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Africa’s Honey Fences – Using Beehives to Keep Elephants at Bay

Thanks to zoologist Dr Lucy King, farmers in rural Africa no longer need to worry about elephants wrecking their fields. Through ‘The Elephants and Bees Project’, she introduced the concept of honey fences – a low cost, organic solution that employs beehives suspended several meters apart to keep pachyderms away. The fences are essentially gifts that keep on giving, because the farmers are also able to make an additional income from the honey.

King first hit upon the idea after she read that elephants actually avoid acacia trees – their favorite food – if they spot a beehive in the branches. She then spent several years conducting behavioral experiments, like filming elephants reacting to the sound of bees buzzing played through a loudspeaker. Using the data she gathered, she began to develop the honey fence system – she suspended a series of hives at ten-meter intervals from a single wire, threaded around wooden fence posts. To get into the field an elephant would have to touch either the wire or the hive, disturbing the bees and causing them to swarm out in buzzing cloud.

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Marathon Runner-Up Faces Fraud Charges for Only Running Half a Mile of 26 Mile Race

In a bizarre turn of events, the second place winner at the Nairobi International Marathon last Sunday was arrested for blatant cheating. Julius Njogu apparently stayed hidden among the crowd for most of the 26-mile race before joining the other runners for about half a mile, on the last stretch and laying claim to the $7,000 prize money.  

Unfortunately for him, race officials caught on rather quickly – they noticed that he showed no signs of fatigue or sweat as he breezed passed the other runners to the finish line, despite having supposedly run 42 miles. The 28-year-old was spotted jogging effortlessly as he crossed fellow runner Shadrack Kiptoo to come in second. When they investigated the issue, they realised that he hadn’t run the race at all.

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African Pastor Sells Anointed Pens That Help Students Pass Exams without Studying

A pastor in Harare, the capital of Zimbabwe was in the news recently for selling hundreds of special, ‘anointed’ pens to local students. Prophet Sham Hungwe claims that the miracle pens will help students pass exams without even studying!

“It is anointed and I declare passes when your children sit for exams; when you sit for exams,” he told members of the House of Grace International Church, during a sermon. And with the ‘O’ and ‘A’ level exams coming up, he managed to sell a lot of the 15-cent pens for different prices, ranging from $1 to $20. The more you pay, the higher the chances to pass the exams.

Several believers scrambled to secure the pens for themselves or their children, especially after one of the congregants testified that he scored 14 points on his ‘A’ level last year with Prophet Sham’s special pen. The testimony boosted sales, with one woman paying over $10 for a single pen.

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Self-Taught Ethiopian Aviation Enthusiast Builds His Own Airplane

In a bid to fulfil his childhood dream of flying a plane, an Ethiopian man has taught himself how to build one mainly by reading aviation books and watching YouTube tutorials!

Public Health Officer and Ethiopian Airlines Aviation Academy reject Asmelash Zerefu set about learning to build his own aircraft over a decade ago. It was a daunting challenge, but he has managed to achieve the unthinkable – he single-handedly constructed Ethiopia’s first ever home-built aircraft from scratch.

“I call it the K-570A,” he said. “K representing my mother’s initial of her name, Kiros, and 570 signifying the number of days it took me to complete my aircraft. And A is for Aircraft.”

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No Man’s Land – Kenya’s Women-Only Village

Umoja is literally a no man’s land in Kenya – a matriarchal refuge where men are not allowed. The village, founded 25 years ago by Rebecca Lolosoli, is meant to be a safe haven for women and girls who want to escape abuse in the otherwise patriarchal society of the Samburu people, in northern Kenya.

Rebecca, a member of the Samburu tribe, now serves as the chief matriarch of ‘Umoja Usau Women’s Village’. Having witnessed occasional violence as a child, she slowly came to the conclusion that some of the traditional Samburu practices were inherently abusive towards women. So she began to speak out against these practices, in favour of widows, orphans, and victims of rape, female genital cutting, and forced marriage.

Rebecca’s outspoken attitude was met with a lot of resistance. Things got out of hand when she spoke up for a few women who were raped by British soldiers training nearby. Men in her village beat her up, and her husband did not protest on her behalf. So in 1990, she led a female exodus and started her own village.

