Africa

Rocky Dawuni – Clean Cooking Ambassador

rockyLet me introduce you to Rocky Duwani. He is Ghana’s Bob Marley. He is also the official UN Foundation Ambassador for the Global Alliance for Clean Cookstoves. Unlike many other celebrity “Ambassadors” that I have encountered, his passion and commitment  for clean cooking is evident and makes him a true ambassador.

We were surprised last night with an incredible performance by Rocky at the Clean Cooking Forum 2015. He has been attending the Forum and has been very accessible and down to earth. I’ve certainly never been to a conference that had the entire crowd dancing to reggae. It was a treat. Clark was a trouper and fell asleep as we danced.

One of Rocky’s songs is Extraordinary Woman. When the song came on, my partner Adam responded, “What does Extraordinary Woman have to do with cookstoves?” Of course, my passionate response was “EVERYTHING!” Though much to my surprise, Adam has taken over most of the cooking in our house, women are predominately the cooks around the world, and in Africa almost exclusively so.

Women suffer disproportionately from the health consequences of indoor air pollution that is caused by traditional methods of three-stone/open-fire cooking, which is used by one out of three people on earth. With 4.3 million people dying each year from the health related impacts of indoor air pollution, not to mention the time spent by women and girls collecting fire wood, we need to do more to protect our extraordinary women.

I am proud to be representing InStove at the Forum and am incredibly inspired by the potential for creating real positive change in this world.

Thanks Rocky! Keep up the great work and I hope to meet you again soon. You are welcome in Portland, Oregon!

Miel
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Back to My Village

Today is a big day! We are headed back to my village, Dorfor Adidome. I lived there for two years as a Peace Corps Volunteer, from 1999-2001. Sometimes people chuckle at my reference to “my village.” This is the common terminology used by Ghanaians to refer to where they come from, and adopted by most volunteers. For me it has always felt like it is truly my village, though I say so more to convey my collective responsibility in being a part of the village rather than meaning it in a paternalistic way, or to imply any ownership.

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Dorfor Adidome is a very small village in the Volta region of Ghana. It is settled on the beautiful Volta River, just downriver from the Akosombo Dam (which creates the Lake Volta, one of the largest man lakes in the world). Prior to the dam coming in during the 60’s, the village was a thriving market town and trading hub, with an economy based on fresh water oysters. Unfortunately the dam’s environmental damage destroyed the oysters and eventually the market moved to areas along the main road. My village is still lined with oyster shell pathways in areas closer to the river, where you can see shells ten feet down when you dig for a latrine.

Adidome comes from the massive baobab trees that are still sprinkled around the village. There are a handle of gorgeous trees remaining, when there used to be forests of them. I was told that they would protect the trees that remain, and I hope that is the case. I also hope that some of the the 600 acacia, 1000 flamboyant, and 100 mango trees that we planted still remain as well.

I’ve looked forward to this day for many years. It has been 14 years since I left my village. Even though I have tried to remain in contact, I have received very little in terms of actual updates from the village. I don’t know how or what has changed during that period. Looking at Accra, and seeing that even it has changed less than I thought it might have, makes me think that even with electricity coming to the village shortly after I left, that things are very likely to have changed little.

I try to hold my expectations in check. The village itself may not have changed much, but the children that I once knew are now adults. I don’t expect that the work I did as a Peace Corps Volunteer to have changed my village as much as it has changed me, but I feel honored to have been a part of it.

-Ama Woetsa (the name I went by in the village, meaning Saturday born, second female twin), Mama Dorfor Nenyo I (my title as Queenmother)

Clean Cooking Form 2015

Ghana-Social-Media_Kofi_AnnanGoing back to Ghana feels like the stars have aligned to have me meet so many incredible Africans at once. Not only will I be going back to Ghana, but I will also be doing so in both professional and personal capacities. I will be attending the Clean Cooking Forum 2015 next week. I will be meeting many individuals who I have encountered remotely but have never met. I will share with you as I meet them, hopefully. I’ve never been as excited for an actual conference and who the attendees would be.

