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News and Updates from our Chapter

18 Apr


Abdul Latif Jameel Poverty Action Lab

April 18, 2010 | By |

Translating Research Into Action

The Abdul Latif Jameel Poverty Action Lab (J-PAL) is an international network of 44 affiliated professors using “Randomized Evaluations (REs) to answer questions critical to poverty alleviation. J-PAL’s mission is to reduce poverty by ensuring that policy is based on scientific evidence” through:

  • “Conducting Rigorous Impact Evaluations–  J-PAL researchers conduct randomized evaluations to test and improve the effectiveness of programs and policies aimed at reducing poverty. There are more than 174 evaluations that have been either completed or are ongoing.
  • Building Capacity–  J-PAL provides expertise to people interested in rigorous program evaluation, and training to others on how to conduct randomized evaluations.
  • Impacting Policy–  J-PAL’s policy group performs cost-effectiveness analysis to identify the most effective ways to achieve policy goals, disseminates this knowledge to policymakers, and works with governments, NGOs, foundations, and international development organizations to promote the scale-up of highly effective policies and programs around the world.”  (Quoted text is from the J-PAL website)

There’s a lot of interesting reading on their site, for anyone involved in action against poverty, whether with small- or large-scale organizations, and whether in your local community or internationally. 

J-Pal’s Esther Duflo, an economics professor at M.I.T., is one of the latest recipients of the MacArthur Genius Grant.  There’s a great article about her on the Global Envision website of Mercy Corps, which is worth a peek in its own right. 

As I’m always keeping an eye out for useful EWB “Member Learning” and discussion materials, I was sure to save the link to the presentation slides from Dr. Duflo’s Barcelona Economics Lecture on January 14, 2009, entitled “Fighting Poverty Effectively: Creating Experimentation in Development Economics.

08 Apr


Borderless Music

April 8, 2010 | By |

Sharing a few fantastic African and World Music video clips

Since the launch of our newly redesigned EWB-Grand River website, I’ve been ferreting through useful resources to share here, both with our own chapter members and other interested folk who drop by.  Due to the serious nature of much of the work in which EWB is involved, a lot of the information I’ll be sharing is indeed serious.  However, I think it might encourage people to pop by these posts, if I mix it up a bit and occasionally share some resources that are a bit more entertaining.  For example, I’d like to use some African music and art as an enjoyable and educational component in our ongoing efforts to reinforce and celebrate our connection to Africa. 

I had started looking through some of my African music CDs last week, thinking about putting together a few tracks to play before and after a member learning workshop or a group meeting, to pep things up a little.  Sharing a little African and international music could energize and loosen-up a meeting, while also fostering our sense of connection across the geographical and cultural distances.  It would also be useful to have handy the web links or DVDs of a couple relevant music videos, in case someone in our chapter wants to play some intriguing and inspiring images during those useable but unstructured minutes between the first person arriving and the last person getting seated and our meeting finally getting underway, 

But why wait?  Let me share a couple of my favourite new African music videos with you here.  These are by two internationally popular and acclaimed musicians from Mali.  Please turn up your computer speakers and click each video’s full screen icon “plein écran”.  With some of the Alloclips videos, the toolbar at the bottom of the video window might not be accessible until you are about 10 seconds into the clip.  By the way, when you go to the Alloclips site, the video you play might be preceded by a brief commercial for one of the other albums on the website.

From the incredible Salif Keita‘s album  La Différence, this is the title track video.

The visuals may look a little utilitarian at the beginning of the video, but hang in there, you will soon see where it is going and some of these images are wonderful.   A little background from Wikipedia: 

Keita’s latest album, La Différence is dedicated to the struggle of the world albino community (Keita is an albino) … In one of the album’s tracks, the singer calls others to understand that “difference” does not mean “bad” and to show love and compassion towards albinos like everyone else:  “I am black/ my skin is white/ so I am white and my blood is black/… I love that because it is a difference that’s beautiful … some of us are beautiful some are not/ some are black some are white/ all that difference was on purpose… for us to complete each other/ let everyone get his love and dignity/ the world will be beautiful.”  This phrase “the world (life) will be beautiful” is the repeated refrain “La vie sera belle”.

From Rokia Traoré we have the lovely song “Dounia“, from her 2009 album Tchamantché.

