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Archive for October 5th, 2009

Police arrest crocodile…..for loitering

Posted by Administrator on October 5, 2009

Police in Australia ‘arrested’ a crocodile and locked it up in a cell after it was discovered loitering in a town.

Locals called out the police after the 7ft saltwater crocodile turned up at Arrkuluk Camp in the Northern Territory.

Officers said they found it loitering near a fence “trying to look innocent”, reports the Northern Territory News.

Sergeant Adam Russell said: “I wanted to jump on it Steve Irwin style but the rangers wouldn’t let me.”

Instead, the crocodile was bound and bundled into the back of a pickup truck, and taken to the police cells.

She was held in custody for three days until experts from a crocodile farm came to pick her up.

Sgt Russell added: “We cut the ropes on her legs just so she could move around… we couldn’t have her tied up for all that time.

“We just hosed her down every couple of hours. She got a bit cranky when she was in the cells – started hissing when people came near.”

 

Source: Ananova

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Conservatives Remove Liberal Passages From The Bible

Posted by Administrator on October 5, 2009

Lo and behold, the Bible has gotten too liberal, according to a group of conservatives. And it needs a little editing.

That’s the inspiration behind the Conservative Bible Project, which seeks to take the text back to its supposed right-wing roots.

Yes, even scripture is not orthodox enough for the modern conservative. Not that it’s the fault of the author(s), exactly. The group cites a few reasons why the Bible is too progressive: “Lack of precision in the original language … lack of precision in modern language” and “translation bias in converting the original language to the modern one.”

So how can the Bible be conservatized? The group has proposed a Wikipedia-like group editing project. Some of the ideas would only bring the translation closer to the original. But others would fundamentally change the text.

1. Framework against Liberal Bias: providing a strong framework that enables a thought-for-thought translation without corruption by liberal bias2. Not Emasculated: avoiding unisex, “gender inclusive” language, and other modern emasculation of Christianity
3. Not Dumbed Down: not dumbing down the reading level, or diluting the intellectual force and logic of Christianity; the NIV is written at only the 7th grade level[3]
4. Utilize Powerful Conservative Terms: using powerful new conservative terms as they develop;[4] defective translations use the word “comrade” three times as often as “volunteer”; similarly, updating words which have a change in meaning, such as “word”, “peace”, and “miracle”.
5. Combat Harmful Addiction: combating addiction by using modern terms for it, such as “gamble” rather than “cast lots”;[5] using modern political terms, such as “register” rather than “enroll” for the census
6. Accept the Logic of Hell: applying logic with its full force and effect, as in not denying or downplaying the very real existence of Hell or the Devil.
7. Express Free Market Parables; explaining the numerous economic parables with their full free-market meaning
8. Exclude Later-Inserted Liberal Passages: excluding the later-inserted liberal passages that are not authentic, such as the adulteress story
9. Credit Open-Mindedness of Disciples: crediting open-mindedness, often found in youngsters like the eyewitnesses Mark and John, the authors of two of the Gospels
10. Prefer Conciseness over Liberal Wordiness: preferring conciseness to the liberal style of high word-to-substance ratio; avoid compound negatives and unnecessary ambiguities; prefer concise, consistent use of the word “Lord” rather than “Jehovah” or “Yahweh” or “Lord God.”

 

Among the words to be eliminated: “government.” A conservative columnist at Beliefnet described the effort as “just crazy … like what you’d get if you crossed the Jesus Seminar with the College Republican chapter at a rural institution of Bible learnin’.”

 
SOURCE: HUFFINGTON POST

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Help Stop Child abuse: The Peter Connelly Story

Posted by Administrator on October 5, 2009

Children are suffering from a hidden epidemic of child abuse and neglect. Over 3 million reports of child abuse are made every year in the United States; however, those reports can include multiple children.  In 2007, approximately 5.8 million children were involved in an estimated 3.2 million child abuse reports and allegations.

Statistics
-Almost five children die everyday as a result of child abuse.   More than three out of four are under the age of 4.

-It is estimated that between 60-85% of child fatalities due to maltreatment are not recorded as such on death certificates.

-A report of child abuse is made every ten seconds.

-Ninety percent of child sexual abuse victims know the perpetrator in some way; 68% are abused by family members.

