A Taste Of Tony’s Chocolonely.

Crazy About Chocolate, Serious about people.

This is the slogan for the most amazing, tasty and rich Chocolate you have never tested. It Tony’s Chocolonely. My niece adores this stuff, not just any chocolate, only that made by Tony himself……no monkey business.

She loves them so much she know how many flavors they have, and how they taste….and from that list she still picked her favorite. But for her, anything will still work as long as its made by Tony…..a place she hope she will work one day….and eat their chocolate all day.

In West Africa, where most of the cocoa comes from, (child) slavery appears to be alarmingly common. And that while in 2001 a number of large international chocolate companies put their signature under the Harkin Engel Protocol in which agreements are made to eliminate the ‘worst forms of child labor’.
Now that Teun knows that chocolate is smeared with illegal practices, he gives himself, after eating a number of chocolate bars, as a chocolate criminal in the program ‘Keuringsdienst van Waarde’.
Tony’s Coholony are now twelve years on the road to 100% slave free chocolate they are supported, encouraged, challenged and eaten they now know how difficult it is to change an industry we have grown enormously and have achieved results.
Their mission is to make the norm in chocolate 100% slave-free. To achieve that, they follow their roadmap. But how far are they exactly and how much impact do they actually make? Good! That is why they have worked hard to make the steps we take even clearer and to measure them. This way you can see exactly how much impact Tony’s make.
Tony’s Chocolonely is growing fast. In 2017 they expected to sell some 28 million bars. Sohee!  Because of our growth, they can work with more cocoa farmers according to their recipe for slave-free cocoa and they can make more noise in the chocolate industry, so that other chocolate giants follow their model.
Tony’s consciously chooses to work in Ghana and Ivory Coast. There the problems are the biggest and they want to make an impact there.
They pay an extra Tony’s premium on top of the Fairtrade premium, so that the farmer can earn a living income. The premium is used to increase income for the farmer, both in money and through investments in higher production through agricultural training courses and new tree nurseries.
But also by lowering costs for the farmer by purchasing fertilizers on a large scale or making education more accessible and the construction of a central water pump. More than 9.6% of the selling price of our bars comes in favor of the cocoa farmer.
Today I unwrap my first slave free chocolate, while I hope you do the same, you will discover that Tony’s Chocolonely does not have even cubs, because Chocolate production has never been fair.
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Drought in Rift Valley.

Happy New Year.

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I am in Eldoret, winding up my holiday with my wife and nephews, this is my second home since I married my wife. I have now been here many times am starting to lose count, and I hope I do. I don’t need to have the number in my head, I might just remind my wife how many times I have been to her home when she is serving me bad coffee…..just the way other men do, when it comes to bride price.

That aside, this place, on a really good day is beautiful…..filled with green vegetation….weather so calming you will not want to leave. Today, its not one of those days. I am welcomed with a cloud of dust and its just minutes before 9am. Animals on their way to grazeland,…….not the song but the place, any place, anywhere. Its not really specific where the animals will end up, everywhere is dry and to find a heaven of pasture is unthinkable luxury.

My father-in-law tells me that it started November and they always get Christmas rains but not this time. For a community that relies on agriculture, its a big blow. The soil in starving, the manure dying up fast and the bees waste time looking for nectar and water….this has become the life here. And the farmer is worried. The weather patterns change has affected everyone and Rift Valley is not spared on this.

Its was reported beginning of January that the US experienced the most cold season, with negatives in states like Florida. Parts of Niagara falls were reported to have frozen. While the US and Europe are fighting snow, we on the other hand, sitting below the Sahara Desert we are fighting drought…….possible the worst.

This always affects the production of food, and the rearing of animals. This season, farmers lose hundreds of cattle due to lack of food and water. The Kenyan government came up with a plan….to buy the cattles before they die…..they are then slaughtered and meat sold through the Kenya Meat Commission. It always doesn’t make sense for a farmer who is only agreeing to that to salvage something.

In Nairobi, cattles are grazing everywhere, it’s a hazard….but then again we share this city with a community that prides themselves for keeping cattles, it’s a big deal to them, so we have to get used to it….it is what it is.

