Cameroon “The Garden of Eden”
Upon invitation by the Fon (King) of the Bambui Kingdom in Northwest Cameroon; I traveled to Douala the first week of July 2012. Upon arriving at the airport, I was greeted by a local delegation and transported to a meeting hall where a traditional welcome awaited me. The next morning, I awake to the roar of the Atlantic Ocean outside my window in Limbe, which is nestled in Mt. Cameroon, the second largest mountain in Africa and the rainiest place on earth. This paradise is where many of the domesticated African plants and crops were cultivated at the Limbe Botanical Garden that date to the 1890’s. Cameroon is divided several ways: English and French speaking, modern and traditional, mountain and plains, rain forest and arid lands. Most of its people are diverse with big city dwellings and traditional villages in remote kingdoms (fondoms) known as Quarters. Each Quarter or village has a hierarchical structure based on traditions handed down for generations. Fons or kings play very important role in governance of the Quarters even though Cameroon is a republic. The women also play a strong role in the Quarters featuring cultural dancing groups, sustainable gardening, and a micro credit style lending for the villagers to purchase compost, seeds, tools, and other agricultural supplies. Once in the fandom of Bambui, I was greeted at the Royal Palace with quite a gathering of locals perhaps numbering 1000 persons.
Upon touring the Palace grounds, I was taken inside the secluded hall, where only certain people are allowed and where their solemn ceremonies are held. I was informed that the Fon and the Royals had decided to anoint me as one of the Princes of the Bambui Palace. The ceremony included exchanging my clothing for the traditional clothing worn by a Prince. After certain conveyances, traditional in nature and secretive, I was proclaimed to the audience awaiting outside that I was to be known hence forth as Moh Ntoh (Prince of the Bambuit Palace). I then gave my acceptance speech and talked about people who had inspired me along the way. I cited Dr. Martin Luther King, Cesar Chavez, President John F. Kennedy, and Barack Obama. My speech was translated into the traditional language and French to the over 1000 that had gathered for the Induction Ceremony. Included in that number were several hundred women from 40 Quarters-villages; each with their individual traditional clothes and instruments. Rather than have each of the 40 groups perform in my honor I decided to approach each Quarter group to greet them personally, dance, and take photographs with them. As we reached the end of the line, we all marched around the ceremonial grounds waving banners and celebrating. Looking back on the crowd behind me, I was reminded of the large marches in the US-South during the Civil Rights Days of the 1960’s.
After the Royal feast, I retired to Mama’s House, which is an orphanage of sorts for Mali refugee children. Mama, an African American widow in her 80’s, who has opened her large home and farm to some 18 children. The subsequent two weeks I visited 40 quarters along with sustainable farms in the Bambui Fondom. At each quarter, I was greeted by their traditional dancers and I participated in them all. After the welcome at each Quarter, I gave a talk about Diabetes, sustainable organic gardening, bartering, empowerment, and toured their gardens and farms. This was very eye opening, as I was also on an information gathering mission to best determine how PPEP and the West African Rural Empowerment Society could best be of assistance. I was very impressed by two youth operated farms. One youth group was growing Irish potatoes and the other group was growing tomatoes and other vegetables and fruits, which are the main cash crops grown.
The Quarter’s farms are irrigated by an intricate system of fresh water from a water source taped in the mountains and channeled to the Quarters. I climbed the mountain to where the water is harnessed from the stream. The other projects visited were the micro credit programs in Bambui and also in Limbe by the coast. I made a few follow up visits to micro lenders and borrowers associations, where I observed their products and gave technical assistance. Preceding my visit, I sent Remi the President of WAAST Micro Credit program in Nigeria that made the initial technical assistance contacts to set the stage for my arrival.
My constant host Polycarp made sure I got to each place and provided much needed translation and consultations on local customs. At the end of the trip, it was ascertained that the major need was corn grinding machines as these are essential to the harvest. Yet most were broken and antiquated requiring women and children to carry bushels of corn for hours to the distant city corn grinding centers. Subsequently, PPEP, Inc. allocated $5,500 to purchase five (5) corn grinding machines to be centrally located throughout the farm. This will affect the lives of an estimated 6,000 persons. Also, PPEP, Inc. allocated $6,000 to the Bambui microcredit loan fund and $3,500 to the Limbe micro fund, as well as, consultation fees for on-going technical assistance by Remi. The funds have now been allocated and we anticipate dedicating the five grinding centers when I arrive in December. Also, the Arnold Trust Fund has made some scholarships and other incidental donations. In October, a microbusiness incubator was formed in Limbe to train Diabetic women in tailoring and alterations. Thus the Alpha High Tech Tailoring Shop was formed among five (5) seamstress woman. This initiative is sponsored by the Alpha Microbusiness Club of Limbe. Dr. Arnold before he left Cameroon was titled Moh Prince of the Bambui Palace.
WORLD ECHOES ARTICLE (click link to read)