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These Burgers Are Made of Flies and They Are Amazingly Nutritious

Every year, during the rainy season, trillions of midges – small flies – rise from the water of Lake Victoria, in Africa, and fly in giant swarms that are said to be so dense they can suffocate a person. However, for the people living on the shores of the great lake, they are just a welcome source of protein.

Some bird species migrate to Lake Victoria during the rainy season so they can take advantage of this free feast. The flies create a sort of constantly buzzing living smog and cover every available surface as they break off from their mating ritual. But no matter how many of them are gobbled up by birds and other natural predators, there are always more than enough for the locals. As disgusting as eating flies may seem, the reality is they make up a huge quantity of biomass equivalent with large herds of big game. People living on the shores of Lake Victoria simply can’t ignore the nutritious protein flying all around them, so they catch the flies and cook them as charcoal-black fly burgers.

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Uganda’s Famous Rap-orters ‘Spit’ the News to Hip-Hop Beats

In a bid to get African youth interested in current affairs, Newz Beat, a Ugandan original news program features ‘rap-orters’ who rap headlines to hip hop beats.

Hip-hop is probably the last thing you’d expect to hear when listening to a news bulletin, which is exactly what makes Newz Beat so intriguing. Yahoo news reports that the show is quite relevant in Uganda, where the press faces lots of problems with censorship, and the youth aren’t too interested in what’s happening around them. A program that features ‘rap-orters’ instead of traditional anchors is actually quite refreshing.

The offbeat show consists of five-minute episodes aired every Saturday on NTV, just before the station’s traditional news bulletin. Each episode covers about four regional and international stories and is recorded in both English and the local language, Luganda. The show is broadcast on air, but since over 90% of Ugandan households don’t have electricity, Newz Beat is also distributed through video halls, where people can get together and watch it.

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The Real Planet of the Apes – The Liberian Island Inhabited by Chimpanzees Formerly Used in Animal Testing

Believe it or not, a real-life Planet of the Apes does exist in an isolated area located deep in the jungles of West Africa. It’s home to dozens of retired laboratory chimpanzees who were at one point used for medical research. These chimps are practically heroes – they’ve managed to survive disease, two civil wars and numerous medical tests and experiments.

The apes are former residents of The Liberian Institute of Biomedical Research (Vilab II) which played a pivotal role in developing treatments for ailments such as Hepatitis during the 1970s. It was shut down in the mid-2000s due to growing pressure from animal rights activists, and the apes were transferred to a remote Liberian island in the middle of Farmington River, to live a life of quiet retirement.

The island – known to locals as ‘Monkey Island’ – is home to over 60 chimps who only allow familiar caretakers to approach its shores. Their story was covered in a short documentary film called Island of the Apes made to promote the 2014 film Dawn of the Planet of the Apes.

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Ghana’s Hilariously Awful Hand-Drawn Movie Posters

The West African nation of Ghana is home to a subculture of artists who create outlandish versions of popular Hollywood movie posters. The art form was at its peak in the nation during the 1980s and 1990s, commonly referred to as the ‘Golden Age of Movie Posters’. During this time, artists would let their imagination run wild in order to create posters that would never fail to draw audiences to Africa’s dilapidated cinema halls. So they used their artistic license to add weapons, scenes and characters that didn’t even exist in the original movie!

The art form began to lose momentum in the 2000s, when Ghanaians purchased their own TVs and VCRs, causing several movie houses to close down. But over time, the lurid hand-painted posters have only increased in value. In fact, several Western art collectors are willing to pay thousands of dollars for them. Some of the artists who have been out of work for several years are now finding a new lease of life in reproducing posters of more recent movies for art aficionados.

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Welcome to Ifrane, Africa’s Little Switzerland

Ifrane is a small town and ski resort in Morocco, famous for its European style and its similarity to the tourist haven of Switzerland. Developed by the French in the 1930s, Ifrane is so reminiscent of the Swiss Alps that it is fondly referred to as ‘Africa’s Little Switzerland’.

The town is located at an altitude of 5,460 feet above sea level in the Middle Atlas region. Its neat red-roofed houses, blooming flower beds, lake-studded parks, and snowbound winters present a huge contrast to Morocco’s narrow, maze like streets and old, earth-colored buildings. It is truly a wonder that such lush greenery, cedar and oak forests, and pasturelands can even exist in the midst of the hot and dry climate of the region.