I have quite a few fabulous African music CDs, ranging from very traditional to thoroughly modern, sung in various languages, and from almost every country on the continent.  However, as far as African music videos go, I mostly have only low resolution fan-filmed YouTube-type concert clips.  What I’m a little short of are professionally filmed African music videos with the high resolution images that would stand up to being shown on a large screen using a projector.  If you know of any good ones, whether available online or on a DVD for purchase, do let me know by posting a comment.

Briefly getting a tad off topic, here’s an Alloclips music video for any of you football (soccer) fans eagerly looking forward to the 2010 FIFA World Cup in South Africa starting in June – Akon’s “Oh Africa“.   And for hip hop fans, check out this video of the song by Salif Keita and the French rap group L’Skadrille about postcolonial immigration policy in France:  “Nou Pas Bouger” (“You Can’t Move Us”).  

I’m closing this post with an interesting video from Rachid Taha, “Indie (1+1+1)“, that in its own way echoes the message:  though it’s a big, diverse world out there, we are all joined together on the journey!  And remember, please feel free to recommend your own favourite African or “borderless” music videos.   Throughout the year. I’ll occasionally be sharing some more music or art links on the themes of connecting to Africa and uniting across borders.

23 Mar


AllAfrica: Excellent Source for African News

March 23, 2010 | By |

As their ‘Who We Are’ page describes: “AllAfrica Global Media is a multi-media content service provider, systems technology developer and the largest electronic distributor of African news and information worldwide.”  I find their headlines RSS really useful for keeping an eye on African news.  Bonnes nouvelles for our francophone members, AllAfrica also has a French site.    

Two articles I found really interesting last week are:

Ghana:  Massive Jatropha Farming Threatens Food Security   –  A recent study by Action Aid Ghana   (AAG) and their Food Security Policy Advocacy Network   (FoodSPAN)  in four Ghanaian regions, shows that the production of biofuel (from Jatropha oil)  is having a detrimental impact on food crop farmers.

Ghana:  New Wells Boost School Attendance, Improve Public Health  –  This short news item reports some encouraging results from the United Nations Development Program’s Community Water Initiative in Zukpuri Traditional Area in Ghana.  One of the impressive improvements resulting from this UNDP project has been an increase in local school attendance rates from 25 percent to 95 percent.

09 Mar


‘Science’ Special Issue On Food Security

March 9, 2010 | By |

A special collection of articles in the February 12th issue of Science (the weekly journal of the American Association for the Advancement of Science) examines a wide range of topics on the subject of Food Security.

If you just have two minutes, check out the short promo video “Feeding the Future” on the introductory page of this issue.  If you have 30 minutes, you may be interested in the special audio podcast.

Science has made access to this special section free, though non-subscribers are required to fill out a simple registration.  You may find it useful to complete the basic free registration to AAAS anyway if you’re not already a member, as it gives you full access (hoorah!) to all Science journal articles (after 1997) over one year old.  For those who might not feel like using the registration process, I’ve starred the few titles from this special issue where you can access the article in full, just by clicking on the “Read the Full Text” tab at the end of the summary paragraphs.

If you only have time to skim through one article, I’d suggest the excellent review article Food Security: The Challenge of Feeding 9 Billion People.  And if you’re looking for an interesting Dorothy (who is Dorothy?) story in this issue, do check out the news story From One Farmer about Winifred Omoding, a farmer in Olagara, Uganda.

Here’s the listing of articles:


From One Farmer, Hope – and Reason for Worry  Gaia Vince
Getting More Drops to the Crops  Gaia Vince
China’s Push to Add by Subtracting Fertilizer  Mara Hvistendahl
*Sowing the Seeds for the Ideal Crop  Elizabeth Pennisi

*Armed and Dangerous  Elizabeth Pennisi
Holding Back a Torrent of Rats  Dennis Normile
Spoiling for a Fight with Mold  Dennis Normile
*Dialing Up Knowledge – and Harvests  Richard Stone
*What It Takes to Make That Meal
Could Less Meat Mean More Food?  Erik Stokstad
For More Protein, Filet of Cricket  Gretchen Vogel


* Food Security: The Challenge of Feeding 9 Billion People  H. C. J. Godfray et al
Breeding Technologies to Increase Crop Production in a Changing World   M. Tester and P. Langridge


Smart Investments in Sustainable Food Production: Revisiting Mixed-Crop-Livestock Systems  M. Herrero et al
Measuring Food Insecurity  C. B. Barrett
Precision Agriculture and Food Security  R. Gebbers and V. I. Adamchuk
African Green Revolution Needn’t Be a Mirage  G. Ejeta
*Radically Rethinking Agriculture for the 21st Century N. V. Fedoroff et al