Unlike Eldoret, Nairobi has experienced some cold weather, rains here and there this season. Its unusual for this to happen. But here I am, hoping for the best…..for the rest of the country. This year I will be blogging more about my country and my travels, and I hope you will enjoy the read.

I want to express my gratitude for those who have continued to encourage me throughout my writing. All the best for 2018. May the year be of great achievements.

 

Visiting Kakamega National Forest Reserve.

If you have known me for long, you have discovered that I love Cycling, I love Travelling and I love nature. Nature is life, its what surrounds us and makes us tick. We wouldn’t survive without her so they say, but she will thrive without us. Man has not been a good custodian of her, damaging her in all different ways. But for me, this place is of my dwelling, I wish to one day have a house inside the forest, surrounded with all the tall trees and green grass, in the middle of the pouring rain without much care.

Am sure, its a dream for many, this place has much peace that you would imagine. You would imagine how difficult it would be, to live five days without internet, cooking with wood and no indoor plumbing. Who cares about those anyway. Kakamega National Forest Reserve gives you that and many more….for those who want to make this kind of a living a reality, maybe for five days or for more….depending on your budget. Its three thousand a person for a banda, and you would choose an open kitchen or indoor.

The people who have taken advantage of this are those doing research here in the forest, of insects and other habitats of this place. I have wondered many times if this is really work. When you are in a place like this, doing something that pays you and having a peace that will cost you billions, thats not work, its wellness working. For me and my wife, we are not researchers, we just want to have a great time while we are here visiting our parents.

This is my second time here, and the first for my wife. The last time I was here it was somehow wet, today its really dry. The weather has been very hush and after the fall, something I really love…..the sun rays finds itself inside in some places. Here there are hundreds of different tree species so the fall is not 100%. But then all the animals are here, the lady at the reception says that “our snakes are not dangerous, in many years we have never had a case of a snake attack” unbelievable even for me. But if you were me, and you are taking your wife to the forest planning to be lazy on the woods and probably fall asleep somewhere unconventional, snake topic is what you want to avoid……so we say “the snakes here, don’t bite”.

The points of interest when you are here are the viewpoint, popular in the morning with a view of Malava Forest and the Nandi hills. Wonderful place to watch the sunrise early in the morning. River Isiukhu waterfalls, this is where the river that travels all the way across Kakamega town is born, it gives birth to other rivers before ending its journey in Lake Victoria. They have a picnic site, a place for those who want to spent the day without worrying about what the hell is going on in the other world and off-course the living bandas. The place you can make your dwelling.

My wife and I have enjoyed being here, and we plan to come again with our friends sometime and just show them what this place can offer in terms of peace and getting natures rewards. If you find time while visiting Kakamega please check it out. They have two gates in Kakamega….one on Kakamega-Webuye road and the other on your way to Shinyalu.

Giraffe Centre Becomes the Spot in Nairobi.

Pictures of giraffe invading guests breakfast at Giraffe Manor have gone viral all over the world. This created the attention that giraffe Centre needed. The Giraffe Centre is the creation of the African Fund for Endangered Wildlife (A.F.E.W. Kenya), a Kenyan non-profit organisation. Our main purpose is to educate Kenyan school children and youth on their country’s wildlife and environment, as well as give local and international visitors an opportunity to come into close contact with the world’s tallest species, the giraffe.

Its been a while since I have visited this place, much has changed, the number of giraffes has increased I almost lost count. This has been my place of solace, I have enjoyed the kindness and peace this species have provided for me, on my many visits here. My wife shocked me that she has never been here, trust me it was unbelievable for me, but then I felt like I am the one who has failed on the job, and i needed to do something…….and what a better day for me to do this than the day my wife wanted to spend the whole day with me, no visiting people, no inviting people, just me and her doing something we have never done.

In this case, we were going to have a day at giraffe centre, a place that has become very popular among many who want to see what nairobi has to offer. The days I used to frequently visit this place, we had very few people in a day and today people are flocking here in their hundreds, and thats a good thing. Many people, young or old, have little to no knowledge of Kenya’s extraordinary landscape and wildlife.

Through our Education for Sustainable Development (ESD) programmes, we aim to cultivate an interest in the environment by highlighting the practical benefits of conservation to people, as well as animals. Here at Giraffe Centre workshops for primary and secondary school teachers, college lecturers and Curriculum Support Officers are held. The goal is to help them realise their role in environmental education and conservation education. They are tasked with applying what they have learnt with their students.