-Child abuse occurs at every socio-economic level, across ethnic and cultural lines, within all religions and at all levels of education.

-Thirty-one percent of women in prison in the United States were abused as children.

-Over 60% of people in drug rehabilitation centers report being abused or neglected as a child.

-About 30% of abused and neglected children will later abuse their own children, continuing the horrible cycle of abuse.

-About 80% of 21 year old that were abused as children met criteria for at least one psychological disorder.

-The estimated annual cost resulting from child abuse and neglect in the United States for 2007 is $104 billion. 

DATA SOURCES: www.cdc.gov/mmwr

One victim of child abuse is Peter Connelly. Peter underwent brutal abuse from his stepfather and eventually lost his life in the hands of a brutal man. Watch video for more.

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Thousands of Hotmail users hacked

Posted by Administrator on October 5, 2009

Microsoft has confirmed that thousands of Hotmail accounts have been compromised in a phishing attack.

BBC News has seen a list of more than 10,000 e-mail accounts and passwords which had been posted online.

The software giant, which owns the web-based e-mail system, said that it “had launched an investigation”.

Phishing involves using fake websites to lure people into revealing personal details such as bank accounts or login names and other private data.

“We are aware that some Windows Live Hotmail customers’ credentials were acquired illegally and exposed on a website,” said a Microsoft spokesperson.

“Upon learning of the issue, we immediately requested that the credentials be removed and launched an investigation to determine the impact to customers.”

Quick change

Graham Cluley, consultant at security firm Sophos, told BBC News the published list may just be a subset of a longer list of compromised accounts.

“We still don’t know the scale of the problem,” he told BBC News.

Technology blog neowin.net was the first to publish details of the attack. It said the accounts were posted on 1 October to pastebin.com, a website commonly used by developers to share code.

Although the details have since been removed, BBC News and Neowin has seen a list of 10,028 names beginning with the letters A and B.

BBC News has confirmed that the accounts are genuine and predominantly originate in Europe.

The list included details of Microsoft’s Windows Live Hotmail accounts with email addresses ending hotmail.com, msn.com and live.com.

Mr Cluley advised Hotmail users to change their password as soon as possible.

“I’d also recommend that people change the password on any other site where they use it,” he said.

Around 40% of people use the same password for every website they use, he added.

Hotmail is currently the largest web-based e-mail service.

SOURCE: http://www.bbc.co.uk

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Money and happiness: Are Kenyans’ priorities right?

Posted by Administrator on October 5, 2009

Kenyans amaze me constantly. At a time when the economy is in the doldrums and the country is ravaged by drought and famine, a full 86 per cent of Kenyans claim to be happy, according to a recent survey commissioned by the Saturday Nation.

What’s more, contrary to the commonly-held perception of Kenyans as a people obsessed with money, 90 per cent of those surveyed said that for them, inner peace was more important than wealth, and nearly 40 per cent of the women and 30 per cent of the men surveyed stated that their families were the main source of happiness.

The survey also found that Kenyans tend to value knowledge more than wealth, a finding that is consistent with other studies that show that the average Kenyan will be willing to forego food and clothing in favour of education.

Have Kenyans undergone a psychological transformation in recent months or have we as a nation been maligned unnecessarily?

I suspect it is the former. The post-election violence and the subsequent economic decline of the nation last year might have played a role in making Kenyans more aware of the fragility of life and the need to maintain and nurture relationships in times of crisis.

Studies have shown that economic hardship often leads to stronger family ties and greater appreciation of the little things that make life worth living.

The global recession, for instance, has transformed several communities in the United Kingdom, who now use a barter system to exchange goods and services with their neighbours. Those who find themselves out of a job take up voluntary work, or use the free time to rejuvenate neglected hobbies and passions.

Many are finding that the relationship between money and happiness is illusory. According to David Nettle, a Reader in Psychology at the University of Newcastle, over the last 50 years, per capita incomes in developed countries have increased several-fold, but the increase in average happiness levels in these countries has been zero.

Moreover, an increasing number of people are “downsizing” by either taking up part-time employment or escaping the rat-race by seeking employment in less stressful professions. Some are eschewing consumerism in favour of simplicity.

