Gift of a Belgian Malinois Puppy

I’m very thrilled to have been given a Belgian Malinois puppy last week!  Several years ago, as some of you may remember, I did have a dog of the same breed – Hamdy by name; given to me by a Belgian who lives in the eastern Congo. Fantastic guard for me and for the goats:

Some of our goats going upcountry.

Some of our goats going upcountry.

Hamdy checking out the goats that are leaving; great guard, Hamdy.

Hamdy checking out the goats that are leaving; great guard, Hamdy.

Looks like Hamdy is counting the leaving stock.

Looks like Hamdy is counting the leaving stock.

But Hamdy could be so kind and loving - here, talking to me.

But Hamdy could be so kind and loving – here, ‘talking’ to me.

My new pup is also called Hamdy – named after H.1 who finally died.  Hamdy 2 is a lovely little puppy and quite stroppy; looks a bit like this pup –



Here are a couple of hunky videos on the breed – they really are quite fierce if left to their own devices; great guards and equally great companions:

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A Few [Security] Steps Back

So, we’re back to this – No one’s very happy about it; six or so years ago I returned to the house in this manner; and really thought we were on our way out of the problems.  Maybe not.



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What John H. Speke, Explorer, Can tell Us about Gum Arabic, 2 of 3

As the African explorers Livingston and Burton, the explorer Speke detailed the important uses of gum acacias in local life and in national and international markets.  The potential of gums for colonial powers [read colonial U.K.] reflects the market interests that could be gained by colonization or improved marketing in the areas through which they traveled.

Speke - source, Wikipedia

Speke – source, Wikipedia

The following entries are from ‘Adventures in Somali Land,’ by John Speke.  Discussed are the uses of gum arabic by local people and by animals, including frankincense and myrrh, and also the  use by  local women in fumigation:

Gum-trees, myrrh, and some varieties of the frankincense [tree] are found in great profusion, as well as a variety of the aloe plant, from which the Somali manufacture good strong cordage…

I went on shore and paid my respects to the Akil (chief) of the place, who lived in a small box-shaped stone fort, on the west flank of the village of Héis, which was very small, composed, as usual, of square mat huts, all built together, and occupied only by a few women, who made mats, collected gums, and stored the produce of the interior, as sheep, cows, and ghee, which their men constantly brought down to them [from higher altitudes], for shipping off to Arabia.9

Amongst the bush and trees there were several gum-producing ones, of which the frankincense, I think, ranked first. These gums are usually plucked by the women and transported to Aden. The barks of various other trees are also very useful; for instance, they strip down the bark of the acacia in long slips, and chew it until only fibres remain, which, when twisted in the hand, make strong cordage…

… Some of the poorer men are said to pass their whole lives without tasting any flesh or grain, but to live entirely on sour milk, wild honey, or gums, as they may chance to come across them, and they are almost naked; but notwithstanding this, disease is scarcely known…

During [my] journey the Somali pointed out some of their richest gum-trees, of which the finest in order is a species of frankincense, called by them Falafala, or Luban Maiti. The gum of this tree is especially valued by the Somali women for fumigating purposes, which they apply to their bodies by sitting over it, when ignited, in the same manner as Cashmeres sit over their little charcoal-pots to keep themselves warm when resting on their travels. They enshroud themselves in a large wrapper, place a pot with the burning gum between their legs, and allow the perfume to rise to every portion of their body simultaneously. We gave our guides five cloths for escort, and sent them away…

The people say that in their recesses and ravines acacias and other gum-trees grow as they do elsewhere. Gum only exudes in the dry hot season; and the confined air in the ravines is described as being so hot that people can hardly stay there, and many of the gum-pickers who do, become deaf in consequence of it…

Arab merchants and Somali, who had been gradually flocking in from about the 15th November; and as they arrived they erected mat huts as booths for carrying on their bartering trade. According to Herne’s investigations, the Somali took coarse cloths, such as American and English sheeting, black and indigo-dyed stuffs, and cotton nets (worn by married women generally to encase their hair), small bars of iron and steel, as well as zinc and lead, beads of various sorts, and dates and rice. In exchange for these, they exported slaves, cattle, gums of all sorts, ghee, ivory, ostrich-feathers, and rhinoceros-horns….

