Sargassum

Towards the end of June 2011, huge amounts of Sargassum started to wash ashore all along the beaches of Sierra Leone. The species looks like Sargassum fluitans which is one of the species that makes up the Sargasso Sea – in the Med there is more commonly S vulgare or S. hornschuci; but identification is not confirmed. People speculated about its origin, as local people had never seen anything like it before. There have been recent reports of huge casts like this from Half-Moon Bay and other sites in Antigua in the Caribbean. Some of them are seriously affecting resorts there.
I personally returned 9 stranded baby turtles back to the surf, as of course floating rafts of Sargassum can be an important shelter for baby turtles and other juvenile sea life.
The shores were fairly weed free for 6 weeks or so and then an even bigger quantity came in mid August 2011.

Sargassum on Lumley Beach, Aberdeen, Sierra Leone


Close up of Sargassum in Sierra Leone


The extract below comes from http://arlohemphill.com/2011/08/change-is-in-the-air-seaweed-seaweed-everywhere/ where more info can be found.
Over recent weeks, scientists and resource managers in such diverse places as Trinidad, the Dominican Republic and Sierra Leone have been reporting unusual incidents of seaweed washing ashore in massive quantities. The seaweed is a type of brown algae known as Sargassum, which commonly drifts on ocean currents of the North Atlantic and Gulf of Mexico. This algae is well-known for washing up en masse on beaches in places such as Florida, Texas and Bermuda. What’s different this year is not so much the quantities, but the geography. The islands of the Lesser Antilles report never having seen this much of the seaweed before (although it is normally present in their waters), while the country of Sierra Leone has never known it under any quantity.

Sierra Leone Sights & Sounds – Rice Farming, Bunce Island, Street Dance

Rice
Rice has become a commodity of strategic significance across much of Africa.
Driven by changing food preferences in the urban and rural areas and compounded by high population growth rates and rapid urbanization, rice consumption in sub-Saharan Africa has increased by nearly 6% per annum between 1961 and 1992, more than double the rate of population growth, with consumption and production spreading well beyond their traditional centres in West Africa and Madagascar. West Africa has become a significant player in world rice markets precisely because of its increasingly significant share of world rice imports,
The slow growth in domestic rice production has been attributed to the very low yield being achieved by West African rice farmers. The major rice production systems are upland, hydromorphic and rainfed lowland which together occupy more than 74% of area cultivated.
Whilst I was in the Freetown Port recently, I watched a vessel from Chittagong Bangladesh, where I worked and lived for 2 years, unloading huge quantities of rice from Bangladesh and India. To me this is an unfortunate set of circumstances, as Sierra Leone has huge potential for efficient rice farming and imports such as this would seem to use much needed foreign exchange.
rice farming video
rice farming

Bunce Island
Bunce Island was the largest British slave castle on the Rice Coast of West Africa. Founded around 1670, it exported tens of thousands of African captives to North America and the West Indies until the British Parliament finally closed it down in 1808. During its long and tragic history, Bunce Island was operated by four London-based companies: the Gambia Adventurers; the Royal African Company of England (which had official recognition from the British Crown); and the private firms of Grant, Oswald & Company and John & Alexander Anderson.

During the 1750s Richard Oswald, Bunce Island’s principal owner, forged a strong business and personal relationship with Henry Laurens, one of the richest rice planters and slave dealers in the Colony of South Carolina. Rice planters in coastal South Carolina and Georgia were willing to pay high prices for people brought from the Rice Coast of West Africa where farmers had been growing rice for hundreds of years and were experts at its cultivation.

African rice-growing know-how was essential to the prosperity of the American rice industry. Henry Laurens acted as Bunce Island’s business agent in Charleston, receiving the castle’s human cargoes from Sierra Leone and advertising and selling the African captives at auction. Laurens took a 10% commission on each sale, returning the profits to Oswald in London, often in the form of rice paid by South Carolina planters.

