Handicrafts and Appropriate Technology

Cameroon Blog

Clouds Without Rain

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Aaron Kaah Yancho

Farmers in this regions of Cameroon as well as along the Lake Chad River basin utterly dependent on rains to grow crops. But the sustained decline in rainfall since 1980 had long thrown the farmers in to confusion. For many months Mme. Binta and her community has to absorb the shocks if not deal with the realities of the changed pattern in rain fall. Every sunrise the farmers wait hopelessly looking at the starry skies. “And all what we just see is heavy cumulus dark clouds in the horizon but no rains, cold winds and breeze”. Binta remarks. Strange enough, this dull unpredictable weather also has its bearing’s on the community. A lot of kids and women have caught common cold and cough. Shortly before sunset a cluster of these sick kids are at a local health care unit. Only God alone knows when a bucket of water trapped at a camel’s back arrives the unit before these kids are administered a highly priced dose of paracetamol.

Waiting and wondering in her farm field Mme. Binta only anticipates why the rains have become irregular every day. This woman’s woes present the classic challenge of farmers in the Far North region of Cameroon and around the Lake Chad river basin plaque by climate change. Many years back these very farmers could proudly look at the weather and tell when it will rain. Now the whole community has been thrown in to a crisis of rain if not water. A community leader by name Yayah Mallam is urging the local farmers to hold on in this uncertainties “may be, just may be the unexpected will happen –the rains will fall” Mallam opines. According to experts walking the region and who are they to help educate the likes of Mallam these are the climate changes that scientist have been predicting that have and will hampered food crop production world wide and leave Sub Sahara Africa and the Lake Chad river area one of the poorest regions in the world today. In a report to confirm the change in the climate at the ministry of Agriculture and Rural development in yaounde Cameroon researchers in 2010 explained that when the first rains come and the farmers plant in this region and the Lake Chad river basin which constitute part of the North of Cameroon …… the rains disappear again for good making these poor farmers even poorer as seeds for the next farming season are lost. “The results have being over bearing” A staff of the world food program in the region cries. Low food crops yields lead to abject poverty, hunger and misery.

Binta’s husband Jaillaya Mohammed is a grazer and polygamist with 2 other wives. In this case their problems are exaggerated. “Our big family now has to face the temptations brought in by the climate changes, how to feed and to acquire money for our immediate needs in a big worry”. Binta said. The grazing of livestock cattle on the small pasture on which this family depends for cultivation means the worse is yet to come. Not far from Binta’s grass roof thatched house lives a wiry woman Amina Anre’ in her late thirties as she struggles with a six months pregnancy. Amina’s potential hopes are on two fowls perking on the sand next to her hut. The hut she calls home relatively will not survive the end of the next drought as the already decompose grass and bamboo’s fall off each time a strong wind blows. Community members like Binta don’t blame themselves or fellow mates like Amina for living on next to nothing. While Binta blames the weather for their predicaments, Amina and her 2kids have a plethora of difficulties. Her husband died a long time ago from an infectious disease. “My capabilities to cope in the tormenting climate weighed down to almost nothing” Amina explained. This girl later sort help from a women mobilization group and built her present “abode” doing almost all the manual labor alone. Amina’s two teenage girls who have not gone to school and will never as she put it because of poverty. After her husband death she was left with a long stretch of red dry land and a few sheep to depend on for food, income and the education of her kids. The poor yields and the longer dry seasons left her almost miserable in the face of the challenges. “The options for me like a widow to improve my livelihoods have been very slim” Amina said in tears.

Women like Amina and Binta are every where in the world especially in communities where the change in climate has hit. They form the majority of the world’s poor that turn to be more vulnerable to the effects of climate change. In an Oxfam report published in 2008 and titled Oxfam Disaster Risk Reduction and Climate Change Adaptation Resource -these poor women are affected in their multiplies roles as food producers and providers , as guardians of health, care givers and economic actors. In the report women like Amina work extremely harder to secure their basic resources ………and this means that they will have less time to earn an income, get an education or training.

