RS Safety and Security Featuring the Fire Safety for Kids Infographic

One group proposed for Rural System is that of Safety and Security.  Its core concept is that of, “improving health and reducing accidents and diseases are likely to provide as much or more net economic values to the people of the region than improving crop production and its gains.”

This unit of RRx deals with an unusual mix of safety and security issues. It is a large subsystem designed to achieve some profits from a typically service -oriented activity within government.  Rural System philosophy is that for the family, not having a medical bill from a fall or a cut (say, of $500) is at least as important to the family budget as producing $500 profit at the farm market.  Safety and Security works to deliver this net benefit to the family.

A colleague has offered the attached unit on how to reduce fire hazards. Reducing such losses, pain, and costs will become a need in the future work of Rural System.  We appreciate the link to an infographic supplied by Thomas Jepsen and encourage its use for fire safety for children.

We have split the infographic into smaller pieces to allow you to read it more easily. The full image can be viewed on his website.

Fire Safety for Kids Infographic by Thomas JepsenFire Safety for Kids Infographic by Thomas JepsenFire Safety for Kids Infographic by Thomas JepsenFire Safety for Kids Infographic by Thomas Jepsen

A Systems Approach to Everything

From Bob Giles:

I’ve taught systems ecology for 25 years and worked with graduate students on systems projects for 35 years.

In his preface to Business Dynamics: Systems Thinking and Modeling for a Complex World, John D. Stermans writes, ”Effective decision making and learning in a world of growing dynamic complexity requires us to become systems thinkers to expand the boundaries of our mental models and develop tools to understand how the structure of complex systems creates their behavior.”

The argument seems to be that given the growing complexity of modern life, “A Systems Approach to Everything” might have value.Standback_diagram2

A systems approach has the following dozen ways to offer help in solving complex problems.

  1. It provides a few standard words for a common language for problem-solvers.
  2. The few words provide complete coverage of categories and thus organization; there is room for everything.
  3. Its mental and linguistic use leads to computer use and powerful computer-aided solutions.
  4. It often uses computer models, systems themselves, usually to simulate conditions or to select optimum conditions.
  5. It has been tested by many over time and found strong and useful (though there are detractors).
  6. It is useful for design when objectives are specified.
  7. It can be used for small or large problems because systems are seen as subsystems, often as modules.
  8. Its power is in feedback (if there are clear objectives) resulting in improvements or safe stops.
  9. It uses crafted amounts of input, “fixing” them in amount and quality with feedback.
  10. It includes feedforward, using best estimates about the future to optimize current decisions.
  11. It uses the efficient set of “structures, dynamics, and relations” in analyses and designs of systems having only context, objectives, inputs, processes, feedback, and feedforward.
  12. Its users see most things as potential systems, isomorphic, thus offering efficiencies and reduced duplication or re-invention.


Robert H. Giles, Jr. is a Virginia Tech Professor Emeritus with a vision for a rural land management system.

This post originally appeared on Handshake 2.0.

Antlered Doe Spotted in Floyd County, Virginia

Rural System is always looking for ways to connect its various proposed groups and enterprises, and seeking new ways to generate sustained profits from the land while improving its quality. We are pleased to share this unusual sighting of an antlered doe in Floyd County, Virginia.

This post was written by the founder of Rural System, Dr. Robert H. Giles Jr.

One of the proposed Groups or business enterprises within Rural System has been the Deer Group, engaged in modern computer-aided management of the local and regional deer populations. Concentrating on all of the potential benefits from the herd, the enterprise may integrate many parts from antlers, hides, hunts, tours, publications and art, and tourism dimensions. In addition to the conventional measures of hunting success, the Group plans to consider other gains, such as this sighting of the unusual antlered doe shown here with her fawn.

The Group will also monitor herd enhancement units of rich abundant plants, seasonally available to the animals in GIS mapped units of Rural System ownerships.  Herd quality index changes, related recreational sightings, photographs, publications, equipment, losses (safety crop, forest, and related garden and landscape), and poaching will all be closely monitored. Expert assistance will be sought from the state, and we are already thankful for Mr. Knox and the Cooperative Extension staff (especially Dr. Parkhurst), who answered our request for information on the antlered doe.

“I’ve read about these odd cases in the literature and seen lots of stories on the internet about hunters harvesting a “buck” with a large, well-polished, 8- or 10-point rack and then finding out that it did not display the expected genitalia they had anticipated.  In all my years, I’ve never seen the real thing, though, so this makes my day.

