Between March 16 and 22, I hosted a group of seventeen Dutch students (including two professors/chaperones) from a group called Green Experience. They actually found me through this blog, where they told me of their plans to come to the area. They came to the East region to do agriculture, health/sanitation and ecotourism projects in Batouri and Lomié. In Batouri they did a sanitation project, helped teach tomato-growing techniques, and participated in a number of cultural activities. Their time in Lomié helped them to experience a more rural side of Cameroon. With the help of my host institution, GeoAid Cameroon, and its agriculture program coordinator Octave Ondoua, we built the following program of activities: (excerpted from a report given to GeoAid International)
Friday, March 16: After the group’s evening arrival, they were accompanied to a local hotel that I had arranged for them, and then plans were made for the week’s activities.
Saturday, March 17: After the long journey to Lomié, many of the students were much in need of some rest and recovery. Heeding the necessary protocol, however, Octave took the delegation to meet local authorities, and then led an impromptu visit of GeoAid’s offices and other sites in town.
Sunday, March 18: Eager to see the variety of products (and particularly the selection of rare meats), the group went to the market early in the morning. Later, Octave and I took them to view a GeoAid-funded project, a local farm run by a Baka group, where the students asked many questions. They seemed most charmed and engrossed, however, by their Baka hosts.
Monday, March 19: Naturally, the group was eager to see what made the Lomié zone unique, and so a two-day hike around the Dja Reserve was arranged to take place the following two days. Later, the group visited a local pig farm and chicken farm (another GeoAid project), and then enjoyed a lunch of rice, beans, plantains, a dish of manioc leaves, and a local meat-based soup prepared by a friend and collaborator of mine. The meal was accompanied by a lively discussion of the challenges and opportunities for development in Cameroon. In the afternoon, the delegation toured the local technical high school, Lycée Technique, where they were impressed by the woodshop and computer lab facilities. The Dutch delegation then set up a microscope that they had brought, and many of the Cameroonian students eagerly (and a bit nervously) looked through it at some water that had been collected from a nearby garbage can. Communicating the importance of using a clean water supply for cooking and washing your hands had the desired effect, as the tiny microorganisms seemed to make their impression.
Tuesday, March 20: For the group’s final two days, Octave and a local representative from ECOFAC (a multi-national agency that manages the Dja Reserve and other protected areas in Cameroon and Congo) accompanied them on a trek through the nearby Reserve, where they stayed overnight with a small group of Baka. A musical performance that night gave the Dutch students the opportunity to see firsthand an important part of the culture of one of Africa’s most marginalized groups.
Wednesday, March 21: After they returned from the trek through the Dja, I and a Canadian volunteer organized a party and exchange for the Dutch group and a group of students from Quebec. They happened to be in Lomié at the same time studying the potential for ecotourism in the area.
Thursday, March 22: The group departed Lomié for Yaoundé, accompanied by me.