Many people who have postponed happiness in the belief that it is something that will happen in the future – when they get a promotion, retire, when their children have finished college or when they get married – find their happiness levels do not change much when their circumstances change.

This is because happiness has little to do with momentary joy or pleasure – rather it is a general sense of well-being and satisfaction that is linked to fulfilling one’s potential. It is not about living long, but about getting the most out of life before you die.

Recently, I had to make a choice between unemployment and remaining in a highly-paid job that denied me the chance to fulfil my potential and which constantly eroded my dignity and values.

I chose the former because staying on would have not only seriously compromised my principles, but also led to the prospect of remaining unhappy for long periods of time and seriously impacting my emotional and physical health.

The organisation I chose to leave is full of people who are postponing their happiness in favour of job security and money. Many are waiting for retirement to begin living.

Who would have thought that ordinary Kenyans, despite their meagre incomes, would have their priorities right?

In all my years as a career woman, I can honestly say that I never felt immense joy in an office job. I am not inclined to entrepreneurship, so I do not have the option of self-employment.

Looking back, I don’t remember ever wishing that I could spend more time in an office. My dream was always to be able to earn a living from writing in my living room. I am now wondering whether I wasted several years sending meaningless emails and editing pointless documents instead of doing the many things I love, including writing.

I now have a chance to do just that. Whether I will survive in a world where money makes the world go round is another matter. What does matter to me is that I am free to do just what I like for the first time in my life.

A colleague once told me that time was the only thing that we could not buy, so we must spend it wisely. There is never a good time to find happiness – happiness is all around us, if only we could give it a chance to enter our lives.

rasna.warah@gmail.com

SOURCE: DAILY NATION

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Ocampo’s secret evidence on Kenya

Posted by Administrator on October 5, 2009

By Mirithi Mutiga, Citizen Correspondent, Nairobi

International Criminal Court prosecutors have compiled a damaging report on at least four top Kenyan officials, including Cabinet ministers, who could face charges of crimes against humanity by the end of the year.

The ICC has also quietly taken several witnesses out of the country in the last few months ahead of the trials that are expected to rock Kenya’s political scene and which many Kenyans hope will serve to end the culture of impunity entrenched in the nation’s politics.

The Sunday Nation has established details of the months-long effort to gather evidence behind the scenes, a process that began almost as soon as former United Nations chief Kofi Annan arrived in Kenya in early 2008 to mediate an end to the post-election violence.

Mr Annan was expected to return to Nairobi yesterday to further pressure Kenyan leaders to speed up the pace of reforms, a key pillar of which is the trial of those who bear the greatest responsibility for the violence which claimed more than 1,300 lives.

A source familiar with the investigations said that while the entire nation’s attention was focused on the negotiations over political power-sharing at the Serena Hotel in 2008, several teams of local and foreign investigators were dispatched to gather evidence in the areas worst-hit by the violence.

Among the teams was a delegation from the United Nations Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights that arrived in Kenya last February.

Representatives of the Special Rapporteur on the Prevention of Genocide and another team sent by the Kenya National Commission on Human Rights interviewed survivors, families of victims and members of government and the opposition. The outcome was what one international analyst described as a “wheelbarrow-load of evidence”.

“Kenyan politicians assumed it would be business as usual and concentrated on negotiating for power,”said the source, who cannot be named because of the sensitivity of the matter.

“They did not know that some in the international community had decided it was time to end the culture of impunity and were busy gathering hard evidence.”

The evidence they collected helped lay the groundwork for a separate ICC investigation into the involvement of a number of senior members of Cabinet and some heads of state security agencies.

The Sunday Nation established that the focus of the investigations has now narrowed to at least three Cabinet ministers and one state security official against whom the Office of the Prosecutor feels it has enough evidence to sustain a case.

Among the four is a Cabinet minister from Rift Valley province who has been particularly vocal in calling for truth and reconciliation as opposed to trials of masterminds of violence.

He is said to have declared that only “Indians and Kalenjins” would own businesses in his home town following the presidential election results, coded language that was read as calling for the eviction from the area of people from other communities.

The same politician is said to have distributed money to about 300 youths who committed atrocities as well as organised transport for the militia together with two other MPs from the region who have since died.