I showed the video to Don Linzey, who joined our department as an adjunct several years ago and has been teaching our Mammalogy class; he also has authored the “Mammals of Virginia” book — he said he has never seen this condition either, but, like me, occasionally had heard of it. He found it very interesting, but couldn’t offer much explanation about why.

I then called Matt Knox, Deer Program Leader for VDGIF, to get his take. He said it is a rare condition, but the agency usually gets about 1 or 2 reports of “antlered does” each year, mostly cases involving the type of situation I alluded to above — hunters thinking they have taken a nice buck, but ending up puzzled when, in the course of field-dressing it, something doesn’t seem quite right down below. According to Matt, he has seen 2 different scenarios where this odd condition has been expressed. Of the 2, the more common seems to involve cases of hermaphrodism, where components of both female and male genitalia are present and functional; in a lot of cases, the male components remain internal and are not obvious to the casual observer, so it appears outwardly to be a female, but the male parts are there (though hidden and perhaps somewhat smaller than normal). In these animals, given the functional nature of the anatomy, the animal is producing both male and female hormones simultaneously, including sufficient levels of testosterone to stimulate antler development throughout all of its stages (i.e., initial development and growth, velvet shedding, and eventual antler shedding). Matt noted that there have been some even more odd cases where testosterone was produced at a level sufficient to stimulate initial growth, but cannot be maintained long or in quantities sufficient enough to complete the process, so the velvet remains intact throughout the fall and antlers never drop; the following year, the same antlers start growing again, leading eventually to some pretty gruesome-looking racks that never fall off. In almost all cases, these hermaphroditic animals do not breed or successfully produce young.

In the other case, and, according to Matt, the less common situation, are those females that, for whatever reason, develop some kind of an internal physiological error that is displayed through an imbalance in normal hormone production. Instead of producing the normal cocktail of reproductive hormones one would expect among females (e.g., follicle stimulating hormone, estrogen, etc.), they also produce small quantities of testosterone, just enough to trigger the antler development process, but insufficient to take that process very far. The outward expression of this condition often is a set of small paired spikes or, as appears to be the case in this situation, partial development only on one side. Very often, due to the lack of sufficient testosterone, the antler(s) that develops never gets out of the velvet stage and sometimes does not fall off; others seem to disintegrate over the winter. A distinct difference between this and the previous condition is that these females are fully reproductive and often will be accompanied by fawns, as is the case here. Despite the hormone imbalance and the odd extremities, there seems to be no other negative impacts to the affected adult, as far as anyone seems to know. However, given the rarity of the condition, it’s not something that has been well studied. As to what causes the imbalance, it remains unknown . . .

I found an article from the Missouri Department of Conservation ( from a couple of years ago that discusses these oddities and what seemed to be a subtle rise in occurrence there. That biologist seems to make a distinction between levels of hermaphrodism, leading to a discussion of 3 possible reasons for this occurrence, but I tend to see the 2nd and 3rd presented in that article as being subsets of each other. Anyway, I thought I’d pass that link along as further explanation, as offered by another state biologist. Though certainly a rare event, it appears to be common enough to garner attention pretty regularly across the country.”

Antlered Female DeerAntlered Female DeerAntlered Female DeerThese photos, taken in Floyd County, VA, are courtesy of Mark Wiley. Please click on the photos to view them larger. In each, you can see that the deer in the foreground has udders, so is therefore female. She also appears to have short fuzzy antlers.

We wish you all a bountiful hunting season! If you would like to share your bags with friends and family, check out Rural System’s newest app, Bag ‘n’ Brag. This app allows you to estimate the live weight of your deer in the field, and share photos and info of your hunting success easily through Facebook and Twitter. Rank your bags and compare stats with friends! Bag ‘n’ Brag is available now for Android and iOS- free!

On the Effects of Mobile Phones on Poverty in Africa

It may come as a surprise that mobile phones are increasingly becoming a commonplace investment in households throughout the developing world. India and Africa have been particularly targeted. Phone manufacturers worldwide are competing to flood African markets with their products, banking on the prediction that the African market for smartphones will double in the next four years. Africa is second only to Asia in number of subscribers, and its mobile penetration rate is the highest in the world.
Rural System visiting UgandaPhoto taken by Risa Pesapane, project director of Rural System, during the Rural System visit to Uganda in 2013.

