jackfruit of the week (11.19.08)


Authentic Ugandan jackfruit via Tumwi

In all the election excitement and liveblogging frenzy, I missed a week. I’m making it up to you with a trip to Uganda.

That’s right, blogren. I’m coming back for two weeks in January, and if there’s not already a Uganda Bloggers’ Happy Hour planned (I’m looking at you and you and you), I’ll throw one.

In other news: elephants.

Elephants are cool in my book: big, adorable, seemingly genial. Except they’re not so friendly when they’re stomping over your crops, exacting revenge. Revenge! Who knew elephants were vengeful? (Even worse: drunken vengeful elephants.)

Apparently Ethan Zuckerman, who wrote last week about the perils of coming face-to-face with a vindictive pachyderm:

It’s a good idea to know whether elephants are enroute to your farm as one elephant can eat a year’s crops in a single evening. If you know that elephants are on the way, you can stand in your fields with torches and chase the animals off.

What you need (besides torches and the ability to outrun an angry elephant), Ethan says, is to know the elephant hordes are coming. Here’s where cool technology comes into play: Kenyan hackers are turning GSM phones into tracking systems. An organization called Save the Elephants has put GSM-powered collars on the animals. When the elephants cross a virtual fence separating them from humans, the collar sends a warning to villagers in the area via SMS.

Even better: since the villagers know they’re coming, they can use spotlights instead of torches and shouting to herd the elephants back to their home, a 90,000-acre conservancy.

In case any of you thought this whole mobile phone activism thing was just for politics geeks: remember the elephants.