Lessons From Africa: Part 3

There is one last thing I want to point out from the things that we could learn from Africa, really any poverty stricken area, and that is how to prioritize.

As Americans we are extremely, extremely blessed. Sometimes I see it as a blessing and sometimes I look at as a curse, especially now as our consumerist society is causing us so many problems environmentally, economically and fundamentally. We’re buying things that we can’t afford, our priorities are so out of whack. I mean even when people are about to get their lights shut off the last thing they want to do is give up their iphone 500 that they just bought a week ago when it first came out. We threw the other one away without a second though of what the damage it would do in the landfill or to what we could to do with it instead, like recycle or upcycle it in some way.


Even when they can’t feed their kids they’re going out and buying a new Hummer instead buying a bicycle. There isn’t really anything really wrong with either of those things, except the Hummer, but they’re both luxuries and it seems like it’s the last thing people are willing to give up. Africa doesn’t have the luxury of being addicted to anything because they can’t even get what they want. Except now I hear about schools in Africa getting laptops and it’s like, “What?! They can’t even afford food and you think they need a laptop?”

We’d rather go out and buy cigarettes and bear instead of buying ourselves or our kids food. Who am I to talk? I’ve never been addicted to either one and that’s simply because I saw what idiots people turned into when they decide it’s cool to be addicted to something.

We even go out of our way to destroy the planet by getting bottled water because the water from the tap just isn’t good enough even though it’s the same exact thing and people in Africa have to walk 6 kilometers or 3.7 miles just to water. Half the time it isn’t even clean water. Eighty percent of diseases in the developing world are caused by contaminated water

While us Americans are taking our 30 minute showers, leaving the water running while we’re brushing out teeth, watering the herd of cattle that we’ll eat so much of that it will make us sick, and we’re using between 100- 175 gallons of water every day. That is just at home. The UK uses 35.66 gallons and the average person in the developing world uses 2.64 gallons of water every day.

It is estimated that 5.3 billion people, two-thirds of the world’s population, will suffer from water shortages by 2025.


Two- They’re creative because they have to be. Unlike most Americans who can pretty much just snap their fingers and have whatever suits their fancy, they have to come up with a way to use whatever they have, in some parts it’s probably trash left by tourists or something, and use to make what they need. Every time I go to the store, which is as rarely as possible because there is nothing I hate more, I see a few of things. One, I see the ads, the stupid crap people are trying to convince me that I need. It sickens me. Two, I see all the crap that people are buying. I really shouldn’t be judging, but I just can’t help it. And really I don’t care. These people are walking around with their blinders on and most people know what they’re buying is junk, but they don’t care. Those who don’t know are just as bad. They’re not talking responsibility for their life. They’re trusting some government to tell them what is good for them instead trying to make an informed decision. Everybody pays for the poor decisions that any individual makes. Someday it will be through healthcare, but for now we’re paying with through a polluted environment. It takes a bigger toll than anybody could probably guess. The third thing I see is how much of the crap in that store I could make myself. Make myself and probably even things others are throwing away. Make a bookshelf out a pallet, make a cat scratcher out of some old unloved boxes. It’s pathetic how lazy we’ve gotten. People in Africa have to make shoes out some pop bottles and cloth.

All of it makes me just to want to throw myself on the shelves and scream at the top of lungs. Why not? All the kids do it in the toy isle? Probably not for the same reason, but still. By the end of my trip I’m just waiting for someone to run into me so I can punch them out or yell at them to freakin open their eyes. Just to let you know, I’ve never done either one, but I’m sure I feel much better if I did.

I’m sorry for being so rantish. This isn’t to say that we should feel guilty or that it’s wrong for us to be so well off, but the problem comes when we start to take it for granted, when we don’t appreciate and when we don’t even think about it. When we blindly make based on greed and money it becomes a problem and it’s an insult to those who have nothing.

Lessons From Africa: Part 2

From the very beginning, Africa has opposed colonization, but I could only find examples dating back to the late 1800s and early 1900s.  There were many reasons for their resistance, but for our purpose, I’ll on focus on the economic reasons.

“During this time period economic opposition was often not well organized. However, there were attempts in the 1920s and 1930s by mine workers in southern Africa and port workers in West and East Africa to organize into unions. Of greater impact were the less organized but more widespread efforts of African farmers to resist colonial demands on their labor and their land. Amall scale African farmers in Mali quietly, but effectively, resisted the attempts by colonial officials to control the production of cotton.”

Around this specific time period started World War I. Despite their opposition, most of Africa had been colonized. Africans that had come from Britain or France were recruited to help the allies. The reasoning of the Allies? Soldiers would be helping protect the world against the evils of Fascism and Nazism. Africans came back asking the question, “Why should I give my life to keep Europe and America free, when I am not free in my own country?”

“To the ordinary African, life as a colonial subject was hardly better than life under Fascism or Nazism.”

By the end of the 1960s, all but six African colonies had pulled away and demanded independence.

“For many years, the white settlers in these colonies had the right to vote. They used this vote to elect representatives who passed laws that protected the power of the European settlers and discriminated against Africans. African nationalist leaders believed that if franchise was the right of all citizens, the majority population would use their vote to bring in majority, independent African rule.

The settler colonial governments responded to the non-violent constitutional demands of African nationalist parties with laws that banned all political protests and with violence. Repressive legislation allowed the settler governments to arrest and imprison the leaders of the banned African political parties.”