Finding myself reduced to the last stages of life, for no one would give me food, I went to a pool of water in a ravine amongst the hills, and for the last fortnight have been living there on water and the gums of trees. Seeing I was about to die, as a forlorn hope I ventured in this direction, without knowing whither I was going, or where I should come to; but God, you see, has brought me safely out.”…

Source – Adventures in Somali Land, by John Speke

The explorations of both Speke and Burton were enormously helped by the work of Mabrouki and Bombay whose efforts, until recently, have been very much sidelined –

While Speke and Burton were instrumental in bringing the source of the Nile to the wider world and were the first to record and map this section of Africa, the efforts and labors of Sidi Mubarak Bombay and Mabruki should be mentioned; Bombay was captured as a child near Lake Nyasa by slave traders and was sold to Indian merchants on the coast of Africa who took him to Sindh.[6] Thus he spoke Hindustani and after his master’s death he sailed back to Zanzibar where Speke and Burton met and hired him.[6]

Both spoke Hindustani and thus this greatly facilitated the travel in the interior as Bombay spoke several native languages beside Swahili. Speke in fact was much attached to Bombay and spoke highly of his honesty and conscientiousness. Bombay’s efforts in dealing with hostile tribes, interpreting and keeping the safari crew on track was a great help to the expedition.

Less is known of Mabruki, the other caravan leader, but he was later known as Mabruki-Speke, and like Bombay became one of East Africa’s great caravan leaders and was also a member of the Yoa tribe like Bombay. Because of Speke’s recommendations both Bombay and Mabruki served on Henry Stanley’s 1871 expedition to find Livingstone,

Source – Wikipedia, John Hanning Speke

Sidi Mubarak, date and photographer unknown. Source - RGS

Sidi Mubarak, date and photographer unknown. Source – RGS

[The role] of Bombay in exploration was recognised by the Royal Geographical Society of London, which presented Bombay a silver medal 1876 for his assistance to Speke as they strived to find the source of the Nile River. Bombay died in Africa in 1885 at the age of 65.

Source – Wikipedia, Sidi_Mubarak_Bombay

Posted in Agroforestry, Botany, Colonialism, Ethnography, Food, Richard Burton, Sudan | Tagged , , , , | Leave a comment

What Samuel Baker, Explorer, Can tell Us about Gum Arabic 1 of 3

Gum arabic, the resin of certain acacia trees, has been an important product of east Africa and the Sahel for millennia.  In addition to being traded as far away as India, it is eaten by local animals and has also been a key tree-crop that has been relied upon by indigenous folk and, in past eras, travelers during periods of drought. It is a key export commodity of The Sudan, and thus was a central  focus of the project work in which I was involved  in western Sudan, as discussed here and here .

In this and several other blogs that are being finished, I want to focus on three 19th century explorers who discuss this important gum – Baker; Burton; Speke. The first, by Baker, will be found below:

Sir Samuel Baker on Safari. Source - images.ookaboo.comSource -

Sir Samuel Baker on Safari. Source –

“A large quantity of gum arabic is collected throughout this country, which sells in Cassala at 20 piastres (4s. 2d.) the cantar of 100 lbs. There are three varieties, produced from various mimosas [Acacia]; the finest quality is gathered in the province of Kordofan, but I subsequently met with large quantities of this species in the Base country… The exports of the Soudan are limited to gum arabic, ivory, hides, senna, and bees’-wax; the latter is the produce of Abyssinia.