Bunce Island’s history illustrates the complex economic relationship between the West African Rice Coast and Great Britain’s Southern Colonies. Its records show that Henry Laurens sent his own ships directly to Bunce Island to obtain slaves for his newly opened rice plantations in coastal Georgia, paying for them with ship-building supplies made from Carolina pine. The Bunce Island’s records also show that Henry Laurens helped his British business partner, Richard Oswald, open up new plantations near St. Augustine, and that Oswald dispatched a number of his skilled African workers directly from Bunce Island to build his plantations in Florida.

Bunce Island also illustrates the slave trade’s political impact in North America. During the American Revolutionary War the French, jealous of Bunce Island’s commercial success, took the opportunity of their alliance with the American colonists to attack and destroy the castle in 1779. Thus, a battle of the American Revolution was actually fought on Bunce Island. But even more important, Henry Laurens, who had grown rich from the trade in African slave labor, became President of the Continental Congress and later US envoy to Holland. Captured by the British and imprisoned in the Tower of London, he was bailed out of jail by his friend Richard Oswald. Later, Laurens and Oswald sat across the table from one another at the Paris negotiations that led to American independence. Thus, US independence was negotiated, in part, between Bunce Island’s British owner and his long-time agent for the sale of Rice Coast Africans in South Carolina.

Bunce Island also illustrates the enduring family ties between the Gullah people — African Americans living today in coastal South Carolina and Georgia — and their Rice Coast cousins. In recent years Gullah people have made two well-publicized pilgrimages to Bunce Island. In 1989, Emory Campbell, Director of Penn Center on St. Helena Island, South Carolina, led a group of Gullahs to Bunce Island in a tearful journey memorably recorded in the PBS documentary “Family Across the Sea.” In 1997, Mary Moran and her family from Harris Neck, Georgia visited Bunce Island on their trip to Sierra Leone to meet the Mende people who share an ancient African song they have retained in their family for generations here in America. Mrs. Moran’s visit is recorded in the documentary, “The Language You Cry In.”

bunce island sl

Street Dancing
street dancing

Nature
Like many other developing countries, Sierra Leone struggles with the conflict surrounding natural resource exploitation and issues like greenhouse gas emissions, biodiversity conservation and eco-tourism potential. Huge areas of the original rich rain forest habitat have been removed or severely damaged by slash and burn, however there are some examples of habitat conservation, such as the Gola Forest.

A rainforest in Sierra Leone has won protection from the country’s government for an indefinite period in a move heralded as one of the first examples of a state using forest conservation to cut its carbon emissions.

The news came as the UN climate change conference in Bali enters its critical final week. Thousands of delegates from almost 200 countries are attending the summit, to discuss how to cut greenhouse gas emissions after current Kyoto protocol targets expire in 2012. So far, progress has been slow, with the US remaining the only developed country to have refused to ratify the treaty.

President Ernest Bai Koroma of Sierra Leone is expected today to back the plans to make the 185,000-acre Gola Forest, about half the size of London, the nation’s second national park. This will protect at least 50 species of mammal, 2,000 different plants and 274 species of bird, 14 of which are close to extinction.

It is hoped that Gola, close to the Liberian border in the south-east of the west African country, will become the flagship site in a network of national parks planned by the President. Six more are due to be established in the future, to develop the country’s tourist industry as it recovers from the civil war that tore it apart in the 1990s.

The Gola project is being jointly funded by the European Commission, the French government, the Royal Society for the Protection of Birds and the United States-based Conservation International.

Alistair Gammell, the international director of the RSPB, said: “We are helping the government turn a logging forest into a protected forest. Huge amounts of carbon will be saved and the site is an excellent example to those now involved in climate talks in Bali. It is showing how richer countries can help poorer countries protect wildlife, support local communities and tackle climate change.”

More than 100,000 people from local communities will be paid annually to replace earlier royalties linked to logging and diamond mining in the forest, and scientists will be encouraged to study Gola’s wildlife in the hope of creating a hub for the increasingly popular practice of eco-tourism.

