Winning the Global Resilience Challenge

POSTED 15 OCTOBER 2015

One year ago, TAHMO entered the Global Resilience Challenge, a three-stage competitive grant process funded by the Rockefeller Foundation, USAID, and Sida. The challenge is a response to growing recognition that resilience to disasters and chronic crises will be critical to preserving and continuing global efforts to reduce poverty and promote development in the 21st century.

Continue reading...

My life in Nairobi

POSTED 20 AUGUST 2015

President Obama made history last month by becoming the first sitting U.S. president to travel to Kenya. In the days leading up to his visit, CNN created controversy by labeling Kenya a "terror hotbed." The hashtag #SomeoneTellCNN quickly began trending worldwide, with many Kenyans calling out the news network for inaccurate and biased reporting. Tony Maddox, a CNN executive vice president and managing director, later flew to Kenya to apologize directly to President Uhuru Kenyatta.

Continue reading...

Being a Millennial

POSTED 12 JUNE 2015

The millennial generation is being described in an ever-increasing number of ways. Search Google News for "millennials" and you will undoubtedly find an article purporting to have discovered some basic truth about this mysterious generation. These articles make sweeping claims about what millennials want: careers that give them purpose, products that allow them to express their individuality, apps that make their lives more convenient, and organic fair trade coffee to remind everyone of how enlightened they are.

Continue reading...

Why TAHMO is important for agriculture

POSTED 7 APRIL 2015

Knowing the weather is critical for agriculture. This is as true in Africa as it is anywhere else. Unfortunately, smallholder African farmers are often at the mercy of the weather. Droughts can decimate an entire year's crop, leading to dire consequences for farmers who are dependent on farming for their livilihood.

Continue reading...

Installing a new TAHMO weather station

POSTED 24 MARCH 2015

I'm now three months into my work as East Africa Field Director for TAHMO. Things have been moving quickly. In the month of March alone I've participated in a UNDP workshop in Kampala, met with the board of directors of the Uganda National Meteorological Authority, presented at the Global Forum on Innovations in Agriculture in Abu Dhabi, and attended the Global Resilience Partnership workshop in Nairobi. It's been quite a learning experience representing TAHMO among such a variety of audiences.

Continue reading...

The journey continues

POSTED 13 JANUARY 2015

Having finished school I'm now back in Kenya to work for TAHMO full time. My official title is East Africa Field Director. I'm stoked to be starting my professional career with an organization that challenges me and demands my best work. My responsibilities include managing local staff, negotiating agreements with national meteorological agencies in East Africa, meeting with clients, and of course installing weather stations. I have a full plate of tasks in front of me but I believe I work best under these conditions when the stakes are high and there is little room for error.

Continue reading...

Defending my MPP Essay

POSTED 23 OCTOBER 2014

Having finished school I'm now back in Kenya to work for TAHMO full time. My official title is East Africa Field Director. I'm stoked to be starting my professional career with an organization that challenges me and demands my best work. My responsibilities include managing local staff, negotiating agreements with national meteorological agencies in East Africa, meeting with clients, and of course installing weather stations. I have a full plate of tasks in front of me but I believe I work best under these conditions when the stakes are high and there is little room for error.

Continue reading...

One down, 19,999 to go

POSTED 4 JULY 2014

Back in Oregon! My Boren Fellowship is officially over and I'm now stateside for the first time since my Christmas vacation six months ago. It was such a privilege for me to spend nine months in Kenya as a Boren Fellow. From an academic perspective it provided me the opportunity to carry out research to use as the basis of my thesis. Professionally, I had the opportunity to continue laying the foundation for TAHMO's success in Kenya, which may result in my return to Kenya next year. Lastly, Boren provided a way for me to reconnect with many folks in Kenya that I met during my time with Engineers Without Borders, especially those from Lela.

Continue reading...

Progress on TAHMO

POSTED 27 MAY 2014

In one of my first posts I described three goals I have for my time in Kenya: learn Swahili, conduct research for my master's thesis, and pilot TAHMO. As of this month I’ve completed my third and final Swahili class; I'm not fluent but I’ve made significant progress from where I was eight months ago. (After I return home I will be tested to place my Swahili ability on a language proficiency scale.) Last week I wrote about my new research topic and how I will use that for my master's thesis. So, of my three original goals, that leaves piloting TAHMO.

Continue reading...

