- Building a green wall to hold back the Sahara
The New York Times carried an article called “Senegal Helps Plant a Great Green Wall to Fend Off the Desert.” It mentions the changes in the environment from a time still remembered by elders when there were so many trees that you couldn’t see the sky to now, when the landscape is miles of reddish-brown sand dotted with occasional bushes and trees. Overgrazing and climate change are the major causes of the Sahara’s advance, said Gilles Boetsch, an anthropologist who directs a team of French scientists working with Senegalese researchers in the region. The article quotes him as saying: “The local Peul people are herders, often nomadic. But the pressure of the herds on the land has become too great…The vegetation can’t regenerate itself.”
Since 2008, however, Senegal has been fighting back against the encroaching desert. Each year it has planted some two million seedling trees along a 545-kilometer, or 340-mile, ribbon of land that is the country’s segment of a major pan-African regeneration project, the Great Green Wall.
While many countries have still to start on their sections of the barrier, Senegal has taken the lead, with the creation of a National Agency for the Great Green Wall.
- Australian art from the Tamami desert: A book review
The Australian carried a review of a book, Remembering the Future: Warlpiri Life through the Prism of Drawing, by visual anthropologist Melinda Hinkson. The book accompanies a capsule exhibition at the National Museum of Australia in Canberra. It draws on Mervyn Meggitt’s mid-20th century fieldwork in the settlement of Hooker Creek in the Northern Territory’s remote Tanami Desert. He aimied to produce a detailed ethnography of the Warlpiri desert people, and he employed all the standard investigative techniques of mid-century anthropology. But he also persuaded the Warlpiri to make a set of crayon drawings for him that would show how they saw the world. These were sketches, in vivid colors: landscapes, country, totemic animals, scenes from the Hooker Creek settlement. Many are images of stark simplicity; some are naive-seeming, some are elaborately conceived and worked. They form a striking record. They caught the eye of visual anthropologist, Melinda Hinkson, who made them her special focus. She took copies out to the desert capital of the Warlpiri, Yuendumu, and began learning about their meanings and their past.
- Women’s roles in Nepal: A book review
The Nepal Times published a review of Elizabeth Enslin’s book, While the Gods Were Sleeping. Enslin met her husband, Promod Parajuli, when they were graduate students at Stanford. After their marriage, she lived in Nepal as a daughter-in-law, learning about Nepali Brahmin culture first-hand. She interviewed women who joined the literacy classes initiated by her and her mother-in-law. Her mother-in-law plays a central and inspiring role in questioning the traditional place women are supposed to keep in Nepali Brahmin society and family. The reviewer notes that “…the timeframe of the book is the 1980s-90s, and Nepal has changed dramatically since then. So, readers looking at more contemporary trends in gender relations, community activism, the role of mothers’ groups and female health volunteers in public health awareness will be disappointed.” (more…)