I look forward to that future "Sixth Sense" journey interoperating with OpenTox to revisit the Tamboti Trees in South Africa and the Mopane Trees in Namibia, and to test the delivery of safety advice from the distributed semantic knowledge of OpenTox 3.0 use cases in the field :)!
While presenting for the first time on the initial results of our "Scientists Against Malaria" drug design initiative at the Bio-IT conference in Boston this week, I used a few slides from our trip to the Caprivi Delta, Namibia to draw attention to the realities and important issues on the ground of the children needing solutions in such regions.
While on a start-up conservation field trip in a remote region of Namibia, we visited many local villages: you can consider the children here as an introduction to your ‘future patients’ for malaria treatment. Malaria is a common infection in this region which has many wetlands and a strong wet season.
Families and village communities form a critical part of the social fabric in this region. Unfortunately a high HIV infection rate is having devastating impact on such communities. Infections go untreated and many children lose their parents.
We visited a local school where we had lively interactions with the children who demonstrated their talents with enthusiasm and energy. Education requires healthy families and children so that children can attend such schooling for sufficiently long periods of time to develop stronger educational foundations to navigate the issues of this coming century for their community.
This next generation of the community is however growing up with the challenges of malaria and little medical care.
A family we interviewed with proudly showed us their material possessions. The current cost of our anti-malarials for just two weeks would exceed their entire annual income.
We can work on biodiversity conservation (e.g., recent rhino rescue work in Thanda shown). But we need a healthy, educated community involvement for it to be sustainable. Criminal groups who exploit these communities and regions for poaching must be resisted through capacity building. In collaboration together in areas of health, education and business we can build a more promising future for both the people and their rich and valuable biodiverse environment.
Consider the following realities and joining us in our collaborative work to invent new ones!
On Sunday May 30 we host an OpenTox Workshop near Berlin in Potsdam that will bring many leading international research program directors and leaders together to discuss how collaboration and the increased linking of resources over the World Wide Web could progress human safety research and safety assessment. By linking resources and data increasingly powerful computer-based models can be built for predicting and avoiding unwanted adverse toxic side effects of drugs, chemicals, ingredients in soaps and cosmetics, pesticides etc. thus enhancing human safety and protecting the environment better. Such methods should also eventually lead to the replacement of many animal experiments.
Neglected diseases such as parasitic infections reek havoc on many communities in different parts of the world. As part of our committment to responsible, sustainable development and a community culture, we will make neglected disease problems, where we evaluate we can make a significant difference, a goal of our collaborative virtual organisations in years to come. Please contact me to discuss your ideas and also consider joining the new Collaboration Pools summarised at bottom of this post. We can also work together on new funding opportunities.
However and also, my experiences in Africa, for example on our conservation trip to the remote Caprivi Delta region of Namibia: http://barryhardy.blogs.com/theferryman/2009/02/experiences-from-expedition-work-in-the-caprivi-delta.html (please keep in mind this post was based on a summary for my younger son for awareness!), was that "small contributions" can make a big difference. One story from that trip was the inability of a local clinic to deal with the torn foot of one of our party, and we ended up stitching him up with a veterinary kit back at base camp. Once that was done, how would he get around we asked, as there were no crutches to be had locally?! Discussing the incident around the camp fire afterwards, we came up with the simple solution of each throwing some money into a "needles and crutches" hat, and that was able to buy needles and crutches for the local clinic to keep them going for a couple of years, and it could be directly organised. So in this reality-focused context something like $200 made a bigger difference on the real problem for the future than a (possibly failed) major $100m program. A bit of a stretched analogy, but you probably get the point.
We intend to continue our support of sustainable development work in the community in Caprivi in community-involved wild life conservation development, and look forward to our next trip, and others in the community who might be interested. Let me know, if this might be for you too.
Here I would like to draw attention to a new local initiative in the area to help support the families affected by a widespread HIV infection epidemic. There is need for education, healthcare, and support of the many orphans left behind by parents who simply die from untreated HIV infection. Consider what you might do by volunteering some simple help and support to the work out there. The new center is called TAG Volunteers (TAG for think-act-grow):
I vouch this is a real legitimate project as Ronel, the woman setting it up, was also very much involved in competently running the important activities at our base camp on our last visit, such as getting something to eat when we got back very tired and hungry from our trips into the bush!
Welcome your feedback. If you do decide to take some time out to volunteering in some way, I suspect you will find it rewarding. And it is also at the same time such a special and beautiful country to experience!
In November we went out to work on a new community-based conservation project in a remote area of Northwestern Namibia called the Caprivi Delta. The approach was that a group of 12 volunteers including Nicki and I would travel to a new base camp there and help the local scientists with their work on the project. The project is working on gathering information on the local wildlife in two large areas of wilderness which form two relatively new wildlife parks. In between the parks are conservancies where the locals live in small villages. Most of the local villagers are small subsistence farmers, i.e., they have a few cattle and goats, plant a small number of crops and use fishing and plants and wildlife from the local bush to provide themselves a basic living. The people there are very poor by western standards. They have no doctor in the area, no computers or playstations, although a village may have a radio and more recently a mobile phone which is often shared! Most people have to walk to school, work or to get water.
(continue reading continuation below if interested!)
If you have ever been to Basel in Switzerland you may have taken a ferry across the Rhine between the main city and “Klein Basel” (Little Basel). This ferry is tethered to a cable line stretching across the river and uses only the river’s current to be pushed quietly from one side to the other. Here I imagine sitting with the river’s flow of information swirling past, reflecting on the voices that have spoken to me that day. Here we can also sit together and share a conversation as we observe the constant and changing flow around us.
And so this Blog has been taken to the river.
“You will learn it,” said the Ferryman Vasudeva, “but not from me. The river has taught me to listen; you will learn from it too…And it sometimes happened that while listening to the river, they both thought the same thoughts, perhaps of a conversation of the previous day, or about one of the travellers whose fate and circumstances occupied their minds, or death, or their childhood; and when the river told them something good at the same moment, they looked at each other, both thinking the same thought, both happy at the same answer to the same question.”