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Seven tales out of Africa by a free-lancer who spent two years trekking across sub-Saharan Africa camping out with economists, ecologists, virologists, archaeologists, et al., both native and foreign. The result is a curious blend of hope and despair: hope in the realization that there are some bright ones around who have insights and energy; despair in the long uphill battle. The title story, a case in point, details Prince Philip's visit to Mali in the official capacity of World Wildlife President and VP of the Swiss-based International Union for the Conservation of Nature. Murphy's law prevails with the visit (python skins for sale in the hotel lobby, driver loses way to campsite, a testy H.R.H. speechifying before a stand of dead trees) and maybe with the long-range plans for the Niger delta region. The government would like to settle nomads, and introduce irrigation and rice paddies and other ""development"" ideas; where they have been tried, matters only get worse in terms of climate and poverty. We leave the story with a thin thread of hope that new money will go into village-based initiatives designed to preserve herders, farmers, and fishermen. Another tale takes Bass to famine-ridden East Africa and some corrective notions: it is not lack of food but lack of money that kills; famines can be predicted when the price of cattle drops. Other tales celebrate the beauty and wonders of Lake Malawi, home to countless species of cichlids; basic studies of insects and predators at a native research institute headed by a charismatic Kenyan; the search for missing links in the western Rift Valley; and studies of agriculture and virus-hunting in Nigeria, the latter adopting African views that AIDS is an American disease. Bass is often too quick to adopt the views of his subjects. On the whole, however, this is an absorbing collection that shows a face of Africa not seen on National Geographic TV specials.

Pub Date: Feb. 1st, 1989
ISBN: 1559212063
Publisher: Houghton Mifflin