Friday, 16 August 2013

The trees of the field shall clap their hands

Today we were visiting some of the projects of YDC in Cameroon. YDC is partnered by MRDF and offers agricultural training and support to young people and also to women. The group’s focus was originally with young people but women began to apply to join the scheme and so they have extended their work.

Our day began in Bombe Bakundu, a village in a forest area. As we drove there we passed huge plantations of rubber trees, palm trees for production of palm oil and plantains. The soil is generally good and the area has a lot of rainfall and is warm all year round, the vegetation is luscious and varied and the area is beautiful.

We were welcomed in Bombe Bakundu by the Chief and members of the Council and also by a British Methodist from London who is researching for his PhD in his home village! In his words of welcome the Chairman of the Council spoke of his beautiful village and in the welcome sunshine it did indeed look beautiful.

In Bombe Bakundu they are planting trees and they want to clear some land to establish a tree nursery. There are ornamental trees and fruit trees outside the houses which provide a place to sit and meet together. But there is another reason for planting trees. The forest, which used to be home to varied wild-life has been decimated as trees have been cut down for timber and to clear land to grow crops. When we were in Buea, we heard that they could no longer grow coco yams and other crops because the soil can no longer sustain them due to poor land management. Because of this, the crops are now being grown on cleared land in the forest area but the area and the world need the trees. If they establish the nursery, the people of Bombe Bakundu will grow fruit trees and ornamental trees for the village and trees for timber to replace those cut down in the forest.

Looking over the land for the nursery and seeing evidence of deforestation
The trees of the field shall clap their hands!

  Bombe Bakundu also needs water. There is a stand pipe in the village which was provided by an aid agency. Sadly it no longer works and the agency still owns it but has no maintenance or support programme, development work requires long-term commitment. MRDF recognizes this and builds relationships with the local projects enabling them to retain ownership of the work and to carry it forward.

Broken water tap in Bombe Bakundu

Our next visit was to the Catholic school in Camdev where YDC has worked with the school to give the pupils important skills in agriculture. The school has a piggery and a vegetable garden and the pupils are taught all aspects of growing the crops and caring for the pigs. We were given lunch here and tasted some of the vegetables that had been grown and they were delicious!

In the vegetable garden

The children and a pig called Koinonia

 Camdev is a village in the middle of a rubber plantation and all those in the village work on the plantation.  Each worker look after 300 trees, tapping them every day and we saw them working their way along the long lines of trees emptying the latex sap from the collecting cups. The payment for this work is not enough to live on so people also need to grow crops and rear animals to survive. The children had ambition to be doctors, teachers and governors but many of them may need the skills they are learning to support themselves in the future.

Our final visits were to two of the groups who are working on ‘demonstration’ farms in Yoke village. Here we met two groups of people who were already farmers but had joined groups which worked on farming areas where they are trained to improve their agricultural skills in order to develop their own farms. The first group had just completed fish ponds and were waiting for the first harvest from them.

The fish ponds in Yoke

The second group was a woman’s group and I was humbled by the way in which these women had taken time out of the day to meet with us when many of them are growing crops and caring for children and other family members.  At the end of this visit, the women shared a meal with us – chicken and spicy sauce with plantains – food they had grown and cooked. 

Selence Women's Group with me and with the Director and Technical adviser from YDC

And we went out with joy!

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