Ghosts from the Past, Prayers for the Future: Sierra Leone, Part II

Tuesday, September 25, 2007 | Bo, Sierra Leone (map)

At a roadside stand, locals sell bush meat in all its hairy, gristly glory. 
When I arrived back in the country shortly before the runoff presidential polls, Sierra Leoneans were tense. Sure, they reasoned, the first round had gone smoothly, but with the country's two oldest rival parties again pitted against each other, anything could happen. A nation was once more glued to its radios, hopeful but apprehensive.

For the runoff election, I was assigned to travel to Bo, the capital of Sierra Leone's southern region. From Freetown, to drive the approximately 200 miles to Bo took nearly seven hours.

Just outside Freetown, palm, mango, papaya, and banana trees populate the hillsides, while the lowlands are stocked with rice paddies and rows of cassava. Along the road's edge, native ferns and caladiums collect the red mud splashed by passing cars. Pied crows circle overhead, and brilliant songbirds flit among the fruit trees whydahs trailing long tail plumes like kite streamers, weaver

Free-for-All in Freetown: Sierra Leone, Part I

Friday, August 24, 2007 | Freetown, Sierra Leone (map)

During the rainy season, Freetown is about as lush as it gets.
The arrival in Sierra Leone is, like the country itself, at once overwhelming and underwhelming. From the climate-controlled calm of the plane, the airport one steps into is a sweltering, cacophonous free-for-all of customs officials, security personnel, baggage handlers, and other airport staff (many of them self-appointed). As for the hundreds of others milling around and contributing to the bedlam, their purpose isn’t clear. Overall, while the melee leaves many travelers flustered within a few moments of arrival, my first glimpse of Sierra Leone also came with another sinking feeling: This is it?

Lungi International, Sierra Leone’s only airport, is conveniently located on the other side of a wide bay (in fact the world’s third largest natural harbor) from the capital of Freetown. To reach Freetown by land, the trip is a jarring, painful ride over some of the world’s worst roadways, in the

The Slow Death of Africa's Greatest Lake

Tuesday, May 1, 2007 | Mwanza, Tanzania (map)

Near Mwanza, local kids show off their share of the daily catch, which continues to dwindle under environmental pressures.
The Spring 2007 issue of the Georgetown University Journal of the Environment (Vol. III, pp. 42-47) includes a piece I wrote, drawing on much of the research I did last summer while studying the local ecology in Mwanza, Tanzania, on Lake Victoria's southern shore. I've reprinted it here; please enjoy:

The Slow Death of Africa’s Greatest Lake:
The Environmental and Social Impacts of the "Modernization" of Lake Victoria

by Andrew Farrand

In the past several decades, the ecosystem of Lake Victoria, Africa’s largest lake, has witnessed a dramatic decline. This transformation is the result of the so-called "modernization" of the lakeshore economies in Uganda, Kenya, and Tanzania and their integration into the global economy. As the region’s human population has expanded rapidly in recent decades—reaching over 30 million