Another Cabinet minister on the list of four is a senior member of the PNU coalition. He is said to have chaired a meeting at State House, Nairobi, where he organised members of the outlawed Mungiki sect to carry out revenge attacks in Naivasha.

The same politician or his associates are said to have requested a senior Office of the President official then serving in the National Security ministry to distribute guns to the outlawed sect to carry out the carnage. The request was, however, turned down.

A senior official of a state security agency said to have carried out indiscriminate killings has also been named as one of those who have been the focus of investigations as has another minister from the Rift Valley.

KNHRC vice-chair Hassan Omar declined to be drawn on what ICC prosecutor Luis Moreno Ocampo told a delegation of civil society activists who met him recently at The Hague. But Mr Hassan praised the ICC’s determination to act:

“Impunity can only be addressed by ensuring equality under the law. Every Kenyan must be punished for acting in ways that subvert the rule of law, and holding the perpetrators of violence to account will change the decades-old culture of politicians abusing the law at will.”

Calls for implementation of reforms and an end to the culture of impunity gained momentum on Wednesday when Mr Moreno Ocampo announced that he would soon take up the Kenya case and that the country would serve as a “world example on managing violence”.

This followed the expiry of a deadline for establishing a local mechanism to try those who financed the militias that wreaked havoc following the General Election.

President Obama has called for the establishment of a special tribunal to try suspects, while both the United States and the United Kingdom have written to a number of government officials warning them to avoid standing in the way of reforms. The EU has joined the calls for action.

Dutch Ambassador to Kenya Laetitia van den Assum, whose country hosts the ICC at The Hague, told the Sunday Nation that holding the financiers of the violence to account was in Kenya’s best interests. �There are those who say the pursuit of justice may threaten stability,” she said.

“But that is a false choice. Stability flows from justice. Kenyans are right in saying that tackling impunity is the most important step in helping to deal with other urgent reforms,” she said.

Lawyer Prof Githu Muigai, who is a Special Rapporteur of the United Nations, said the next step for Mr Moreno Ocampo would be to present the evidence he has gathered to the pre-trial chamber at The Hague.

If he convinces the judges that sufficient evidence exists to link the suspects to the violence, the court will issue arrest warrants for suspects. These could either be “sealed warrants” where the suspects are not informed that they are wanted men, or they could be announced in open court.

The Sunday Nation has established that the key figures who drove the investigation in Kenya were the deputy prosecutor, Fatou Bensouda, and the ICC�s head of investigations Michel de Smeldt.

They did not rely entirely on the work of the Commission of Inquiry into Post-Election Violence chaired by Justice Philip Waki but used that and other reports as a basis for their inquiries.

The previously undisclosed information that investigators have taken some witnesses out of the country illustrates the length to which the ICC has gone to build a case against the suspects.

Some of the witnesses described as �high value� and whose evidence was obtained by the Waki team left the country before the Waki report was officially released. There were fears they could be easily identified through a careful reading of the report.

The Rome Statute that created the ICC requires the court to “take appropriate measures to protect the safety, physical and psychological well-being, dignity and privacy of victims and witnesses.” This means that witnesses may be taken with their families to a host nation where they are protected from possible retaliation by suspects.

This mechanism has been applied in the trial of former Congolese rebel leader Thomas Lubanga, who was the first person ever arrested under an arrest warrant issued by the ICC. However, it is not inevitable that local leaders will be hauled before the international court.

The government still has a chance to set up a local tribunal by supporting a compromise bill in Parliament where Imenti Central MP Gitobu Imanyara has tabled a bill seeking to establish a local tribunal. According to Prof Muigai, whichever mechanism is employed will serve as an indictment of Kenya’s institutions.

“If the police had conducted timely and professional investigations, and if the Attorney-General had professionally prosecuted the cases and the judiciary dispensed justice in a timely fashion, this whole debate would not have arisen.”

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Night of dining to benefit young Kenyans

Posted by Administrator on October 5, 2009

By ROBIN BROWN • The News Journal • October 5, 2009
Photo courtesy of Delaware Kenya Association

Delaware Kenya Association supporters work in Kenya to convert a home into a youth entrepreneurship center in a project that will benefit from the upcoming Dining for a Cause.Photo courtesy of Delaware Kenya Association

A benefit night of Kenyan music, food and fellowship near Newark on Saturday aims to help young residents of Kenya help themselves out of poverty.