The European Commission and the French government are contributing more than 3m towards the project, training hundreds of staff to patrol the forest’s boundaries, monitor wildlife and run education programmes. A 6m trust fund is also being established to cover the park’s running costs and the annual payments to local communities.

Gola is part of the Upper Guinea Forest, which once spread itself across five countries. Less than 30 per cent of it remains, following hundreds of years of aggressive deforestation for the sake of timber, agriculture and charcoal. The Conservation Society of Sierra Leone launched a project to save the forest 15 years ago, but during the civil war, from 1991 to 2002, work was suspended and the government became powerless to protect it. The forest is home to leopards, chimpanzees and forest elephants, as well as hundreds of rare species of bird.

Meanwhile, the President of Guyana, in South America, recently proposed placing his country’s entire 50 million-acre forest, almost the combined size of England and Scotland, under a British-led international body in return for securing aid for sustainable development and technical assistance in switching to green industries.
nature

Sierra Leone Wildlife

Amongst the hussle and bussle of Freetown or scouring the road for an oncoming pudapuda or taxi crabbing at you, it is easy to miss some of the beautiful animals in this colourful place.
I love these lizards, the Agama agama, which are everywhere and are real characters, from scurrying out to catch a fallen insect to the push ups the males do whilst posing.

Sierra Leone Snakes

Despite huge areas of forest habitat loss each year due to slash and burn agricultural practices, some species are able to adapt, such as chimpanzee and also many snake species. Here are some photos of snakes caught recently in Tonkolili District.

olive whip snake


Closer look at the Olive whip snake


The Olive whip snake looks very much like a black mamba from first glance, but has backward facing fangs, slightly more shiny skin and is nowhere near as deadly.

The colourful Gaboon Viper


The Gaboon Viper feeds on small mammals (particularly rodents), birds and amphibians such as frogs. Their excellent camouflage allows them to hide in leaves on the forest floor while waiting for prey. The Gaboon is a venomous snake and its bite can be very harmful and possibly fatal to humans.The average length of an adult Gaboon Viper can range from 4 – 6 feet. The Gaboon is a heavy snake with a weight of 15 – 18 pounds. The Gaboon Viper’s fangs can be from 1 – 2 inches in length. The Gaboon has excellent camouflage with angular brown shapes on its back and a tan head that is shaped like a leaf.
The western green mamba or West African green mamba (Dendroaspis viridis) is a long, thin venomous arboreal snake native to West Africa, including Liberia and Côte d’Ivoire. It has large green scales outlined in black, and grows up to two meters in length. The scales on its long tail are yellow and edged in black. It is mostly diurnal, but may be active at night as well. Its habitat is the rainforest. Its natural prey includes birds, lizards, and mammals. Two very close relatives of the Western green mamba are the Eastern green mamba, and the Black mamba.

The striking Western Green mamba

Sierra Leone slash and burn

Typical landscape in Northern Sierra Leone; widespread deforestation with some trees only retained near the village


