Thursday, June 11, 2009

Holding your tail up high

I have just returned to Kampala after a lengthy visit to 11 AAC investee businesses. Starting in Kampala and finishing in Dar es Salaam, travelling first by car to Nairobi and then by plane to Kilimanjaro and Dar, I was reminded once again of the immense privilege granted to those of us lucky enough to live and work in this wonderful environment. Mabira Forest, Mt Elgon, the Rift Valley, Kilimanjaro and the Indian Ocean were just a few of the landmarks on our journey.
Having said that, painfully slow border crossings, futile police checks and poor road surfaces do take some of the gloss off the experience.....

For the duration of the journey, I was accompanied by two UK-based consultants who are advising on AAC's strategic development. This made for lively debate during the lengthy car and plane journeys between investee visits, generally, though not exclusively, focused on the assignment. When off-subject, our wide-ranging conversation (while passing Lake Elementeita in the Rift Valley) included a discussion of the interesting habits of the African warthog. One of this esteemed beast's many endearing habits is that it raises its tail vertically when alarmed. This so amused my companions on the visit that the phrase "holding our tails high" became a catchphrase for the journey. Regrettably, my tail was lowered temporarily during an acute bout of food-poisoning contracted over the weekend in Nairobi, courtesy of (I believe) a main course of ageing crab, but recovery was swift.

Monday, June 1, 2009

Tom's bananas

On a recent visit to Kilimanjaro, I was very pleased to see that bananas are being planted at the Kifufu estate in Northern Tanzania, apparently on my recommendation. Here's a shot of a trailer carrying four planters and about 400 tissue culture sweet banana plants on the way to their planting site where they will, I am assured, be known as Tom's bananas.

The Banana plant is one of nature's wonders. The largest of all herbaceous flowering plants, it was domesticated in SE Asia (probably New Guinea) in the form of seedless cultivars. It reached Africa and Southern Europe during the Islamic expansion, and then formed one of the few beneficial "Old World" elements of the Columbian exchange. High in dietary fibre and potassium, it is one of the healthiest carbohydrate food sources, and is a staple crop in many parts of the developing world. Ugandans are reputed to be the world's largest per capita consumers of bananas - figures vary, but the average Ugandan is estimated to consume about 200 kgs of matooke (cooking bananas) every year.