Friday, October 28, 2011

Speeding up

So last night it apparently snowed over much of Western Massachusetts and New Hampshire. (In October - THAT is scary!)  While I saw a couple snowflakes twirling through the air on my way home from the college, we didn't see any real weather here.  I can, however, say that nothing motivates excitement for a trip to West Africa like the onset of winter cold.  I'm ready to go!

Many things are on the "to do list" before that is going to happen, though.  Right now we're in the "nuts and bolts" preparatory part of our trip.  Visas, immunizations, and continued fundraising are all in motion.  Steve is getting some great leads on breeding potential of various species from a number of experts that he's in contact with, which we'll share as soon.  Emmanuel and I are going to talk on Sunday and hopefully begin to see what aspects of the work can start ahead of time.

Some really cool folks have been assisting here outside of the science, too - Jeremy Cohen, who leads groups to Ghana with his organization called "This World Music," helped spread the word about our kickstarter campaign and then last night he let me know that the group had raised funds and installed some computers for internet access right at the Dagbe Center.  It will make it much easier to post updates, since the next nearest viable internet access is 40 minutes further!  Knowing that internet in the Volta Region will be a lot slower than what we'd find in the cities, we'll see about the kinds of media that I'll be able to post there.  But many thanks to Jeremy for his continued support and information, which is a huge help.

Also, Mary Brust, who heads the board for the Vermont Global Village Project, is helping us out a lot with funding.  Mary has led many trips to Dagbe, and we often combine my college ensemble with her dancer friends from previous trips for local performances.  We'll be performing some Ghanaian dances at the Vermont International Festival this December, right before Steve and I leave - a perfect send-off!

On this blog page will soon be a button where anyone interested can pre-purchase a DVD of our video or a CD of our audio recordings from the upcoming trip.  This will include footage of the work we do with antelope, but also local performances of drum and dance.  If you made $20+ contributions to the Kickstarter campaign, you'll get a DVD automatically.  But if you aren't a part of the Kickstarter campaign but want to support our work, please feel free to pre-order a DVD and/or CD, which will be delivered in the spring after we return and have had a chance to edit and create the discs.   The profits from these discs will all go into the antelope project fund.

Monday, October 17, 2011

Questions about the project

Over the course of our fundraising effort through Kickstarter, we have been asked a number of questions about the project, both in terms of the biological complexities of what we are attempting to do and the sociocultural connections of the project with the Ewe people. Here are the answers I've been giving.

I've read that antelope can simply be bought in local markets. Why raise them yourself? The goal of this project is not simply to raise antelope acquired in markets, which are only there because hunters captured them in the wild. Our goal is to BREED the antelope so that (a) the Dagbe Cultural Center has a sustainable supply of skins, and (b) the use of antelope skins for drums does not contribute to on-going hunting pressure on these species.

I've read that antelope can be raised like goats. So why all the fuss? Again, the goal is not simply to raise the animals but to breed them. The fact that some species of antelope can be domesticated and raised like known livestock is good news; it means that individual antelope can adapt well to captivity, do not have profoundly challenging needs, and are hearty in the face of human settlements. Our challenge is in capitalizing on these benefits to create a self-sustaining population.

Aren't antelope wildly different from other domesticated species? No. Antelope are in the same family (the taxonomic group above the genus) as sheep, goats, and cows.

Are antelope even edible? Yes. Like other closely related species such as sheep and goats, antelope are edible. This is why they are hunted and sold in markets, and is a large part of the reason their populations are declining in the wild.

Will raising the antelope take grain out of the mouths of people? The species we are targeting are browsers, normally feeding in the wild on leaves, bark, and fruit, typically not on food items that would otherwise be used by humans. While we are still researching which species it would be best for us to concentrate our efforts on, we are committed to not using a species whose rearing would compete with humans for food.

Could this project successfully solve the bushmeat crisis in Africa? Highly unlikely. The magnitude of that problem is so great that it is unlikely that even one strategy, let alone one initiative, will accomplish that. The primary goal for the project is to ensure a sustainable supply of antelope skins for the Dagbe Cultural Center and, by extension, to the Ewe people of the Volta Region in Ghana to promote the maintenance of a musical tradition. We believe the project can also contribute to reducing the demand on wild antelope if the techniques we learn for raising them can be shared and disseminated to other farmers and villages, but an ultimate solution to the bushmeat crisis will require much more than just this one effort.

Has anyone ever successfully bred antelope? Yes. Numerous zoos and a small number of wildlife centers in Africa have breeding colonies for a number of different species. We are in contact with a number of them, learning what we can about what species would be best for us to start with and what is known about how to be successful.

Other questions? If so, leave a comment, and I'll answer them as they come in.

Sunday, October 16, 2011


Well both Steve and I are feeling pretty good - check this out!  I will be calling Emmanuel later today to give him the news:

Monday, October 3, 2011

Less than $500 to go!

It is very, very exciting to see that with 12 days left to go in our Kickstarter project, we have less than $500 to go before we reach our goal.  Hope is in the air!

Now that Steve is back from a month of sabbatical research and writing in South Carolina, we are beginning to gather needed data to help us create a solid plan that can be implemented when we arrive in Ghana (and hopefully a lot of initial work can be prepped even before we get there).  Emmanuel sent the following about the local antelope species names, in case anyone is curious:

Hi Joss & Steve,

I hope everything is going on well with you guys.
We are also doing great.

I went to Ho in one of the village called TAVIEPE and met with a good hunter
called Atsikpi.

The types we use on Sogo, Kidi and Kagans are:

(Here is an image of the Sogo, Kidi, and Kagan drums for your reference - Joss:)

Types on Bobas are:

(The Boba is a large lead drum used for social dances, and looks somewhat like the above drums, only much larger (up to 3.5 feet tall) and much wider.  You can hear it, and see it at around 2:00, being played here.)