Changing research topics

POSTED 21 MAY 2014

When I received a Boren Fellowship to come to Kenya, my plan was to research the impact of weather insurance. I wrote about this in one of my first posts so I won't dwell on the subject. Suffice it to say the idea was that I would interview two groups of farmers: those who have weather insurance and those who don't. The difference between the two groups is the impact of the insurance, which is designed to protect farmers from drought and thus help alleviate poverty. My job was to investigate how effective weather insurance was for actually accomplishing this goal. After previously writing a letter of support for my fellowship application and saying they were excited to work with me, for reasons I won't get into here the weather insurance organization I had partnered with decided to cancel the project.

Continue reading...

Kenya’s urban/rural divide

POSTED 24 FEBRUARY 2014

Life in Kenya is a tale of two worlds. On the one hand you have the bustling cities of Nairobi, Mombasa, Kisumu, Nakuru, and others where about a third of Kenya's 43 million people live. Life in these cities is fast, crowded, and loud. On the other hand you have vast areas of rural towns and villages where the remaining two-thirds of Kenyans live. Life in these areas is slow, quiet, and peaceful. Urban dwellers typically have access to running water, electricity, transportation, grocery stores, movie theaters, and most of the modern amenities you might expect (the exception is the portion of people living in urban slums). In rural areas however people often fetch water 20 liters at a time, they depend on subsistence farming for food and a modest income, and their primary mode of transportation is by foot or bicycle.

Continue reading...

Three months in

POSTED 2 JANUARY 2014

Having been in Kenya for three months now, I'm officially one third of the way through my Boren Fellowship. It's been an exciting time for me as I learn Swahili and adjust to life in Nairobi. I've just returned to the city after a two week vacation to be home for the holidays. It was wonderful to see family and friends, if only for a short time. On my way back I routed myself through Chicago for my friend Sneha's wedding (enjoy your honeymoon!) which was beautiful. So I'm now ready to get started with the next stage of my journey here.

Continue reading...

Visiting Lela

POSTED 23 OCTOBER 2013

Lela is a rural village in the southwest corner of Kenya, near Lake Victoria and the Tanzanian border. The community is made up of about 2,000 people who get by on subsistence farming. I first visited Lela in June 2011 as a member of Engineers Without Borders. The Oregon State University chapter of EWB had partnered with Lela to develop a solution to the community's need for safe, accessible water. Women and children were wasting precious hours of the day walking several kilometers to gather water during the dry season. In addition, surface water sources available in the wet season were highly contaminated and were causing waterborne illnesses.

Continue reading...

Life in Kibera

POSTED 13 OCTOBER 2013

In my last post I wrote about the experience of buying a desk in Kibera. Today I had another Kibera experience, walking through with my friend Christina. Previously I only visited the market, but today I actually walked through the slum dwellings. We walked up a hill to get a bird's eye view.

Continue reading...

Buying a desk in Kibera

POSTED 29 SEPTEMBER 2013

I've been in Nairobi now just under a week, and so far so good. A wrench was thrown in my plans when the language institute where I intended to study apparently closed, so I am taking classes at the National Museums of Kenya instead. The class started the day after I arrived, and I'm now through the first week of lessons. My favorite Swahili word so far: juzi, which means "the day before yesterday". How convenient is that? Somebody please invent an English equivalent so I can stop saying "the day before yesterday".

Continue reading...

Three goals for my Kenya trip

POSTED 5 SEPTEMBER 2013

For the past four months I've been hard at work preparing for my departure for Kenya on September 23, now less than three weeks away! I've purchased my airfare and travel insurance, received my visa from the Kenyan Embassy in DC, submitted an application for a research permit to the Kenyan government, submitted paperwork for funding clearance from the Institute for International Education (who administer the Boren program), received immunizations and a malaria prophylaxis, and prepared my submission to OSU's Institutional Review Board (from which I must receive permission to conduct research on human subjects). Whew.

Continue reading...

A few words of thanks

POSTED 26 JULY 2013

On September 23 I will embark on a nine-month journey in Kenya. Before I go into too much detail about my plans for those nine months, I'd like to say a few words of thanks to the people in my life who have made this possible.

Continue reading...

Hello, world!

POSTED 10 JULY 2013

To all two of you reading this, I'd like to introduce you to my blog. My name is Zach and I am a student at Oregon State University. At the moment I'm on a summer gig, living in San Francisco with my brother Colin (the handsome fellow below) and working as an intern for IDEX. Without Colin's willingness to host me for the summer this internship would not be possible. So, to you sir, thank you.

Continue reading...