Proceeds of the Delaware Kenya Association’s sixth Annual Dining for a Cause will continue the group’s long-term project of converting a donated house in Kenya into a youth entrepreneurship center.

“Our goal is $25,000,” association president Erastus Mong’are said. He says the event aims to raise hope as well as money and to celebrate the tradition of harambee or pulling together.

The dinner and awards ceremony — black tie or traditional attire — is Saturday, starting at 6 p.m. at Fremont Hall, 82 Possum Park Road, near Newark.

Tickets are $50 per person, $35 for students with identification, and are available online from the nonprofit cultural organization’s Web site at http://delka.org/6th_dining_ticket.asp. The event also includes a benefit auction.

Mong’are said the evening will be one of fun, networking and entertainment by African Rhythms, a student-run drum and dance ensemble from the University of Pennsylvania.

The keynote speaker is Amini Kajunju, executive director of Workshop in Business Opportunities, a nonprofit organization begun in 1966 in New York City’s Harlem to help small-business owners and entrepreneurs in under-served areas.

Teresa Gwengi, representing Upendo Women’s Group, which received the proceeds of the second Dining for a Cause, will provide an update on the impact those funds made on the organization’s assistance to those infected with HIV/AIDS in the poverty-stricken country.

Mong’are said the association also is working with the community to raise funds for the entrepreneurship center in Kabete near Nairobi “as a way to include and make them part of the project.”

Sponsors of the event include Wilmington Mayor James M. Baker, New Castle County and County Executive Chris Coons, the Philadelphia Eagles, Kenyan Ambassador to the United States Peter Ogego and many businesses in Delaware and the Philadelphia area.

The association began the benefit in 2004 after fielding the first Kenyan team in an American HIV/AIDS walk. In addition to helping AIDS orphanages, past events helped provide clean water for isolated villages, technology for Kenyan schools and small grants to help AIDS widows’ business enterprises.

The youth entrepreneurship center’s site was given to the association by members Sospeter and Margaret Githendu, who lived in it before they moved to Delaware and, later, Seattle.

Source: Delaware Online

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World Bank might run out of money in 12 months

Posted by Administrator on October 5, 2009

The Bank, whose job it is to support low-income countries, has had to hand out so much cash in the wake of the financial crisis that its resources could run dry within 12 months.

“By the middle of next year we will face serious constraints,” said its president Robert Zoellick, as he launched a major campaign to persuade rich nations to pour more money into the Washington-based institution.

He conceded that such a task was likely to be extremely difficult, given the difficulties facing countries in the wake of the developed world’s biggest recession since the Second World War. However, Mr Zoellick, speaking at the opening of the IMF and World Bank annual meetings in Istanbul, said the Bank needed a capital increase of as much as $11.1bn (£6.9bn) to keep functioning. He said he hoped that its shareholders, including the UK and other leading nations, would decide on resources before its spring meeting next April.

The money would be shared between the International Bank for Reconstruction and Development – the key part of the bank, which lends to poor nations – and the International Financial Corporation (IFC), which lends to companies.

Mr Zoellick said: “We recognise that all countries are under budgetary strain and it is not an easy time to be asking for these things”.

He said that a shortfall of cash for the IFC was a cause for particular concern, Mr Zoellick added, “because one of the issues in this recovery is the hand-off from government stimulus programs to private-sector development.”

The Bank has had to lend significantly more cash than the three-year $100bn programme it committed to last year because of the virulence of the financial and economic crisis. The majority of the money has been spent ensuring the survival of the most vulnerable nations.

source: www.telegraph.co.uk

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SANCHEZ: Deporting widowed immigrants — what part of ‘unfair’ don’t you understand?

Posted by Administrator on October 5, 2009

By Mary Sanchez

Consider this love story gone sour. A U.S. citizen falls in love with an immigrant. They marry. The citizen requests that the new spouse be allowed to remain in the U.S. permanently. The two are in love, and their happy union is smiled upon by the federal government — or, at least, not frowned upon — pending a vetting process to make sure everything’s on the level. When that vetting process is complete, the spouse will become a legal resident. In the meantime, the couple files the requisite paperwork, which begins making its way through bureaucratic channels.

