My Amazing Month in Africa

I spent a cumulative 22 days in Africa in October. I won’t lie – it was amazing!

Throughout October I traveled to Tanzania, Zambia and South Africa. I went to Tanzania to report on agriculture, health, food security, and poverty as an International Reporting Project fellow. I traveled to Zambia as a guest of Malaria No More to cover their brand-new Power of One campaign that is essentially a global movement where a small $1 donation goes to test a Zambian child for malaria and treat them. $1 literally keeps a child alive. And finally I traveled to South Africa on the final Social Good Moms’ insight trip for the year.

During my travels in Africa I have learned many things: the continent is gorgeous! Gorgeous! My photo collage does it absolutely no justice whatsoever.

Gorgeous Africa

But there are places in Africa where a lot of work needs to be done. In some places infrastructure isn’t worth a damn. Pardon my French. It’s true. That is why I was happy to hear about the upcoming Building Africa conference that is taking place in February because something has to be done about the roads. Of course, I am not saying anything new here, but having spent time on many dirt roads in October to the detriment of my backside I thought I’d mention Africa’s massive roads problem. If Africa doesn’t fix its infrastructure problem, health and transport woes will continue to be a constant burden on African countries. To wit, you cannot transport medicines, food, and essential items to people who live in areas you cannot reach. That’s problematic. Last week the African Union’s economic development arm, NEPAD, convened a conference in Johannesburg that is looking at bringing on private partnerships to help fund roads in Africa. $500 billion dollars is needed to fund infrastructure improvements on the continent of which $100 billion is expected to come from private funders. That’s a start.

I also was reminded that the African people are amazing and beautiful, and warm and welcoming, but there is still corruption that prevents or severely stalls a lot of good projects from happening. Even Kenya has set up a name and shame anti-graft site to curb bribery and corruption. Who knows if it will work, though, or is significant in name only.

The United States government has a heavy presence in Africa through global health programs like PEPFAR, Feed the Future, and the President’s Malaria Initiative – not to mention the millions of dollars in funding that goes to NGOs on the ground. A lot of productive, life-saving work happens on the ground in Africa. I have seen it, reported on USAID-funded projects, and have read about countless programs that are helping those in need. You wouldn’t believe how many USAID logos I see throughout Africa. Seeing USAID’s African presence gives me a sense of pride to witness what the American people do for other countries even if they don’t realize where a minuscule fraction of their taxpayer money is going. This I know to be true: the people who work for USAID are fantastic stewards of US taxpayer money. It’s their duty to use the money in the ways in which they are intended. And although I haven’t seen every USAID budget allocation line for foreign aid programs, I have talked to enough USAID employees to know they take their work very seriously. I enjoy seeing where taxpayer money is going in Africa and have many times. Most Americans have no clue that as a nation we are keeping millions of people alive and healthy and that’s a shame. I wish more people knew.


Being in Africa for nearly a month teaches you that time flies! 22 days goes by extremely quickly even though at first it seems like the month will drag on forever. I also realized that I need to set my eyes on west Africa in the near future. I have only visited east and south Africa. That, my friends, has to change. I am sure I will go to west Africa for some reason in 2014. That is a promise to myself.


I also learned that if you set goals things will get done! I had goals of traveling internationally more in 2013 and that has happened time and again and I am grateful for it. My next international trip will be visting India next year. Many of you know I was supposed to go to India this month, but the kind folks at Water for People (the fantastic NGO I am going with) were so kind to move the dates to 2014 that my year of travel will start in February of next year. And as you can expect I am truly looking forward to going to India again.

Finally, I will leave you with this: whatever it is in your life that you want to do, do it! You probably don’t want to spend nearly a month in Africa like I did. But, whatever your goal – go after it. Time won’t wait for you!

sitting with mamas - Tanzania

I’m Off to Africa Again: Where I’m Going and Why


I thought I’d record a quick audio update to let you know where I am going today. I’m back off to Africa.

The Sun Finally Peeked Out Today #IRPTZ

I have been to Africa three times before this trip to Tanzania and it’s, I truly believe, the first time I’ve ever seen it pouring rain and definitely the first time I’ve ever heard thunder in Africa. Rain plus thunder in Africa have been a huge highlight of my day. It’s like seeing a different side of Africa that I’ve never experienced.

Oyster Bay

Today has been the very first “work” day of the International Reporting Project trip. We heard from the CEO of the Southern Agricultural Growth Corridor of Tanzania, Geoffrey Kirenga, who gave us a thorough overview about agriculture in Tanzania as well as from his colleague Obey Assery who works on national nutrition efforts at the Department of Coordination of Government Business.

The issue of nutrition and its subsets, malnutrition and undernutrition, are extremely important to me because I know how the lack of it causes rampant stunting in children in developing countries and also adversely affects maternal health. If you followed my reporting from Zambia you might remember the piece I wrote: Feeding Malnourished Children in Macha, Zambia. Proper nutrition starts when a child is still in her mother’s womb, so tackling undernutrition in Tanzania requires a holistic approach and behavior change management. Look for posts about nutrition in Tanzania quite soon.

Before our meeting with Kirenga and Assery the sun briefly came out and I took a few shots. I really want to get a good view of the bay while the sun is shining. It’s been pretty gloomy all day. I can’t believe I’m waiting for the sun to come out. Clearly I took the sun for granted every time I’ve visited Africa before. More soon!


Oyster Bay

Tanzania: 6 Days Away

Sunset - Zambia
That fast! I am six days away from flying across the world again! It seems like I literally just got back from Zambia. I’ll be in Tanzania for ten days as an International Reporting Project fellow learning about and reporting on agriculture, poverty, food security, and hunger. My heavy emphasis will, of course, be on women and children. Women make up the vast majority of the agricultural sector in Tanzania and nearly fifty percent of Tanzanian children are stunted. I am particularly interested in digging into these statistics and hearing stories from the ground. I am particularly interested in learning why the stunting rate is so high in a country where seventy-five percent of the population works in agriculture.