“These articles are generally collected by travelling native traders, who sell to the larger merchants resident in Cassala and Khartoum, the two principal towns of the Soudan…

“One of the mimosas yields an excellent fibre for rope-making, in which my people are busily engaged; the bark is as tough as leather, and forms an admirable material for the manufacture of sacks. This business is carried to a considerable extent by the Arabs, as there is a large demand for sacks of sufficient size to contain two hundred and fifty or three hundred pounds of gum arabic (half a camel load). Thus one sack slung upon each side can be packed easily to the animal.

“One of the mimosas (Acacia Arabica) produces a fruit in appearance resembling a tamarind: this is a powerful astringent and a valuable medicine in cases of fever and diarrhea; it is generally used by the Arabs for preparing hides; when dry and broken it is rich in a hard gum, which appears to be almost pure tannin.

“The wild animals have now deserted this immediate neighborhood; the only creatures that are to be seen in numbers are the apes and monkeys: these throng the sides of the river, eating the tamarinds from the few large trees, and collecting gum from the mimosas. These hungry animals gather the tamarinds before they ripen, and I fear they will not leave a handful for us; nothing is more agreeable in this hot climate than the acidity of tamarind water. I remarked a few days ago, when walking along the dry sandy bed of the Till about five miles from the river, that the monkeys had been digging wells in the sand for water.

“Upon one occasion a woman brought me a child of about fifteen months old, with a broken thigh; she had fallen asleep upon her camel, and had allowed the child to fall from her arms. I set the thigh, and secured it with gum bandages, as the mimosas afforded the requisite material. About twenty yards of old linen in bandages three inches broad, soaked in thick gum-water, will form the best of splints when it becomes dry and hard, which in that climate it will do in about an hour.

“We had several times disturbed antelopes during the early portion of the march, and we had just ascended from the rugged slopes of the valley, when we observed a troop of about a hundred baboons, who were gathering gum arabic from the mimosas; upon seeing us, they immediately waddled off. I set Jali’s broken thigh, and employed myself in making splints; …I carefully secured to the long splint with three rows of bandages, the first plain, and the last two layers were soaked in thick gum-water. When these became dry and hard, they formed a case like an armour of paste-board: previous to bandaging the limb in splints, I had bathed it for some hours with cold applications. The immediate neighbourhood was a perfect exhibition of gum-arabic-bearing mimosas. At this season the gum was in perfection, and the finest quality was now before us in beautiful amber-coloured masses upon the stems and branches, varying from the size of a nutmeg to that of an orange.

“So great was the quantity, and so excellent were the specimens, that, leaving our horses tied to trees, both the Arabs and myself gathered a large collection. This gum, although as hard as ice on the exterior, was limpid in the centre, resembling melted amber, and as clear as though refined by some artificial process. The trees were perfectly denuded of leaves from the extreme drought, and the beautiful balls of frosted yellow gum recalled the idea of the precious jewels upon the trees in the garden of the wonderful lamp of the “Arabian nights.

Gum a

Gum arabic Source – Wikipedia

“This gum was exceedingly sweet and pleasant to the taste; but, although of the most valuable quality, there was no hand to gather it in this forsaken, although beautiful country; it either dissolved during the rainy season, or was consumed by the baboons and antelopes. The aggageers [elephant hunters] took off from their saddles the skins of tanned antelope leather that formed the only covering to the wooden seats, and with these they made bundles of gum. When we remounted, every man was well laden…

… “In spite of its unhealthiness and low situation, on a level with the river at the junction of the Blue and White Niles, it [Khartoum] is the general emporium for the trade of the Soudan, from which the productions of the country are transported to Lower [southern] Egypt, i.e. ivory, hides, senna, gum arabic, and bees’-wax. During my experience of Khartoum it was the hotbed of the slave-trade. It will be remarked that the exports from the Soudan are all natural productions. There is nothing to exhibit the industry or capacity of the natives; the ivory is the produce of violence and robbery; the hides are the simple sun-dried skins of oxen; the senna grows wild upon the desert; the gum arabic exudes spontaneously from the bushes of the jungle; and the bees’-wax is the produce of the only industrious creatures in that detestable country.

