul. Hate is everywhere she argued but taking the victim role did not make me the better person. I had to reach out and open my heart to the new environment and the people. I thought she was crazy but I gave it a try and I have found acceptance for who I am and that somehow drowns the hate.   I will admit that I have gotten better at ignoring the shouts and the crude remarks. Maybe I have developed a thicker skin or I have come to the acceptance that every society has its rotten eggs. There are times I want to shout at the top of my voice or hit something or someone but that would only reinforce their belief that I am crazy plus I do not want to break my hand. So I ignore every word and go my way as if it doesn’t matter. But I still have questions, what resides in a heart that spews such venom or don’t they know it hurts? I am human too, I hurt and I crave for acceptance regardless of my skin color or my kinky hair. I bleed red, I breath oxygenand I am vulnerable with a heart that breaks just as easily. Yet in all these hate, I have found hope in the welcoming faces of total strangers and formed new friendships and I have learnt to never apologize for who I am because there can never be a more beautiful me.  
    3399 Posted by Eva Kimonye
  • 04 Apr 2016
    A question was recently posed to all of us, how did we come to hear about PAUWES and what are we planning to do after graduation next year. As you can imagine the answers were as valid as the number we are. I believe that when we all received the email offering us a place at the institute we weighed our options before committing to accept the offer. I was working for an engineering firm before I joined PAUWES and as much as I loved my line of work in the environmental and social field I was ready for change and here I am. Months later I am glad I made that decision because I have seen my areas of interest take shape in ways I never imagined before. I can clearly see myself working with communities in empowering women and men in adapting and mitigating impacts of climate change which will only come from creation of awareness and capacity building and involvement of all stakeholders in policy formulation in regards to resource use and exploitation.   I am not here to patronize anyone. We all had different expectations when we said yes to that offer back in July last year and I will be the first to admit that some of my expectations have not been met but others have been met beyond what was offered. One of the things I can credit the institute for is the creation of networking opportunities for all students. In March this year we had a symposium on renewable energy that saw researchers from Africa and Europe come together and spend almost a week in Tlemcen. The icing on the cake is all of us were in one way or another involved in the planning and coordinating the symposium activities. Fast forward in late March and we travelled to Germany where we were not only able to interact with experts in our relevant fields but with students who have been successful in doing research and for some coming up with new inventions. The willingness for them to help or refer us to someone who could offer a better perspective was humbling and appreciated.   So where am I going with all of this? I have heard the question time and again about where our fate lies once we graduate next year. I recognize that the uncertain future is a cause for worry for some of us and I know the job market is very competitive and sometimes all you need is someone to give you a push or put in a good word for you. What I do not agree with is our approach to the above. We cannot continue to complain about the opportunities that are not available while we are not using the ones provided. I want to pose a question to all of us, how many of us approached the professors and students during the symposium and in Germany seeking to create new networks and connections? How many of us approached someone and they said no to your request without giving you an alternative? Some may argue that not all of us are able to approach new people and strike a conversation but we also have to be willing to step into unfamiliar waters and take risks. It is nerve wrecking for the first time but I promise it gets easier.   When we signed the contract no one promised to offer us a job after graduation, I doubt any scholarship program promises that anywhere else in the world. What we have instead is a safe environment to connect and interact with experts from different fields and a chance to build our confidence level without the pressure of getting it right the first time. I look at networking as a reward point system, where every connection made is a point gained and you can redeem later on in life. We have the Community of Practice (CoP) that allows follow up and chances to show case our abilities outside the classroom environment as individuals or in our respective groups. Soon enough different companies data base will be uploaded and new opportunities will arise. More professors and experts will join and the community will grow. You have the liberty to invite someone to CoP if you feel that their expertise could be of help to you as an individual or others. If you identify a connection worth exploring and you have no idea how to approach them you can ask for help, there is always someone willing to give a hand. The possibilities are endless but we have to make that first step or we will never realize how many people are willing to walk with us. What saddens me is that we have not realized the opportunities provided to us or have not been willing to invest time to exploit them fully. We have not taken time to upload our resume or at the very least a profile picture or write to a new connection and clearly articulate our areas of interest and the kind of push we need. In my opinion the field is set and we only have to be willing to play in it. It would be sad if after two years we looked back at our time here with regret, 24 months is way too much time to spend pointing out what has not been given to you. If you think life gave you lemons the minute you stepped in PAUWES please make some lemonade summer is coming!
    2965 Posted by Eva Kimonye
2,012 views Apr 18, 2016
Prisoners of our own creation

This is for the generation born before the millennium. Those who know what it means to sit down and write a letter to a loved one or friend. Those of who like me had pen pals growing up and waited for days on end for their letters or postcards to get to you. For those who made long queues to make a minute call on the telephone booths and those who may know that a telegram is charged per word. This is for those of us who sat around the fire and listened to our grandparents talk the night away as they relived their lives.

The millennium came with its blessings and curses. For one communication has been made easier and we no longer have to look for smoke signs or wait for a life time before we get a reply to a letter, with a press of a button you can communicate to anyone in the world in real time. Take for example the social media facebook, twitter (I still cannot come up with a sensible 140 character message), pintrest, snapchat, instagram, whatsApp, viber………and the list goes on and on. All these platforms have brought the world to us, created an easier way to keep up with family and friends, opened up new opportunities that we could have only dreamt of. We have shared our milestones and failures on these platforms, our joy and pain, our dreams and aspirations and even our fears; they have simply become our public diaries.

These are milestones that the human race should be proud of but they have also marked the death of face to face conversation and time we take in nurturing relationships. We are more content in having a multitude of followers and friends who know nothing about us other than what we let them see. Have a look around you at the airports, restaurants, banks, buses, classes, everywhere you go people have their heads bent on their phones. We have the world at the tip of our fingers but the world is passing us by. We are so busy hash tagging our lives that we do not even realize that the most important relationships we have are crumbling because we are not putting as much effort into them as we should.

I find it sad that you can be seated in a room and instead of engaging in a conversation everybody is busy on their phones or laptops typing their worries away. If you visit most homes today, everyone is glued to their phones instead of looking up and connecting with the people who really mater, family. Nobody speaks anymore and few really listen.  In my opinion phones have made most of us ill mannered and rude. Some of us compulsively check our phones for notifications you would think we are in charge of some secret mission. In fact we are so far gone in this addiction that they have gone ahead and found a name for it “nomophobia”; the fear of being without a phone.

My close friends and I have a rule. If any of us touches their phone when we go out to eat you pay the bill for everyone on the table. Some may consider this an extreme measure that is unnecessary but we realized we have to nurture the relationships we share and listen to what the other person is saying without any distraction. It is time we drew the line and took back our lives and valuable time. We must make a conscious decision to unchain ourselves from the slavery that has become our phones. It is alright to let a call or a chat message go unanswered unless it is an emergency just because you want to share that moment with a loved one. It is time we took our lives and reclaimed the relationships we have lost or neglected. I believe it is time for us to stop measuring our worth on how many friends we have or the number of likes we get!