Read my work as an International Reporting Project Zambia fellow.

I look forward to also delving into reasons why the agricultural sector needs improvements in private investments, stronger infrastructure for farmers to take their crops to market, irrigation, better seeds, and economic development and empowerment for farmers. I also look forward to reporting on how women fare as farmers. Although women do most of the farming across sub-Saharan Africa women still lack access to capital and are left out of the decision-making process.

I leave on Saturday for a long trip to Dar es Salaam. For those who know me best, you know I relish a long flight. It gives me a chance to get away from the dinging of my devices for a while. As someone who lives on the Net and on all of my mobile devices, it’s hard for me to set them down and close the laptop. I must always be on, but when I’m 30,000 feet in the air it’s nice to just let them rest.

Of course, while I am in Tanzania I will be sharing a ton of photos. So many people have preconceived ideas about Africa that always tend to be negative – that it’s dusty, full of child soldiers, bloody gold and coltan mine battles, corrupt governments, and children with flies in their eyes. That couldn’t be further from the truth. Africa is an amazing continent with a wide expanse of good and bad, just like any other continent on the globe. I always want to break stereotypes if I can. Photos go a long way in doing that.

As before when I was in Zambia, I will be using video, audio, photos, and text to share my work in Tanzania. I will also throw in a few other new media tricks I’ve been tinkering with as well. Follow me on Twitter for updates from my travels. You can find all of my work in the following places:

Impatient Optimists
Huffington Post
Social Good Moms
Twitter (@jenniferjames | @socialgoodmoms)
Pinterest Board

Flying Over Zambia

Flying Over Zambia

Flying Over Zambia

In order to get from Livingstone where we stayed a day after visiting the Macha Malaria Research Institute to Lusaka, the capital of Zambia, in a relatively short time we flew. If there are two things I love to do in Africa it’s this: take a road trip through the rural areas of a country and fly domestically. Love, love, love both of those things! Why? Because I get to see a country in a way you simply can’t flying into the country from, say, Dubai. I love to see as much of Africa as I can. Road trips and flights let you actually see not only how people live, but the wide expanse of Africa.

Africa is huge and beautiful! There is something about the continent that keeps drawing me back. I’m not quite sure why, but I will say this: I can’t wait to go back! I am just grateful that I have had the opportunity to see Africa in my lifetime. Really grateful.

Flying from Livingstone to Lusaka

Flying from Livingstone to Lusaka

Flying over Lusaka

Flying over Lusaka

Landing in Lusaka

Landing in Lusaka

Landing in Lusaka

Landing in Lusaka

I was in Zambia as an International Reporting Project Zambia Fellow. The International Reporting Project is a part of The Johns Hopkins University School of Advanced International Studies. I was reporting on HIV/AIDS, malaria and tuberculosis and how these three infectious diseases acutely affect mothers and children.

Off the Grid: Nature Edition #ZambiaHealth

It’s quite funny how you can go from amazing wi-fi to absolutely none at all in Africa. It’s the same elsewhere, especially in the States, but there is always some way to connect wherever you are. Here in Africa, that’s not always the case so when you are in the more remote areas you have just have to do without connectivity for some time until you get back to the big city.

On Thursday we started our official trip off the grid. We drove nearly five hours from Lusaka to Choma where we stayed the night at a the Kozo lodge. Then we were up bright and early to head to Macha where we visited the Malaria Institute at Macha and the mission hospital there. More about that soon. On Saturday we drove another three hours to Livingstone where we are now. Here the wi-fi is fantastic! I love being back on the grid. So much of my daily life is being able to connect around the world. I won’t lie – I was getting a little twitchy not being able to connect, but I did get the best nights of sleep since I’ve been in Zambia simply because I had to just simply “be” with myself.

Today we fly from Livingston back to Lusaka. I am really excited to fly in country. And in all honesty, two of the things I love most about Africa are flights over the country and road trips! Here are some photos I took while off the grid in Zambia’s Southern province as well as a few from Livingstone.

Today I’m also off to see Victoria Falls. I will have tons of photos of that as well.

Talk soon!

Off the Grid Off the Grid Off the Grid Off the GridSONY DSCOff the Grid

Off the gridOff the Grid

[Audio and Photo Updates] Day 2 and 3 in #Lusaka #ZambiaHealth

N'Gombe Clinic in LusakaDay 3

Today was a fairly busy day. We visited a clinic in a compound called N’Gombe where they service nearly 500,000 people. In Zambia, slums are called compounds, which is very interesting in and of itself. The clinic we visited was an integrated HIV/TB clinic. This is significant because many times you will find HIV/AIDS and TB clinics that are dedicated to the disease alone. The integrated approach gives patients easier access to diagnosis and treatment in one place. In resource-low settings the World Health Organization recommends that HIV and TB be treated at the same clinic in order to provide more care for patients who have both infectious diseases as they tend to coincide with one another.

Today I created an audio update about our day from visiting the clinic, to visiting the home of a man with TB, to going on a site visit to Fountain of Hope, a shelter for street kids and orphans in Lusaka.


I am in Zambia as an International Reporting Project Zambia Fellow. The International Reporting Project is a part of  The Johns Hopkins University School of Advanced International Studies. I will be reporting on HIV/AIDS, malaria and tuberculosis and how these three infectious diseases acutely affect mothers and children. You can follow our journey for the next 7 days at #ZambiaHealth. You can read all of my posts from global development articles  to personal observations on my Storify: Daily Updates: @JenniferJames’, Trip to #Zambia with @IRPChirps #ZambiaHealth.