“With 650 million mobile phone subscribers in Africa, there are already about 100 million smartphone users with the number set to double to 200 million users in the next four years.” –CNN

It is no accident that mobile technology has become so valued in developing African countries. In some ways, increased access to communication has made Africa safer for indigenous people; one USAID-supported program informs users which areas to avoid due to ethnic violence, 93% of female mobile phone users feel safer with a phone, and 85% of female users feel more independent. Mobile phones also make times of crisis easier to manage for residents.

“In the case before mobile phones, families would spend tremendous cost on travel and time in contacting family members about a funeral or sickness. From the results, Katote households agreed that this communication device provided a means of timely responses, reduced surprises with available information, allowed the ability to multi-task and plan during shocks, engaged less time to physically search individuals and less emotional stress during the really difficult ordeals.” –Diga et al.

Mobile devices are useful in other ways as well; 42% of mobile phone owners use their phones to increase their income and professional opportunities. Phones are also used to increase educational opportunity within classrooms, to improve diagnostic precision in medical centers, to reduce corruption within some state agencies, and to provide affordable mobile banking.

Yet the effects of mobile phones on poverty in Africa are still debatable. One might think that the prevalence of mobile phones in Africa would indicate that the people are coming out of poverty and are able to afford new technology. The grim reality is that households are sacrificing money for food and clean water for the sake of mobile airtime. The following information is quoted from a research article from the Department of Geography at Trinity College Dublin and the Department of Geography, Environmental Management, and Energy at the University of Johannesburg in South Africa:

  • In Ethiopia, the poorest 75% of the population who use mobile phones spend 27% of their income on them.
  • In Niger, the cost of a one minute call off-network is $0.38 per minute, representing 40% of a household’s daily income.
  • Research among university students in Tanzania found that they were spending five times more on mobile phone connectivity than they were on food.
  • There are instances in Africa—in the Millennium Villages, for example—where people have chosen to spend money on mobile phone credit rather than school fees for their children.

This research paper from the International Development Research Center reports that many people are willing to sacrifice significantly in the short term in the interest of perceived long-term gains. Whether or not the phones are actually used for business, their perceived role in long-term prosperity is enough to make African people sacrifice what are seen as basic needs in the present. It can be difficult to determine whether mobile phones are actually useful to the people who sacrifice to have them, or whether they are a matter of social status or fear of exclusion from the process of globalization.

Even beyond the high costs for residents, there are some serious issues to consider regarding the influence and effects of mobile phones in developing countries such as those in Africa. The following is paraphrased from the same research article quoted above:

  • Mobile phones foster a continuing dependence on foreign countries for technology. (This is another form of imperialism.)
  • Infrastructure, such as base transceiver stations, phones, and mobile credit is extremely expensive. Imports of office and telecommunication equipment for the 32 countries in Africa for which data are available were US$18 billion in 2009 (calculated from WTO, 2011).
  • The very construction of mobile phones involves the mineral ore coltan, which has caused serious conflict in the Democratic Republic of Congo. This conflict has added to poverty rather than reduced it.
  • Traders may have difficulty and even fall into poverty as mobile phones cut middle men out of trading in a process known as disintermediation.
  • Rather than helping people across the board, mobile phones may create a new economic inequality. Businesses that have mobile phones will have a significant advantage over those who don’t, which may reduce market diversity and even economic growth.
  • Mobile phones may increase import penetration into African economies. If domestic manufacturers cannot compete, they may be displaced by foreign manufacturers.

The role of mobile phones in developing countries continues to be hotly contested, with some people promoting their usefulness in alleviating poverty (a palliative perspective) and others pointing out that the phones do not change the way economic and political structures produce poverty (a structural perspective). It is still early to know for sure, but it is clear already that mobile phones have had mixed effects on people in developing countries. Though mobile phones are clearly not a panacea for poverty, time will tell if they are useful tools of development in the hands of the people.

Rural System’s Bag ‘n’ Brag App for Hunters Featured in Roanoke Times

We are delighted that Jacob Demmitt of the Roanoke Times featured Rural System’s Bag ‘n’ Brag app for social hunters in an article originally published in The Roanoke Times, available here. To prepare for the article, Jacob Demmitt also participated in a lovely photoshoot with photographer Matt Gentry.Rural System Bag 'n' Brag photoshoot with Matt Gentry

We are  a company that creates tools for modern ecological management, and much of what we do involves making those tools available to the public. Bag ‘n’ Brag seamlessly integrates a tool with entertainment by including both a scoring and a social component. [Read more…]