This is a place with all the combination, leisure, education, recreation and everything. The curio shop also which is located here is also attracting many people who want to buy some mementos to remember or for their loved ones. Donations boxes are on two locations, you can drop in any currency. One new addition is the nature trail, which my wife and I really enjoyed. It takes you down to the river and the dam. With seats located in strategic locations where loved can hide peacefully and enjoy the shade and rest.

I am a lover of nature and for over 7 years a friend of giraffe centre, I have never been disappointed and I will always come back. Todays I was happy to share my time here with my wife, am sure she is happy. If you are visiting Nairobi, or you are on a stop over with three hours on your plate, you will love this place.

 

An Hour at Karen Blixen Museum.

Karen Blixen-Finecke was a Danish author who wrote works in Danish and English. She is best known under her pen names Isak Dinesen, used in English-speaking countries, and Tania Blixen, used in German-speaking countries. But thats not all, her early years started here, when she arrived in Kenya to join her husband Baron Bror Fredrik von Blixen-Finecke, a swedish born writer who was a passionate hunter.

Baron had sold his land to settle here, at the foot of Ngong hills, with the hope that he would farm coffee and become a millionaire. Over 4,000 hectares of this land then was filled with coffee, workers quitters, a coffee factory built by Karen’s brother and the house they used to live in. Karen fell in love with this place, having been born in the flat danish landscape, she loved to wake up and enjoy the view of Ngong hills.

The last years of Karen in Kenya were not rosy, she had divorced from her husband, lost her lover and lost interest in farming. Part of the land was subdivided in 20 hectares and sold. She had to arrange the resettlement of her workers and later sold the house to her friend and left the country. Later, out of Africa was born, her first book published in 1937, now translated to seven languages and a famous movie filmed in 1985. Its her writing career that made her famous.

The danish government later bought the house, which they later gifted to the government of Kenya and now its a museum managed by National Museum of Kenya. Some of her household items were also bought and others were donated, noticeable are the pictures she painted while she lived here, and some personal collection of chest cabinets some imported.  When standing at the main door, Karens favorite spot….sitting on her make shift table made from grinding stones imported from India, here she sat and treated her workers as she marvelled at the site of Ngong Hills. The trees have grown but the hills still conquer.

Some of the machines used during those early years of farming still rest here in the field. The oxen plough and the wagon they used to transport coffee from the farm to Nairobi before it could be send to mombasa then shipped for processing.  The old tractor with metal tyres still fights for its survival in the modern world of the ignition key. The kitchen is intact though not factional, with a picture of her chef, who cooked for the Prince of Wales when he visited and for all this years cooked for her. It is here in this house that Karen entertained her guest prince of wales twice.

Karen loved to paint, she loved to write and she loved people. When she lived here, there was no running water, her metal bathtub was filled with water that was boiled from the kitchen adjacent to the house. She did not have electricity either, the reason why the kitchen had to be a few steps from the main house because they used wood to cook and lanterns for light.

Karen and her friend dreamed of one day owning a ship and when the dream took long to mature, she bought two ship lights, one green and one red which she placed on top of her house and got the satisfaction of her house being turned into a ship, at least for a night. Today, the house is surrounded with nature trail, which gives a peaceful walk and being lost in a cold and peaceful natures embrace.

This is a good place to come and unwind, learn something and enjoy just being away from the troubles of the city. In Denmark, part of the house where Karen lived when she left Kenya is also a museum, its a place am looking forward to visit one of this days. Her picture was used on the postal stamp of Denmark on the 50 Danish Kroner note. If you are in Denmark, I hope it will be on your list ‘of places to visit’ the museum and am sure you will enjoy.

Karen’s writing career was very fruitful, she went on to publish other books after Out of Africa’s success with her last book being published after her death. For me her life is a true reflection of living life to the full, creating an impact and shaping the future in a very small way that has a bigger impact.

Welcome to Karen Blixen Museum – Nairobi.

How Netherlands is Reframing Accessibility.

If you ask a large group of people with different kinds of disabilities what they want to be called, you will get a large number of answers. Some prefer “people with disabilities,” some prefer “disabled people,” some prefer their specific situation be called out, some would rather not mention it at all.

