Photo: when the sun hits the right spot

My colleagues and myslef were visiting the border between Pakistan and India near Lahore. Everyday, there is a traditional closing of the border ceremony (more pictures to follow on this). I was sitting in the stands, shouting PA-KI-STAN at the top of my voice, and whilst looking around, saw that the spire of the border gates was struck by the sun in the perfect light. hope you enjoy the effect

My colleagues and myslef were visiting the border between Pakistan and India near Lahore. Everyday, there is a traditional closing of the border ceremony (more pictures to follow on this). I was sitting in the stands, shouting PA-KI-STAN at the top of my voice, and whilst looking around, saw that the spire of the border gates was struck by the sun in the perfect light. hope you enjoy the effect

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What do you think of when you think of Afghanistan…

friendly people in a market in Bamyan

friendly people in a market in Bamyan

What do you think of when you think of Afghanistan?
War, Taleban, jihad, deserted mountains, insurgency, war, freedom against oppression, America’s war, Pashtun people, war, war and more war?
First of all, Afghanistan is a country, populated by 32 million people. Yes there are horrible people there, just as there are disgusting human beings in western societies. The lack of a unified justice system and corruption in governments allow them more freedom out there it is true, but I would bet we have just as many dishonest and revolting people in the West as they have. Our society is just better at identifying them and cracking down on them
My point is people are just people, wherever you may go.
What Afghanistan is not, contrary to what media outlets try to make you believe, is a country full of people ready to slit your throat to steal the 10 dollars you have in your wallet, ready to kidnap you because of what your skin colour represents, ready to wage holy war and kill every western or Christian person they see indiscriminately.
This article, http://www.counterpunch.org/2013/07/25/under-americas-surveillance-dome/ ) a truly well written account of the “rule of law” in USA, shows the bias western media has when commenting on international polemics. I urge you to read it in order for your mind to have that 10 minutes of balance when reacting to news we receive through our little screens on our desks or in our hands.
I cannot write as well as the author of the article above, Rev William E. Alberts, but I echo his sentiments completely. We in the UK are relatively lucky to possess a media that still has an element of freedom to it (although this is being chipped away at gradually), contrary to state and corporate owned media in the US. I am not going to start becoming holier-than-thou in this blog, as this is probably not why you’ve clicked on it in the first place, but I guess my message would be: please please please make an effort to read news that is balanced and not written for political ends. Research all points of views before simply basing your own opinion on what you see in one article or bulletin. The world is not just black, or just white. Every person sees the world and its history in a different way, and the more you speak and understand others’ point of view, the more learned you will become.
Just a thought on a sunny Friday morning…
For your information, when I see Afghanistan, I see kebabs and fruits, old men smoking hashish in the parks, green tea being brewed on street corners, battered old cars that still carry on, black hair and green eyes. Most of them, just like you and me, revere family, love their friends, respect their wives as their culture dictates, play football or cricket in the park on weekends, drink tea and whose first instinct is to be helpful and smiling if someone approaches them.

And although I feel tense when walking around, I wonder how much of this is created in my head to what is actually happening out there…

Photo: A sunset over Kathmandu in Nepal

Nepal is a glorious country, and one that needs to be visited to be understood. I only stayed a week for work, but the hospitality and generosity from the locals and colleagues was staggering. On one evening, I went up a very famous tower in central Kathmandu and was lucky to see the capital in nice light. Hope this picture pushed you to visit the country!

Nepal is a glorious country, and one that needs to be visited to be understood. I only stayed a week for work, but the hospitality and generosity from the locals and colleagues was staggering. On one evening, I went up a very famous tower in central Kathmandu and was lucky to see the capital in nice light. Hope this picture pushed you to visit the country!

Photo: A South Sudanese woman in a market in Northern DR Congo

South Sudanese woman in Northern Congo market

This woman, whose name I unfortunately cannot remember, lived in what is now South Sudan and left during the recent troubles in Juba. She crossed into DRC and now lives in Aru, near the Ugandan border. She is growing cassava and banana to sell at the moment and is an expert seamstress. She owns her own sowing machine and gets good income from it. She was very happy to talk to me about the problems in the area. The North East Congo-Uganda-South Sudan region used to be a lawless area where many bad things happened. It is however easier now, and she is looking forward to returning to her native Juba soon. For her and her family, I really hope this happens! good luck!

Photo: Plant Health rallies in DR Congo

At CABI, we have an initiative called plant health rallies, where we interview farmers on a particular disease in the area. This can be banana bacterial wilt, cocoa black pod, Cassava mosaic virus... The big problems are the ones that not only affect farmer's crops constantly, but also their wallets. Plant health rallies are an organised extension initiative that aims at collecting information on the extent of the disease, as well as giving the farmers interviewed valuable information on  disease control and management. It is a hard day's work, as I would normally interview 200 farmers in 4 or 5 villages, and pass on information, as well as giving speeches to draw the crowd in! It is all worthwhile though, as the information we give them will hopefully aid their crop obtain better yields!

At CABI, we have an initiative called plant health rallies. this involves riding out to rural areas and interviewing farmers on a particular disease in the area, and giving them practical, economic and safe solutions for fighting the disease. This can be banana bacterial wilt, cocoa black pod disease, Cassava mosaic virus… These  problems affect their crops, but also their wallets. Plant Health Rallies are an organised extension initiative that aims at collecting information on the extent of the disease for future development of control techniques, as well as giving the farmers interviewed valuable information on disease control and management. It is a hard day’s work, as I would normally interview 200 farmers in 4 or 5 villages, and explain how to control the problem, as well as giving speeches on a chair in a random market to draw the crowd in! It is all worthwhile though, as the information we give them will hopefully aid their crop obtain better yields! I do get some people who look at me strangely. Photo: Dr Eric Boa

Photo: a bit of art in the fruit market of Kabul

These two guys were listening in to my interview of a farmer in Kabul fruit market. I was asking the farmer whether the information on the disease factsheet was accurate in relation to his crop. He was just talking about the improvements we can make to the factsheet when these two came round and started giving thier opinions. The more the better, and the factsheet for coddling moth on apple is now finished, and has been distributed to all major Afghan government department in rural areas. Thanks for the input guys!

These two guys were listening in to my interview of a farmer in Kabul fruit market. I was asking the farmer whether the information on the disease factsheet was accurate in relation to his crop. He was just talking about the improvements we can make to the factsheet when these two came round and started giving thier opinions. The more the better, and the factsheet for coddling moth on apple is now finished, and has been distributed to all major Afghan government department in rural areas. Thanks for the input guys!

Photo: Kabul and its many wonders

In Kabul, the fruit market is usually teeming in the morning. There is hardly any place to move. However, as the afternoon wears on, the place relaxes and you can actually start talking to locals. I was taking pictures of fruit diseases (yes that’s how cool I am) and a couple of local kids came up to me and started posing. I was playing around a bit, but then they wanted to see the pictures I had taken. They were not satisfied with them, so they made me concentrate! It took at least ten minutes to set this one up properly. The result is great though… Just looking at the eyes shows me a different world…