Here you go Mom!
For the past few months, my mother has been “hassling” me to blog about my work with the Peace Corps. “Seeing your vacation pictures and children in your village is all cute and fun, but I am sure everyone is wanting to hear about your work experiences, too. Try to blog on that sometime. But keep up telling us about your adventures!” She would say but always with a smile emoticon. So here goes….
The first three months at post (December-February) “work” consisted of immigrating in the community, attempting to learn the local language, Moghamo (in Cameroon there are more than 250 languages!), and do the necessary three month study of the village required by Peace Corps called PACA. PACA stands for Participatory Analysis for Community Action and there are required meetings to help learn about the culture, customs, and traditions of your local area. Being an Environment volunteer the most useful meeting I held was making the seasonal calendar. I found out there is a “hungry’ and a “full season”. I am currently seeing the hard way, what they mean about the “hungry season”. This season falls between the time of planting in February and harvest in late July/August. Throughout this time, I have lost 15 pounds mainly my fault because I am too lazy to go to market and buy food to cook but others do not have the luxury to just go to market and buy. Per usual, I got off on a little rant, now back to my work opportunities…
My village is one of 22 villages in the Moghamo “tribe” if you will. We are very proud to be in the Moghamo tribe and actually, 50 years ago on 20th of June celebrated our liberation or independence from Bali. The Bali people wanted our land and started a war, but the rest of Batibo (town) helped fight off Bali and push them back to North. I heard about this story and wanted to highlight the Moghamo culture. For the past couple of months I along with Bridget (another PCV) have been planning a Moghamo-United States Peace Corps cross-cultural festival. This Fete will allow me to fulfill some of the Peace Corps Goals and also show case the Moghamo culture! The fete will begin on Thanksgiving Day with a traditional Thanksgiving Dinner with the Batibo Council and other invited guests. The morning of the 29th, the council will give a tour of Batibo for all of the Peace Corps in attendance. We will visit caves, a traditional palace, a stone sculpture that is standing only on three small pebbles, and other various sites. In the afternoon, we will be with the two orphanages in Batibo and with one that Bridget is working alongside in Ntolo a village in the Littoral region.
This is a Francophone region and even though there will be a language barrier it will be a nice vacation for the few children that will be coming to the fesitival. During the visit and festival they will be shown various Income Generating Activities (IGA’s) such as tofu making and how to make jewelry out of paper. We will also have a small sex education course on HIV/AIDs. After these lessons, we will open the field up and have a field day.
Children in Ntolo (Camp Bridget and PCV Health Gillian) after our nature walk and environment preservation session.
Friday (the day after Thanksgiving) is the big day where all 22 villages will attend and prepare to show off the various culture and traditions of Moghamo. It will be more of an exhibition where people will stroll around the yard and visit the various stands until moving on to the next. This will not happen until the afternoon. In the morning, we will have traditional dance, song, and a special “night” dance that will be done in private. After the Cameroonians display a couple dances the Peace Corps in attendance will show the immense diversity we also share in our country. I am hoping for dances ranging in Country Swing to Salsa even hip-hop if possible. I must give credit for the idea of the culture festival to the first Peace Corps in Ngyen-Muwah Seth Schapiro.
Many of you might be asking how is this related to Agriculture and helping the environment. Well, on Saturday we will have many stations set up where the people in attendance can learn how to make tofu and soy milk. Tofu is very rich in nutrients almost 3 times the amount of protein as cow meat. The only milk people drink here is powdered milk and that is only if they can afford to purchase it from market. The soymilk will give people an additional opportunity to add calcium to their diets and be able to feed their babies. Another station we will have is an improved cook stove. Right now, they use the traditional three stone method where there is an open flame that produces much smoke. We will teach on how to put mud around the three stones to enclose the fire, limit the smoke, and reach a higher temperature that will allow the women (who do all the cooking) to cook their meals up to 2X faster. These are a few different environment friendly techniques we will use to achieve environment safe practices.
However, my job here in Cameroon is not only an agroforestry extension agent. but also to work towards the goals of the Peace Corps. There are three common Peace Corps goals that we all strive to achieve.
- Peace Corps Goal 1: To help the people of interested countries in meeting their need for trained men and women.
- Peace Corps Goal 2: “To help promote a better understanding of the American people on the part of the peoples served.”
- Peace Corps Goal 3: “To help promote a better understanding of other peoples on the part of Americans.”
As well as meeting all three goals with my cultural festival, we will be giving free HIV/AIDS testing with pre and post counseling. I am collaborating with many other volunteers from all sectors of Peace Corps Cameroon to try to accomplish every sector goals.
A side project I am doing with my village is teaching them about food security. The World Food Summit of 1996 defined food security as existing “when all people at all times have access to sufficient, safe, nutritious food to maintain a healthy and active life”. My villagers rarely eat fruits and vegetables in their daily meals, and the main foods they eat are very high in starches. I along with one of my counterparts have begun growing different crops such as carrots, tomatoes, peppers, sweet basil, and parsley and held meetings teaching the villagers on the importance of implementing these various foods in their diet.
Making the garden vegetable garden
The last project I am in involved with is one that the first Peace Corps volunteer began in 2007 with the help of a Non-Governmental Organization, CIPCRE (cercle international pour la promotion de la creation) (International Circle for the Promotion of Creation). CIPCRE did training on Medicinal plants and my counterpart, Pa Fondam, took a liking to the idea. Since 2007, he has received funding for a solar dryer and plastic sealer from CIPCRE to help promote the use of medicinal plants. In 2011 through a grant from the U.S. Peace Corps, he was allowed to roof the building he built where he dries, cuts, and stores the medicine.
Women clearing and making ridges for the medicinal plants
Medicinal Plant Production Center to the left is the solar dryer installed by CIPCRE
Recently, we have opened up a shop in Bamenda Main Market, which is the largest market in the NorthWest region.
I hope that is has helped show case what I am doing with the people in my village. And now my mom, will also have a better understanding of what I am doing!
Enjoy, please feel free to give feedback or ask questions!