I stumbled onto an article that talk about Uganda herders are nomadic. They are nomadic because water is scarce and pasture is scarce, but mostly because it’s part of their way of life. Uganda policies are trying to prohibit them from doing this. Why? So they can modernize this group of ‘ill-educate’ nomads and replace them modernized and commercialized farming methods. They plan to use the land to grow biofuels and as mining areas.

“This, say critics, will only increase conflict and hunger, force more young people to move into cities, and will destroy a rich way of life that has proved resilient and economically viable.

In fact, research by the International Institute for Environment and Development in London shows that nomadism is ideally suited to Africa’s semi-arid lands, especially as they are now experiencing increasing droughts, floods and unpredictable rains. It found that the nomadic cattle of west Africa, Ethiopia and Kenya produced more and better quality meat and generated more cash per hectare than “modern” Australian and American ranches.”

I read another article that talked about the idea that there is no true democracy. It was titled, “Why Africa Must Trash Western Liberal Democracy?…..& Their Way of Life Too?” It compared Libya to America to see which had a better system. The criteria of the best system (best because there is no perfect) is based on philosopher ideas from the 1700s or so. Because of the way our system is set up, we are more susceptible to corruption and the like. It made some good points and your thoughts will probably depend on what you love or hate about each system. It’s just something to think about.

I said all of this to say that maybe, just maybe they live that way because it works for them. Just like in America when the government gets too involved in the economy things start get messed up, maybe when we push our beliefs on other countries things get messed up for them. Africa clearly has a lot of problems now, but I think that many of them weren’t caused by the country’s inability to take care of themselves, but the result of people trying to take care of them.

The Libya protests that happened not too long ago suggested that they were completely happy with their situation at that time. It wasn’t the government that they hated, but their dictator Gaddafi.

The European colonization is said to have had a devastating effect on them. It disrupted any kind of natural order they had. That’s where it started and everything kind of snowballed from there, but you can read about that in the link.

The extreme poverty just seems to negate any chance they have of having a democratic system. Despite the billions of dollars that America and European counties have poured into the place, corruption seems to creep back in through the African leaders unwillingness to step down from power.

I think we can learn a couple of things from this. One, that democracy may not be the answer for everyone. Several African countries live in a decent place and several more could with the right leaders. They seem to know what system would work best for them. They could do better eventually, but it’s not something can be pushed. America has the tendency to push their ideas and beliefs on others, sometimes for the good of the other country and sometimes for their own agenda.

Two, I think we could end similar to Africa if we’re not careful. Not exactly how Africa ended up in that place, but the same place nonetheless. Some corporations have more money than the country does and they use that money to buy their way in policies.

Three, we should appreciate our government. I believe we are extremely blessed to have this form of government, but I’m starting to feel as if it slipping between our fingers. The way it was several years ago with the American dream and all that was a good place to be and we not have live it the same was as was initially intended, but the fact that we still have it within our grasp is still something to be positive about. Africa never had that. It would be such an insult to those who never had that chance to give it up without a fight.

Lessons From Africa: Part 1

When I first started my upcycling venture, my great aunt, who I’ll just call my aunt because it’s easier, said ‘You’d really like Africa. They come up with a use for everything.’

Of the 21 least developed countries in the world, according to the United Nations Human Development Index, 11 are in West Africa. Fifty-five percent of the population lives on less than $1 a day. The region’s even poor by African standards – the average annual income is $309, compared to the Sub-Saharan average of $470.


The Sub-Saharan region of Africa is the poorest region in the world.

To be honest, I don’t know that much about Africa. I’ve heard that one-half of the country is pretty normal as far as poverty is concerned and then the other half is the part that has the problem.

I was inspired by my aunt telling me that they are so creative when it comes to their reuse of everyday items and I tried to find some different facts to reinforce that, but I didn’t come up with all that much. I see pictures from time to time of their region. They’re rare and I couldn’t find the ones that had always stayed with me, but here are the ones I did find.

african boat

The fishermen from the West coast of Africa decorate their boats with brightly coloured geometric designs. A group finds these boats and turns them into furniture. This is just one of their designs. Click the link below for more.

furniture from old boats


AfriGadget Soccer Ball

Old clothes, a plastic bag, condoms, and some rope made into a football.

Blockbuster Oven in Liberia

Repurposed Blockbuster Drop Box turned into an oven.


harold and water 2.jpg

This is Harold. A few months before this picture was taken, an organization had come to talk to his community about the effects of poor sanitation.

I nearly got rid of this bottle,” Harold explains, tracing the origin of an empty plastic bottle, now turned into a container fixed to a hand washing facility placed outside his family toilet.

“We use the bottle to fill water which we use to wash hands each time we visit the toilet. “From the time we started washing our hand, we no longer get sick,” the young boy explains. According to Harold, he always treasures the bottle and feels proud to have contributed to the eradication of diseases that kept affecting his family and entire community.


This site had a whole bunch of cool pictures, but I wasn’t sure if all of them were made in Africa. This was made from car tires. http://theplaydateblog.blogspot.com/p/gogreen.html


I’m not finished talking about Africa. We have a lot to learn about their way of life, but this all I have to say about this particular subtopic. I hope your as inspired by this as I am.