Then, tragedy happens. The U.S. citizen dies before the government completes its end of the paperwork. Guess who’s getting deported? This is not a far-fetched scenario. Given that it has taken up to two years for the federal government to complete the review of such marriages, the window of vulnerability for a foreign spouse can be considerable. (After two years of legal residence while married to a citizen, a widowed foreign spouse is on a better footing for applying for permanent residency.) Data are not available on just how many widows and widowers of U.S. citizens are being deported, but more than 200 are currently fighting deportation in court. Legal experts believe that thousands of such cases may exist.

Consider these examples tracked by Oregon attorney Brent Renison.

A U.S. Navy recruiter died in a motorcycle accident. He had met his future bride while stationed at the U.S. Embassy in Beijing. She, along with her two children, were ordered deported.

A man enlisted in the Air Force died of an aggressive form of cancer at the age of 21. His widow, a Russian immigrant who had been attending college in Florida, was granted survivor’s benefits by the Veteran’s Administration, but immigration officials said she would be deported.

Another man dove into the Pacific Ocean to save two children and drowned. The Coast Guard posthumously awarded his bravery with a medal. However, his Kenyan wife was ordered deported.

The cases go on and on. Congress injected a modicum of mercy and common sense into the deportation policy for widows by exempting immigrants widowed by the 9-11 terrorist attacks and spouses of active military who have died in combat. Yet loopholes still catch immigrant spouses up in the net of this draconian policy. Consider the Army man killed in Iraq in a rocket-propelled grenade attack. He was working on U.S. missions but was employed by a military contractor. His wife, a Kosovo native, was ordered deported.

As if this deportation policy weren’t arbitrary enough, for years it was the case that the speed with which your application made it through the approval process depended on where you lived. The Department of Homeland Security has made progress in smoothing out these inequities, but a lot of immigrants ensnared by the widow’s penalty might not have been had they lived in another part of the country.

The upshot is that many surviving spouses face deportation not because their marriage was invalid, and not because they failed in any way to comply with the government’s rules, but because their application was not reviewed in a timely fashion by the government.

This is inherently unfair, and the process should have been changed years ago.

Homeland Security secretary Janet Napolitano showed a little mercy in June by staying most pending deportations for two years. But officials keep lining up the widows, widowers and their orphaned children in deportation proceedings. In the last month, victories were won in Maryland, Florida, Texas and Missouri. Courts agreed with the immigrants’ contentions that their role and rights as a spouse do not end with the death of their mate.

How far such challenges will be taken in the future — and what kind of promise these cases hold for a landmark ruling — is hard to say. The government always appeals. A better strategy would be for Congress to clear up the mess with legislation. As much as we might wish that Congress would take up comprehensive immigration reform to address this, and a multitude of other injustices and SNAFUs with our current immigration laws, they will undoubtedly run up against rabid opposition by right-wing populists. “What part of illegal don’t you understand?” is a popular refrain among those who wish to make the immigration issue into a moral crusade, a battle between good and evil.

Well, it turns out there’s a lot about this issue they don’t understand.

What purpose is served by this kind of callous disregard for widows and widowers is beyond me.

Mary Sanchez is an opinion-page columnist for The Kansas City Star. Readers may write to her at: Kansas City Star, 1729 Grand Blvd., Kansas City, Mo. 64108-1413, or via e-mail at msanchez@kcstar.com.

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How a Biofuel ‘Miracle’ Ruined Kenyan Farmers

Posted by Administrator on October 5, 2009

By Nick Wadhams / Kibwezi Sunday, Oct. 04, 2009

Kenyan market vendor selling maize in Kangemi

Kenyan market vendor selling maize in Kangemi

Everyone in Kibwezi, a village in southeastern Kenya parched by four years of drought, remembers the promises. It all started in 2000, when the government started preaching the word about a plant called jatropha curcas. That surprised people in Kibwezi because everyone already knew about Jatropha — it’s a weed. Sometimes people planted it to fence off their farms, but usually they just ignored it.