When the Black Stars played in the South Africa World Cup in 2010, I remember thinking that Ghana was a small enough place, that I was likely to meet Stephen Appiah. Low and behold, he will be attending the Forum.

We will also be meeting with Wanjira Mathai, Wangari Maathai’s daughter, and head of the Wangari Maathai Foundation. Wangari won the Nobel Peace Prize in 2004 for the founding of the Greenbelt Movement and I heard her speak that year in DC. Wangari also wrote The Challenge for Africa, which I found to be one of my very favorites in a long line of African literature. Clark loves the children’s book written about her work as well. I’m glad to have the opportunity to have Clark meet such people.

The gathering will feature more than 400 leaders from 28 countries who are working to build a global market for clean and efficient cookstoves and fuels. The Global Alliance for Clean Cookstoves is hosting the global Clean Cooking Forum 2015 in Accra, Ghana – the first time it has been held in West Africa. We will come together to share strategies for accelerating growth of the clean and efficient cookstoves and fuels markets around the world.

I look forward to representing InStove, as the cleanest, safest, most efficient stove on earth. I am enjoying thinking of the potential opportunities there might be for an InStove in my village. It would also be cool to get an InStove to be a part of a Peace Corps project in Ghana. We’ll keep you posted on progress. If you know of any opportunities for us to collaborate with anyone while we are in Ghana, please let us know.

Regards,

Miel (& Adam)
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Going Back to Ghana

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Finally. After 14 years, I will be returning to Ghana for a visit. It feels pretty incredible. I definitely have visions of Ghana going through my mind. Negotiating in Twi and Ewe in my head while I shower, wondering how much I will remember. I was a Peace Corps Volunteer in Ghana and in the Volta region, from 1999-2001, and spoke Ewe very well and Twi well enough to negotiate and get around by public transportation with ease.

I will be going with Adam, Clark, and my mother-in-law Carol. It is exciting to see Clark return to Africa, nearly a year after his first trip to the continent. Now he will be running instead of nursing. I have dreamt of this trip for years. Carol and I have talked of going to Ghana for many years. Adam and I will be attending the biennial Global Alliance for Clean Cookstoves Summit in Accra. We will also be celebrating our four month anniversary together. We spent our two month anniversary in Washington, DC.

The people are what Ghana is really all about. Ghanaians are known as being incredibly friendly, and they are. It has been nice already to be in better contact with folks from my village and start to hear updates. For instance, I now know that my counterpart, an old many named Akpabli, is still alive, and that the Queenmother asks after me.

I avidly journaled during my time as a Peace Corps Volunteer and will be pulling out my journal to see what adventures I can share about from my time as a Volunteer. Here are a few links to several stories I’ve written over the years as well. Like how I was stung by a scorpion, or the first female king in Ghana, how to avoid hazards in Africa, enjoy bucket baths and entertain yourself with Africian movie theatres, or about our ten year Peace Corps reunion.

I look forward to sharing about our travels.

Enjoy the journey,

Miel

Carry On

As I settle back in after yet another trip overseas, I consider the bizarre balancing act that a traveler and professional like myself goes through from one day or moment to the next.

24 hrs en route and already a mountain email has piled up. My first day back in the office and I juggle between countries and continents, rarely able to finish one task before another pulls me away. For each country, it is for them as if they are my only priority, and yet I still have to juggle back to the next urgent priority.

I simultaneously attempt to catch up at home, cleaning, shopping, laundry, the normal routines that still build up while traveling. I look at my social schedule for the month and see that there are already an inordinate number of volunteer and other engagements filling up my calendar.

In the end though, you carry on. Somehow it all gets done. You learn to move from one part of the globe to another with relative ease. Overall I couldn’t be happier to be home.

Best,

Miel