The Devil’s in the Data

To know whether one is doing the right thing is a devilishly hard task. No matter how pure your intention or ingenious your intervention, it is never a simple matter to prove beyond doubt that you are having the impact you desire. The line between cause and effect is often far more blurred than one … Continue reading

The Lean Green Grass of Home

This weekend I have been enjoying the comforts of a warm welcome back to my childhood home of Ireland. At close to 1,5 years since I last visited, this is the longest single period of time that I have been away and as much as I enjoy the adventure of life far from its shores, … Continue reading

The view from the bottom of the bottom

The way they used to pack slaves in the ship, that is how we sleep. – Kenneth, 37, Mukobeko Maximum Security Prison, September 30, 2009 This week I have been trying to digest a remarkable report from Human Rights Watch on the state of Zambia’s prisons. During the last 18 months they managed to  interview … Continue reading

Getting Volcanised

It has been an interesting week to sit back and observe how things we take for granted can, every now and then, give us a sharp nip on the backside and remind us exactly how feeble we can be in the face of forces greater than ourselves. I was afforded more than enough time to … Continue reading

Hinting at the heart of the matter

In my new search for answers to some of the more fundamental disparities that seem to exist between my old home and my new one, a couple of articles in different versions of the Economist grabbed my eye this week that I thought I would share with you. The first was a piece in the … Continue reading

History Repeating?

“It all goes in cycles you know, when I first arrived twenty years ago, water was big – every proposal had a sanitation component to it, then is was agriculture, recently it has been HIV and AIDS but I have the feeling that we might be getting round to water again soon.” This casual observation … Continue reading

Dreaming of a brighter future

Leaving Zambia this week, it is a challenge to feel brightly optimistic about her future. In truth the country has been struggling to develop in a concerted and sustained manner since the oil shocks of the 1970’s. Her economy remains vastly over dependant upon mining in general and copper in particular. Despite a water table … Continue reading

Eyes a little wider; Head a little wiser?

A year ago almost to this very day, I was enjoying a few farewell drinks with colleagues in London when one stopped me dead in my tracks by asking “So… what is the probability you never return to this career?” Despite all the research and planning I had put into my sabbatical, it was not … Continue reading

Not so civil after all?

‘Civil Society’ was not a term familiar to me before my time in Zambia. I have come to learn that is an elegant phrase for a rather inelegant grouping of sometimes strange bedfellows. Essentially anyone who can be said to have a stake in society but is not part of the state or private enterprise … Continue reading

HIV: Looking in the Ugly Mirror

HIV: If there is a more grimly fascinating epidemic, I would like to read about it. Close as I am to finishing my year living amongst this dark plague, I must admit that I still find more to puzzle over than to understand and more questions to ask than I can claim to have answers … Continue reading