To guard against the worse times Mme. Binta and other 21 women like Amina who faced similar problems have come together in their community under a self help group to share their workload, joy and sorrows. Many development organizations in their localities are raising awareness on climate change and how to cope in the extreme weather conditions -what is it and how to adapt. These women have lobbied for aid and are trained on integrated livestock management, gardening and compost manure application, income generation activities as an alternative to source income and food crops. Though trying hard to fend together their challenges are still unshakable. The high levels of inequalities among men and women in these communities and the soaring levels of illiteracy among these women and girls as well as low participation in decision making cycles is hampering this effort. Very few women have dared to venture in to business and whether by design or tradition they have accepted their roles as house keepers. Their only asset is landed property. while men like Mallam Yaya- Binta’a husband may leave home annually to trade in cotton, the task can be scary, harsh and excruciating for women like this who are always home when the troubles of climate change like droughts, floods, and fire outbreaks strike.

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posted by S A J Shirazi @ 9:40 AM, ,

Climate Change

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At the Dourum community in the Far North Regions of Cameroon very close to the Lake Chad river basin the planting season is in the offing. The local farmers out there need no scientist to remain them. By indigenous knowledge and design it will just be a repeat of an old aged tradition to plant at this time of the year. Optimistic farmers like Mme. mama Binta, 63 and mother of 6children have being cultivating their dusty farm fields hoping to sow millets and groundnuts seeds once the first rains fall. Like all her community mates farming for food and family incomes, Binta has taken urgent measures to “select” the planting seeds at best make them ready for sowing. Women working in small community mobilization groups, do all they can to help one another catch up with the coming of the first rains. This month like any other in the farming calendar present a glaring statistics of the gender inequalities between women and men as primary food producers and providers. .“I leave home early enough to do the man’s jobs and the wife work” Mme. Binta says proudly holding an old blunt matchet. This woman clears and hoes her fields dreaming of reaping the fruits of her labor in times of harvest.

This year the rains have signaled their presence over the entire neighborhood. There is joy not only with the farmers like Binta but the grazers who have been seen walking the red dust in the hills and valleys of the community wondering where next to tend their cattle. In these tiny villages of mud houses all the peasants always wish to be correct in issues of farming. Two to five bags of millet grains are a family primary source of food and money security for a year. Yet over the years it is not only hunger that has beaten the communities, the rains too have become unpredictable resulting to the soils being unfertile and unforgiving. “This has made farming a very tedious job” Binta complains.

Farming without manure leaves the soil too even more depleted and barren in this region of Cameroon. Financially not viable, affording farm inputs is a puzzle and dreaming of ever getting any kind of irrigation for their crops is a joke. The task of farming for 90% of the population has gotten more harder, demanding and not rewarding.

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posted by S A J Shirazi @ 9:39 AM, ,

Bio-Gas: Reaping the double dividends

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Aaron Kaah
Thousands of farm families in Cameroon are learning to make good use of the earth natural resources to trim utility bills and avoid cutting trees for fuel wood. Through Bio Gas, a component of the Small Grants progamme of the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP), farm families are reaping double dividends. An almost free renewable green energy. This Bio Gas also generates a by- product (slurry) that is a rich crop fertilizer. More importantly these bio Gas units are easy and cheap to install, simple to run and require not maintenance in the first five years after installation. Over time these plants which are installed through microfinance programs in self help groups pay for themselves. All this may explain why some 100 thousands households in the NW regions of Cameroon have turned to bio gas.
Produced by action of bacteria on organic material such as manure or food crop waste in airless conditions the concept is simple.
Through the help of UNDP and another development organization in the region families in rural areas have leaned how to build and install the main parts of a basic under ground bio gas plant; the inlet, digester, gas holder and the out let. The inlet is where families deposit organic waste or manure. The digester which can be a dome shape structure made of bricks is attached to an out let. This airtight chamber is where bacteria decomposes the manure until it separate to bio gas and slurry. The gas holder receives bio gas before it is release through tubes for cooking and lighting. The slurry goes through the outlet to a compost area where it can be extracted to fertilizer farm fields. Using this bio gas for cooking improves the environment by reducing the emission of green house gases, reduces fire wood consumption, saves trees and restore land productive potentials.


posted by S A J Shirazi @ 9:06 AM, ,

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