Source – Samuel W. Baker, The Nile tributaries of Abyssinia and the sword hunters of the Hamran Arabs, 1866.

Posted in Blue Nile, Colonialism, Explorers & exploration, Gum arabic, Sahel, Samuel Grant, Sudan | Tagged , , , , , , , , | 3 Comments

Agroforestry in the Sahel – Looking back on Past Project Work – The SRAAD Project

Our socioeconomic and agroforesty work in the eastern and western Sudan was able to verify data on multipurpose use of A. senegal  [now renamed Senegalia senegal] and on  other woody species – as well as on related agroforestry practices and specific problems being encountered.

The project [was] composed of two distinct, yet interrelated components: The Resource Inventory Component and the Resource Rehabilitation Component.

The Resource Inventory Component employed innovative geographic and cartographic techniques, based on satellite imagery, to inventory the natural resources of a large part of Southern Darfur and Southern Kordofan. This effort generates base maps for the area which are used to organize and assess information on woody vegetation and a data base to devise forestry development strategies in these areas. The Resource Rehabilitation Component of the SRAAD project operates in a smaller area corresponding to the administrative region of five Rural Councils in Southern Kordofan.

The second component was based upon utilizing specific information generated by the Resource Inventory Component, combined with the results of a household survey conducted in the five Rural Council areas, to design forest management and development plans and to introduce rehabilitation activities. The rehabilitation activities utilize appropriate reforestation and agroforestry techniques.

The rehabilitation activity includes a detailed study of local conditions and the collection of baseline data from ethnobotanical and socioeconomic surveys. This component and the inventory of the SRAAD Project are designed to provide planning data for reforestation activity in parts of Darfur and Kordofan Province.

Source – Procedures Handbook

Of great concern on the part of local inhabitants were increasing attempts both by government and private persons and groups to take over large swaths of these Acacia-rich lands.

Further details on our work can be found here –

Here is a brief listing of the various uses to which this important Sahelian tree is put:

Gum arabic
The tree is of great economic importance for the gum arabic it produces to be is used as a food additive, in crafts, and as a cosmetic. The gum is drained from cuts in the bark, and an individual tree will yield 200 to 300 grams. Seventy percent of the world’s gum arabic is produced in Sudan.
New foliage is very useful as forage.
Dried seeds are used as food by humans.
[Gum arabic has traditionally been used as a tasty food in the Sahel]
Like other legume species, S. senegal fixes nitrogen within Rhizobia or nitrogen-fixing bacteria living in root nodules.
This nitrogen fixation enriches the poor soils where it is grown, allowing for the rotation of other crops in naturally nutrient-poor regions.
Acacia_senegal_-_Köhler–s_Medizinal-Pflanzen-004.  Source - Wikipedia

Acacia senegal, in Köhler’s Medizinal-Pflanzen-004. Source – Wikipedia

Traditional [medicinal] uses
It is reportedly used as for its astringent properties, to treat bleeding, bronchitis,diarrhea, gonorrhea, leprosy, typhoid fever and upper respiratory tract infections.
Roots near the surface of the ground are quite useful in making all kinds of very strong ropes and cords. The tree bark is also used to make rope.
Handles for tools, parts for weaving looms.

Source – Wikipedia

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A Husband’s Letter to his Decesed Wife – Translation by Wente

Letters to the dead could be long and, perhaps, ease the frustration or fear of the person writing.  The following letter is quite detailed; from the angry husband of a woman who has died:

Wente-Letters 2a

Wente-Letters from ancient  Egypt

Wente-Letters from ancient Egypt


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How to Succeed with Letters to The Dead – Translations by Wente

Letters to the dead in ancient Egypt provided one method of seeking success or redress from both the gods and from people who have died.  I will put up a couple that provide a little window to these interesting missives; see this blog for more details:

'Bribing' a god in order to succeed. Source - Wente - Letters from ancient Egypt

‘Bribing’ a god in order to succeed. Source – Wente – Letters from ancient Egypt

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