The government told the farmers, however, that jatropha seeds can be pressed to make biofuel and that scientists believed the plant’s seeds contained more oil than other biofuel crops. Even better, the government said, jatropha needed little tending. All you had to do was stick it in the ground and watch it grow. Best of all for Kibwezi, a place that’s frequently stricken by drought, scientists believed that the plant thrived on arid land. Convinced they could reap large profits from the plant in the global craze for alternative energy sources, hundreds of farmers turned over acres of their small farms to jatropha. But it didn’t take them long to realize what scientists have come to realize in recent months: what was once touted as a miracle plant that needed almost no water has turned out to be anything but that.

Peter Munyao, a village elder, is one of the farmers who experimented with the new crop. He planted jatropha in 2006 and encouraged other farmers to follow his lead. But today, the plants on his farm have all dried up and lost their seeds and leaves. “The people who did the promotion for jatropha had not done [their] research … because we have realized that the crop is getting moisture stress just like any other crop,” he says. A study published in June in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, a Washington-based scientific journal, found that jatropha actually requires more water per liter of biofuel produced than most other biofuel plants. That’s bad news in Kenya, a country in the middle of a full-blown food crisis due to the lengthy drought. The World Food Program said in August that 3.8 million Kenyans had been affected by the drought and that malnutrition was on the rise.

Kenya isn’t the only country that’s gotten caught up in the excitement over jatropha. Last December, an Air New Zealand jet powered by a jatropha/kerosene blend made a successful test flight. China, Brazil and even Myanmar have promoted it heavily, sometimes forcing farmers to plant it. In India, jatropha has been planted on hundreds of thousands of acres of land. But, like the farmers in Kibwezi, farmers in these other countries have also experienced problems growing the plant. In India, for example, a test project at several agricultural colleges produced seed yields of only 200 grams per plant — a fifth the expected output of one kilogram of seeds per plant.

David Newman, who runs the Nairobi-based biofuels consultancy Endelevu Energy, says there have been isolated examples of success growing jatropha. “Occasionally a tree has survived in a marginal area and produces quite a bit of seed with no [agricultural] inputs whatsoever. But there’s a difference between that one tree and replicating it thousands of times in the field,” he says. The problem with jatropha, scientists say, is that there is no proven, widely disseminated method for growing it properly.

In the absence of reliable information, the farmers in Kenya were fed mistruths about the plant and its biofuel potential by nongovernmental organizations and the government, which got much of their information from the Internet. The farmers said they were persuaded to buy so-called “certified” jatropha seeds, which were said to grow in tough conditions. They were also told they would be given advice on how to plant their fields and that once the plants began to produce seeds, agricultural officials would buy them at prices upwards of 1,000 shillings ($13) per kilogram. Farmers were also told that demand would increase steadily for the oil produced by the seeds.

The problem is, none of those promises came to be. “It was a combination of international hype and local organizations who were … selling seeds at very high prices claiming that they were special certified seeds when really they were just seeds collected from old trees in the wild,” Newman says. The plants also did not do well in arid conditions. “[The plant] was more fragile, especially in its initial establishment phase, than we thought,” says Jan Van den Abeele, executive director for Better Globe Forestry, a Nairobi-based group that studies optimal conditions for planting trees in dry areas. And many farmers had no buyers for their seeds. Some began giving them away to neighbors.

Farmers in Kibwezi quickly realized that they would have to throw out the rulebook to make their crops grow. Boniface Muoki’s jatropha plants look like they’re doing well — they’re covered with thick green leaves and fruit. But Muoki says he did almost nothing the government experts told him to Do — instead, he planted the seedlings in meter-deep holes so that they would collect more rainwater and he tends the plants fastidiously. “It’s the farmer who knows best,” Muoki says. “At this point, I know more about jatropha than most anyone because it’s me who experienced jatropha every day, who has seen how the plant behaves in varied conditions.”

The problems haven’t discouraged other jatropha proponents, either. For several years, Titus Kisavi traveled the region encouraging farmers to grow the plant, earning a commission from development groups for the seeds he sold. These days, however, he doesn’t have a job and he spends his afternoons at a bar near Kibwezi. Still, he hasn’t given up on the plant. “I have a very big passion for jatropha,” Kisavi said. “I visit farmers and tell them to plant it in the hope that one day … somebody will come to the farms and sign contracts for the seed. We know one day that jatropha will be in very high demand.”

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