Mountains are something most enigmatic and you should believe me: the greatest mystery on earth are mountains. Or can you tell me why man is full of awe when facing Mount Kenya or Kilimandjaro, when looking at Fujiyama in Japan or Huang Shan, the magic summit of China, the Rocky Mountains or the Swiss Alps? They are respected and feared, because they belong only partly to earth. They touch and reach heaven and are as much part of it as they are of earth. But they continue and lead also into the inner substance of the underworld. Above and underneath fuse. Mountains are staircases from one world to the other, from out there into the inside. Mountains keep together the living and the dead. Mountains are the meeting place of gods and devils, of ancestors and ghosts, of gnomes and fairies.
Dr. Al Imfeld was born January 14th 1935. He studied theology, philosophy, sociology, afterwards journalism and agriculture. He works as a development expert, and contributes as a journalist to newspapers and radio. In addition, he has published a variety of books.
Born into a small mountain farm family in the Napf area of the Swiss Alps and being the oldest of 13 children, his destiny was - according to local tradition at this time – to become either a priest or a missionary. His father was a well known mountain farming philosopher and his mother a very much liked story teller. His father used to say: “One thing is never enough”, and his mother insisted that history and story telling go together, and that one shouldn’t put too much trust in written history. It was this family background that impressed and formed young Alois, later Al.
Al Imfeld studied philosophy and theology for 7 years at the Gymnasium and missionary school in Immensee , Schöneck Switzerland (Master of Divini–ty). Did further studies in Rome, New York, Evanston, Tokyo and Dar es Salaam. Continued studies in comparative religion plus in social anthropology and rural sociology (MA) at Fordham and Columbia, New York. Continued at Medill School of Journalism Evanston, Illinois (Northwestern) and became a reporter in Vietnam War and specialised on African issues researching and teaching at different universities in USA, Japan, Vietnam, India, Zimbabwe, Malawi, Tanzania, Kenya, Nigeria, Cameroon, Switzerland and Germany. During his work as a development and African adviser he studied tropical agriculture always in view of Africa. After one doctorate and two master degrees he took up a further study in tropical agriculture (MSc.agr.) in the Philippines, St. Gallen Switzerland and Kenya and got a MS at Nairobi University. Since 1967 on the African continent, in and out, writing and advising. Works as a freelance consultant in Third World issues, agriculture and small scale economics; writes on development issues in several journals.
He got four degrees, worked on four continents on agricultural development always based on history. He became a passionate Africanist, worked and researched on different subjects such as African religion and agriculture, literature and its translation into German, modern art and its recognition in the West. He has been lecturing on African agricultural history at 8 Nigerian universities, in Cameroon and other universities of the continent. For many years he has been a lecturer at Faculty for Tropical Agriculture, Witzenhausen, Germany, as well as at Zürich University, and has given a series of lectures at universities in Mangalore, India, Pakistan, Indonesia, Japan and Sri Lanka.
Al Imfeld is a well-known researcher on African agriculture and a contributor to current affairs program’s on Swiss and German Public Radio stations, has written widely for Swiss and German newspapers, contributed articles to a great number of collective works and anthologies. He is the author of more than 50 books, starting with China – a development model? ( in English by Orbis, Maryknoll, USA), Zucker (Sugar, also in French), Hunger und Hilfe (Hunger and Aid, also in Italian), has edited Readers on African Culture, African Women and African Politics. He is also the author of a reader on African Writers, which was broadcast in English, French, Portuguese and Ki-Swahili by Radio Deutsche Welle (Cologne). He has published eight collections of his own poetry. He doesn’t take pictures, he writes poems when travelling.
In the 1990s Imfeld has been a member of the research team of the ‘Novartis Foundation on Sustainable Development’, specializing on African farming systems. For his work on African literature and culture, his involvement in development issues and the furtherance of journalism in Africa, he has been awarded a number of prizes. Several prizes for the popularization of complex economic and cultural issues, such as SUGAR.
He was a member of the jury of the global cartoon contest in 2005. This honorable membership was a result of his teaching a course on the relationship between word and picture in advertising and/or graphic design at the Lucerne Art School for 20 years. At the University of Maiduguri/Nigeria he taught together with lady writer Zynab Alkali a course in How to write poetry?
A freelancer, although Al Imfeld worked part-time with Gottlieb-Duttweiler Institute (Rüschlikon), Evangelical Press Service (Frankfurt), Voice of Germany (Cologne) and founded i3w = Information Service 3rd World for NGO’s in Berne, later the Society to forster translations from African, Asian and Latinamerican Literature (litprom Frankfurt). Every year he spent around 2 months in an African country; additionally around 3 - 4 weeks in Asia or the Caribbean. Often he was with Goethe-Institutes and gave lectures on agriculture, development, ethics and spirituality. For many years he was as an African expert on tropical agriculture in the expert commissions of several NGO’s. End of 1997 an evaluation on agricultural projects with newly settled ANC soldiers.
From 1972 on back in Europe to bring Africa and its people and their thinking across to the German speaking part of Europe through journalism, lecturing, advising NGO’s, experimenting in cultural dialogue, bringing African authors into German publishing houses, etc. He comments regularly on Swiss and German radio stations, writes for papers and magazines. But more and more he earns his living with talks, conferences and seminars. 1995 a one-week summer seminar on Islam and another one on African religions.
During the last 4 years he has published 3 poetry books, 2 vol.s of short stories and 3 science books on African agricultural history (Elefanten in der Sahara), African religion as a world religion, and Mission at the end in German.
Besides that he has written more than 20 forewords to books.