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African City Replaces Traffic Lights with Intimidating Robots

The intersection of Boulevard Triomphal and Huileries Avenue in Kinshasa, Congo, has two new additions – robot traffic policemen. These large robocops have replaced human police officers and traffic lights, and, believe it or not, they’re actually doing a great job.

At first glance, the robocops don’t look like much. They appear to be rudimentary tin boxes with attached tin hands. I’d say they have a scarecrow-like effect. But commuters have responded surprisingly well to the latest technology.

Demouto Motumbo, a resident of Kinshasa, said: “As a motorcyclist I’m very happy with the robot’s work. Because when traffic police control the cars here there’s still a lot of traffic. But since the robot arrived, we see truly that the commuters are respectful.”

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Meet Yacouba Sawadogo – The Man Who Stopped the Desert

Yacouba Sawadogo is an exceptional man – he single-handedly managed to solve a crisis that even scientists and development organizations could not. The simple old farmer’s re-forestation and soil conservation techniques are so effective they’ve helped turn the tide in the fight against the desertification of the harsh lands in northern Burkina Faso.

Over-farming, over-grazing and over population have, over the years, resulted in heavy soil erosion and drying in this landlocked West African nation. Although national and international researchers tried to fix the grave situation, it really didn’t really make much of a difference. Until Yacouba decided to take matters into his own hands in 1980.

Yacouba’s methods were so odd that his fellow farmers ridiculed him. But when his techniques successfully regenerated the forest, they were forced to sit up and take notice. Yacouba revived an ancient African farming practice called ‘zai’, which led to forest growth and increased soil quality.

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Fadiouth – A Unique Island Made Almost Entirely of Clam Shells

Joal-Fadiouth is a small fishing village located at the far end of Petite Côte – a stretch of coast in Senegal. Joal is situated on the mainland and Fadiouth is an island just off the coast.  A narrow, 400-meter wooden bridge links the two areas. Fadiouth is special – it is almost entirely covered with clam shells.

For centuries, the inhabitants of Fadiouth have been harvesting molluscs. They scoop out the meat and use the shells to construct almost everything, even the island itself. The millions of seashells accumulated over the years have been held strong by the roots of mangroves, reeds and giant baobabs. Empty shells litter the streets; you can hardly step anywhere on Fadiouth Island without hearing a cracking sound from under your feet.

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Say What? The Clicking Languages of South Africa

I had heard of African names with clicks before, like ǂXóõ, ǂHõã and !Kung, but I thought they were limited to just a few words. Now, after some research, I’ve realized that clicks are used quite extensively in many South African languages.

If you’re having trouble understanding the click and its use, think of it this way – it’s just like any other consonant used in the English language.

The credit for introducing clicks to a worldwide audience goes to singer Miriam Makeba, whose life has been celebrated on Google’s Doodles this year. In her 1957 hit single, Pata Pata, you can clearly hear clicks in the lyrics. “Everywhere we go, people often ask me, ‘How do you make that noise?’” she said during an interview in 1979. “It used to offend me because it isn’t a noise. It’s my language,” she clarified.

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Slum-Like African Resort Gives Rich Tourists a Taste of Hard Life

A Shanty is a small hut made out of old corrugated iron sheets or other waterproof material. It is a place of dwelling for the poor, often lacking in basic amenities like electricity or running water. To be living in one, you’d have to be going through an extremely rough patch in life.

Except of course, when your shanty is located in Shanty Town, and you’re just playing ‘poor’. Yes, as bizarre as it sounds, there are people in this world who think playing poor is a fun sport. And resorts like Shanty Town exist to help them achieve the experience.

Shanty Town is a part of Emoya Estate, a South African five-star luxury game reserve and spa. It comes equipped with corrugated metal huts that can accommodate up to 52 guests. Over here, the rich get to live like the poor. But no, not entirely like the poor. The environment is safe and the shanties are equipped with conveniences like running water, electricity and Wi-Fi. The interiors aren’t too bad either – the beds look clean and comfortable, there are refrigerators, televisions, tables, chairs and cabinets. Oh, and did I mention under-floor heating? Yes, they have that too.

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