For this essay, I chose “people with disabilities” because it’s what my friends call themselves. As always, you should ask a person what the prefer, and respect them by using it.

If we make the choice to consider everyone “a person on the ability spectrum” instead of separating the “able-bodied” from the “disabled,” we stop treating people with different abilities as members of an out-group, and we start treating them as part of our own diverse in-group.

What I have seen here in Netherlands has baffled me. The country has done well in making sure the people with disability are able to move around, be it by trail, bus or just on the streets. A typical street in Amsterdam is busy, with people walking, others cycling and cars. But a blind person with a little training can make their way around, while being safe.

The streets are paved with a special kind of tile with groves, with different patterns guiding to the bus door, crossing points, turnings etc. The country has done more to ensure that there wheelchair users can have access to and from the city. If you are arriving in Schiphol by train or flight, you can book for wheelchair assistance prior to your travel.

When intending to use a train, getting around Netherlands, you also have to book for wheelchair assistance. A platform which is mobile will be lowered on the platform for you to wheel yourself into the train and when you reach your destination, somebody will be waiting for you, to do the same thing. In buses and trains, there are places reserved for wheelchairs.

There are many restaurants and coffee house who have also taken this seriously. I dont know if your favorite restaurant in Amsterdam is accessible by wheelchair but if its not, then its not favorite anymore. My few hours there I managed to spot a few in Amsterdam and Daan Hang too.

I have travelled in many cities in europe and before I arrived in Netherlands i was in Rome. If you have visited Rome you will agree with me that there hills and some obstacles for wheelchair users unlike in Amsterdam with a fairly level ground. In some cities, the infrastructure is not maintained, rendering it very unfit for use.

 

Being in the history of currency.

Greetings from Rome. Rome, Italy’s capital, is a sprawling, cosmopolitan city with nearly 3,000 years of globally influential art, architecture and culture on display. Ancient ruins such as the Forum and the Colosseum evoke the power of the former Roman Empire. Vatican City, headquarters of the Roman Catholic Church, has St. Peter’s Basilica and the Vatican Museums, which house masterpieces such as Michelangelo’s Sistine Chapel frescoes.

It has taken me to come to Rome to learn about two currencies I knew nothing about. The Lira and US 2 dollar bill note. The lira was introduced in Europe by Charlemagne (c. 742–814), who based it on the pound (Latin: libra) of silver. No lira coins were struck during the Middle Ages, and the lira remained strictly a money of account.

By the 16th century several of the Italian states actually struck lira coins, but they varied considerably in weight. One of the states that used the lira was the kingdom of Sardinia, and this monetary unit was adopted in all of Italy when it became unified under Sardinian leadership.

In the United States, the story of the $2 bill starts in 1862, when the federal government printed its first nationalized paper bills, Bennardo says. The $2 bill was in that first printing, along with the $1 bill, but it took a while for paper money to catch on.

That’s because a lot of folks made less than $15 a month before the turn of the century. Inflation slowly brought the value of paper money down, but then the Great Depression hit. “This was a time when our country did not have much wealth, and a lot of things cost less than a dollar,” Bennardo says. “So the $2 bill really didn’t have much of a practical use.”

The economy recovered, but the $2 bill eventually found itself in a strange price point. It became the the perfect note for some rather nefarious purposes. “Politicians used to be known for bribing people for votes, and they would give them a $2 bill, so if you had one it meant that perhaps you’d been bribed by a politician,” Bennardo says. “Prostitution back in the day was $2 for a trick, so if you were spending $2 bills it might get you into trouble with your wife. $2 is the standard bet at a race track, so if you were betting $2 and you won, you might get a bunch of $2 bills back and that would show that you were gambling.”

My friend after giving me to note for the two dollar bill told me how rare the note is, that there are some US citizens who have never seen the bill and on many occasions calls have been made to the police, when making payments with the bills with the assumption that its a fake note. The Lira on the other hand has gone to its grave. Here in Rome, while I was on my morning run, I encountered two pieces on Lira notes.

Here in Italy, it’s not easy finding this notes and today was a lucky day for me because I get to see one. As a collector, this has revealed a lot about the Italian History. I am on my Roman holiday.

When in Rome, do what the Romans do.