Trees, Water, Life - Cameroon, Shisong, Kumbo
12th - 26th May 2013
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An amazing opportunity to live and work in the Bamenda Highlands, a remote area of Cameroon in West Africa. This project brings us into daily contact with local people. As we work alongside them in a range of villages in the community, we're doing more than just planting trees, we'll be helping to preserve precious water supplies for future health and happiness.
Who we are working with
Green Care Shisong
is a locally centered environmental 'Non-Government Organisation' (NGO). Formed in 1998, with the goal of improving environmental management, their approach to conservation is "action rather than writing". They promote sustainable development in the region. Members of the organisation work almost exclusively on a voluntary basis and yet their impact is huge.
Green Care's major recent success has been the establishment of a community nursery nurturing local tree species and, aided by The Conservation Volunteers and hundreds of local people, planting these to protect water catchments. They also run training workshops on bee keeping and porcupine rearing, manage an environmental and development library, organise agricultural technique workshops and are experimenting with cane rat breeding (not rats as we know them, but a valuable protein source) and have a demonstration farm.
Where we're working
Kumbo in a remote corner of Cameroon's North West Region is a natural endowed region with a very rich cultural identity still resisting modernisation. It is an Anglophone (English Speaking) region, whose people are amongst the friendliest you'll meet. The area is dominated by gentle rolling hills and beautiful grasslands and is at its most attractive during the rainy season (April - October). Nearby are the Bamenda highlands and the impressive Mt. Oku with its crater lake. It is a Catholic dominated region in the fondom (kingdom) of Nso.
This year the focus of our work will be in the Bikov community forest, located about 4km from the nearest settlement area and 17km from Shisong, our base for the holiday. Bikov constitutes one of the three community forests, important to traditional rites and extends over 2000 hectares.
Vehicles will be used to travel to the forest with some trekking on foot to reach certain parts of it.
What we'll be doing
With the tree nursery now established, it's time to put those trees to work.
The major part of the work, alongside Green Care volunteers and local villagers, will consist of planting seedlings from the nursery to reforest areas of the community forest worst affected by local villagers quest for firewood and 'slash and burn' agriculture. Involving these locals directly in the planting complements awareness raising of more sustainable forest use.
The second part of the work will involve more tree planting on village communal land to preserve and enhance the quality of natural water sources.
It's good, straightforward work with valuable results for the people. Working alongside villagers will be an opportunity to get a real insight into life in this fascinating culture where the spirit of 'community living' still exists within a traditional hierarchic structure. There may also be opportunities to get involved with other Green Care activities, such as biodiversity surveys, installing beehives and composting bins and awareness raising in villages and schools.
Generally we work around five hours a day between 9:00 am and mid-afternoon, with a break for lunch. However, flexibility is key in this area as a consequence of weather and local working practices.
Benefits of our work
Extensive deforestation caused mainly by the quest for firewood and the need for farmlands is having disastrous effects on natural forests, significantly reducing the number of native trees with high medicinal and cultural values and causing a significant drop in the availability of water during dry seasons.
The trees we are planting are mainly native trees many of which have always played a role in the cultural heritage of the Nso tribe. Some are medicinal and others are non-timber with an economic value, or favourable to bees or wildlife. When managed sustainably, this can provide income for local people: vital in a region with few other work opportunities.
With the naturally endowed forest attracting a wide range of exotic birds and wildlife, Green Care's development of the trail network is designed to promote ecotourism, providing a source of income for the community and promoting healthy living.
Where we'll be staying
Accommodation is in a basic but comfortable guest house owned by the Catholic Mission of Shisong; it comprise simple but comfortable single and shared rooms and is just next door to Shisong's friendliest bar. Hot water is provided with a fuel generator; so to save fuel we'll make sure we're organised and arrange showers and hot water when we need it (mornings / after work etc.)
What else is there
As well as being immersed in this stunning area through all our work, there'll also be plenty of free time see the local area and Kumbo town, or just chat to the neighbours over a beer in the evenings.
Sport is big in Cameroon and if we can muster a team, we can be humiliated at football, basketball or volley ball. Included too in the holiday will be trips to the vibrant market in Kumbo, the local arts museum and the Nso Fon's palace - the traditional ruling centre of the area’s ethnic group. There is a high possibility of seeing some of the more colourful parts of the rich 'Nso' culture during specific events.