No. 60A. March-April 2015 Expanding horizons with new friends in Cameroon
By Tiiu-Imbi Miller | Newsletter No. 60A March-April 2015

The Cameroon Inga Project, ably led by Gaston Bityo Delor, with whom Rainforest Saver has now worked for six years, aims to spread the valuable Inga alley cropping technique widely over Cameroon (and beyond if possible). We want this to replace destructive slash and burn for the benefit of the farmers, and eventually to save rainforests.

Rainforest Saver, and Gaston’s Volunteers Serving Development are very small organisations. So to achieve such a grand aim it is vital that we work with other organisations. Therefore we are delighted to add new contacts in Bamenda/Bafut, and also in nearby Bambui, to the other Cameroon NGOs/communities that we already collaborate with.

 

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Meeting at Bamenda in August 2014 with people interested in the Inga system.

Gaston first visited Better World Cameroon in Bamenda in August last year, and told them about the Inga system. Five women farmers there were keen to start Inga plots, and it was decided that he would go back with some seedlings for them, and to start a demonstration plot at the Better World Cameroon eco-village.

Bamenda is a long way from Yaoundé, the road is not that good, and the truck is old and in need of constant repair. It is not an easy trip, and meant that Gaston and his co-driver were away from home for a week.  When they arrived at their hotel in the evening they found the door to their room did not lock properly. That’s quite a worry, but they weren’t able to change hotels till the next day. Spreading the Inga technology is not an easy task.

 

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Francois, the co-driver, looking to see what’s gone wrong with the ancient (but priceless to the Inga project) truck.

The Inga seedlings are generally grown in black plastic bags, one little tree per bag, which makes it possible to transport them. But the Cameroon government is clamping down on the use of plastic bags. So Gaston did not dare take anything like as many as the truck could carry, lest he got in trouble with the police. There are regular toll checks on the roads.

 

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Unloading the precious seedlings that Gaston and Francois brought nearly 400 km from Yaoundé to Bamenda. New regulations about not using plastic bags limited how many Gaston dared take.

Not using plastic bags sounds like a good rule, but for the Cameroon Inga Project it presents a serious problem. If any of you reading this have a suggestion as to how these seedlings can be grown and carried long distances without plastic bags please do click ‘Reply’ and tell us. Bare root cultivation and transport is OK if it’s from your nursery to your own field beside it, but not over 400 km.

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Gaston showing a meter spacing, and the women planting out the demonstration plot at the Better World Cameroon eco-village.

 

 

The trip however was successful, in spite of all the problems. A small demonstration plot of Inga alleys has been planted at the Better World Cameroon eco-village, and all (mostly women) who wanted Inga were given a few seedlings to grow as seed trees for planting their own Inga alleys in the future. Of course it would have

 

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The Inga plot is part of a larger field where many things are grown and demonstrated at the eco-village

been good if it had been possible to supply them with enough seedlings to also start small alley plots at once, but in the longer term it is essential anyway that they all have their own seed trees. They will need to exchange seed from these to increase genetic diversity in their plantations.

 

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Gaston giving a training session at Bamenda to the women and others who are interested in the Inga.

 

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Unloading seedlings, and giving Muma Peter from Bambui his precious seedlings.

Muma Peter is an NGO leader from a village near Bamenda. He contacted us quite some time ago, and was very regretful that Gaston did not manage to meet up with him last August. Communications within Cameroon can be very difficult. However, this time they managed to contact him and he came to Bamenda, and to the training session, and was give a few seedlings to grow to provide seed for future plantings.

 

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From left to right Muma Peter, Gaston and Sonita Mbah. In the left hand picture Sonita Mbah, the Better World Cameroon’s administrator.

Sonita Mbah is the Better World Cameroon’s  administrator and the Bafut office coordinator. She is our contact person at Bamenda.

Better World Cameroon want to sign a co-operation agreement between themselves, Rainforest Saver and Volunteer Serving Development (Gaston Bityo’s NGO). We hope to have more contact with them and help them to spread our valuable Inga technology, and maybe learn from them too.

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Better World Cameroon demonstrate many useful techniques, and work to support women and youth groups.

It is now necessary to train other community leaders, and some of the farmers, to have a fuller understanding of the Inga system and also of where it fits into the bigger picture of saving the environment that both they and we need. They could then become effective promoters of this system in their own regions.

There are other good initiatives too in tropical agriculture, but the Inga has definite advantages, and, in Cameroon, has particularly benefited from the persistence, vision and sheer dogged hard work of Gaston Bityo Delor, without whom the substantial progress that has been made would not have been possible. It is not enough to show a farmer how he can farm better. He needs given the means to do it, the understanding of how and why, and support and encouragement. It is human beings that we are working with. Bringing this better technique to them, sometimes in very remote places, is one of the hardest ways to promote development, but a very essential task.

Sorry this newsletter is late. Some of you sold raffle tickets to make this long trip to Bamenda possible so I wanted to give you feedback, and had hoped to have done so sooner, but in the end the trip wasn’t managed until late April.