Like so many other areas in West Africa the practice of slash and burn agriculture continues to impact on the natural forest and its biodiversity. The Guinean Forests of West Africa are one of the most critically endangered regions on the planet and also one of the most fragmented habitats.
With a total land area of 71,325 km2, it is one of the smallest countries in coastal West Africa. Only 93,047 km², or 15 percent, of its original forest cover remains, with most of the remaining forest exploited for timber or threatened by hunting and therefore not representative of intact habitat.
The natural vegetation includes lowland moist and semi-deciduous forests, which constitute the westernmost extent of West Africa’s Upper Guinea ecosystem, as well as inland valley swamps, bolilands and wooded savannah. Ten major rivers form the drainage systems, flowing southwest and roughly parallel, from the northern uplands to the extensive mangrove swamps along the coast. The wildlife is typical of the Upper Guinea ecosystem with a few locally endemic species, but with numerous species that find their westernmost range in Sierra Leone. Most of the forested land in the country now is in forest reserves. In the 1500s, large areas of moist tropical lowland forest covered about half of Sierra Leone, when it is likely that that population densities were very low, and that most people practicing slash-and-burn agriculture would have had only limited and localized impact on the forest. Large scale agricultural change only began following the first wave of European colonization in the mid-sixteenth century, where demand for ship building stimulated logging of larger specimen trees.
The practice of clearing, cultivating and then letting land lie fallow is widespread is the major source of livelihood for the rural population. With human population increase, fallow periods are becoming shorter and the demand for richer soils provided by the remaining ‘virgin’ forested land continues to rise.
The net result of slash and burn is massive depletion of biomass, soil erosion and production of a sandy-type soil, that is drought prone and non water retentive as the heat of the scorching fires incinerates the thin organic matter, as well as the majority of the native seed bank. The rich forests that supported high biodiversity of plants and animals is replaced by a species poor swathe of species such as elephant grass, whilst the animals are increasingly targeted for bush meat, further reducing the biodiversity value of the land.
Bushmeat hunting is an important source of protein for rural West Africa and yet also one of the greatest threats to the region’s fauna. Growing urban populations, improved road networks, and increased access to forests have created a huge commercialized trading system for it both nationally and internationally.
Threats to biodiversity in the region are inextricably linked to poverty, which drives urgent short-term needs that often eliminate long-term opportunities.

Fish

Managed to get out fishing for a couple of hours for the first time. Barracuda and jack – very tasty.

Always pays to keep clear of these teeth


Took 35 minutes to get this on board, very tasty steaks, like fillet beef steak done in the wok.


Short time on the water

Sierra Leone

Vast array of colour to see in the country

Fishermen hauling the nets, Pepel area

Fishermen hauling the nets, Pepel area


Head full of fresh fish, Lungi

Head full of fresh fish, Lungi


Slippery silvers

Slippery silvers


Life is ok until someone disturbs your fun

Life is ok until someone disturbs your fun


Experienced hand at work

Experienced hand at work


Smiling faces

Smiling faces


Yellow fin Tuna for tea

Yellow fin Tuna for tea

Tashkent sights

The city like so many in Central Asia is undergoing a facelift and modernisation. Where the old meets the new, the health and safety is always a pleasure to observe – like this renovation where the guys below were dodging the chunks of concrete generated by the jack hammers above. I particularly liked the human brick chain; 4 passes and then stack the bricks.

building site Tashkent

building site Tashkent

Uzbekistan Associated Gas CDM Project

The World Bank is considering providing assistance to Uzbekneftegas for utilization of oil gas at four oil deposits under CDM mechanism. Huckbody Environmental has been commissioned by World Bank to provide the safeguards component for the project, which involves travel to Karshi in Southern Uzbekistan to carry out a site visit of the project facilities (including associated gas fields and the pipeline corridor).
How Karshi got its name
Many years ago there was a beautiful village called Nasaf. It was not a big town, it only had a castle and a king named Mahmut Ratshah. He lived with his family, and they were very happy. But one day the army of Ruzakovski came, and they wanted to take the castle of Nasaf. But the castle of Nasaf and its people were very strong, and they could not take it. The next day an even bigger army came, which was over one thousand strong.
They fought for three days and three nights, but still they could not subdue the castle. Then Ruzokovski announced. “This castle is against us. I will give it the name “Karshi”, which in the Uzbek language means against.
Long ago Karshi had many names, for example Nasaf and Behbudiy. Some people say there were seven names. Karshi is in the desert, and many people said that Karshi is Chorsu, which means in Tajik “Four waters”.

Karshi

Karshi


Samarkand

Samarkand

Old City Baku

Old City or Inner City is the ancient historical core of Baku. In December 2000, the Old City of Baku, including the Palace of the Shirvanshahs and Maiden Tower, became the first location in Azerbaijan to be classified as a World Heritage Site by UNESCO.




Old streets being excavated for infrastructure improvements

Old streets being excavated for infrastructure improvements