Wednesday, April 17, 2013

RUDEC Extension in livelihood and conservations support in rural areas

One of the main objectives of RUDEC Cameroon is to empower communities in the rural settings on income generating projects and beekeeping is one of the projects that since 2002 carried out trainings with Wildlife Conservation Society (WCS) on beekeeping from Bayang-Mbo Sanctuary, 2011 it was extended to Kagwene Gorilla Sanctuary and in 2013, we are in the Takamanda Mone  Landscape Project to train communities where gorilla guardians are from on beekeeping.

The RUDEC team of consultants led by Joshua Chiamba left Belo to meet with a WCS car from Limbe that will take us to the training ground. We got off at 5a.m and reach
Bamenda but 9am since we had to wait for the taxi always to full. Reaching the counter, Joshua had forgotten his identification card behind. He left Bamenda for Belo back again to get the identification card. Wisely as he was, he had to call his wife to send it through a taxi that he would collect on a nearby park at Bambui. He got it by midday and was back at the bus station that we had to take to Mamfe.

The road network from Bamenda through Bali, Batibo then Wedikum that has a boundary with South West region has a good tarred road by a Chinese company that we couldn’t have the name. From the high mountains we could see palm trees that started indicating to us that people around produce palm oil. We
reached by 3:45pm and were welcome by the great heat and all people saw us as strangers in the land.

We went on a motorbike to the WCS and Forestry rest house that we were welcome by a young girl. She opened the doors and let us in and we left our luggage and hurry out to look around town. Soon we saw coconuts at a roundabout and since we don’t have them at Belo, each of us had one each, break them and asked for a knife that we clean them, wash and started eating. We walked into town and bought handkerchiefs to clean off the waste water from our faces. We saw meet with the WCS project manager that was coming in from Limbe that same day. We left and look for food ate and make plans for the next day trip.

The next day we took off at 8am and got food in town and started our adventure into the forest were every village that we pass, children shouted “Wildlife” and when you shake hands to say bye bye, they are very happy. We approach a river that does not has a bridge and I was wandering how we saw cross. The WCS car which is a Land Cruiser of Japanese origin made its way toward the floor of the stream. The skillful driver(Victor) used his experience and we crossed the river. There we got words like “Akwaya motor di swim wata”(Akwaya car swim in water).We all made prayers that rains should not fall so that the river
should not over flood. The road was Bumpybut with 4x4 car we move on and on until we reach the training village of Mbu. Here children and adults like photos especially when you take and show them how they look.
The participants arrive too on this day and we ate and drink palm wine together. The village people gave us food again and welcome us into their village. This village could have about 250 inhabitants all of them hunters and farmers. Most of the houses here thatched and beds mould with mud to for a bed and they add a mat to it and it’s very comfortable to sleep. Here in this village men and women watch in the streams at different sections.
We started training on 3 day with all 10 villages working with gorillas attending. We had a total of 29 participants. We access indigenous knowledge about beekeeping and went with the training and at each stage we had practical. At the end of four days effective training, each participant went home with a hive, bee suits and working tools to help them train other people in their village and make more hives.

The field manager of WCS took the participants to take care with equipments and when the reach their various villages should present them to their chiefs and let them decide where to keep them safe. He also told
them that all the equipments are a sign of encouragement and they should show love by training others in their villages so that they could also use the materials donated by WCS and CMS.

At the end of the training period we had a party with the participants and the villages. We had palm wine and “disco”(music) played by village chairman is the richest person in the village. Many people in the village said this was more than the Christmas parties in the village. This also means they villagers were happy.

We hope to continue to train these communities when we have the means and partners that have interest in beekeeping should join us in our struggles as we strive to tackle conservations in our little corner.

Friday, April 5, 2013

Sarah and Leanne tour the North West with RUDEC

 Sarah and Leanne tour the North West with RUDEC
I had always wanted to see the mountainous beauty of North West Cameroon. I had heard stories of endless savannah stretched across rolling hills and soaring peaks, of mythically-loaded waterfalls and volcanic crater lakes hidden amidst dense forest. I’d heard travellers’ tales of Fon palaces and small villages that could be hiked to and explored by foot or by motocylcle. So, when my friend Sarah decided to come visited me in Cameroon, I knew exactly the region we should go travelling in!

 And I wasn’t disappointed. We spent three days in Belo, a small town about 15 minutes from Bamenda and used it as a base to explore and weave our own stories of a magically beautiful place. Thankfully, we had heard about RUDEC from a friend who had travelled with them over Christmas and had been in touch with Joshua who turned out to be a real gem of a guide.
What I discovered during our brief stay was that everything I’d heard about the region was not an exaggeration!
Day 1: Ndawara Tea Estate
When we arrived in Belo, we were warmly welcomed by Joshua who lead us to the cosy volunteer house where we ate breakfast, chatted and got to know each other. After resting a bit we, we headed off on our first excursion: a trip to a tea estate on a neighbouring mountain peak. Not wanting to hike all the way up the mountain, we took motorbike taxis up the rocky road through magnificent scenery: bright green hills with dramatically dropping cliffs and misty, blue mountains in the distance.
Being the tea-lovers that we are, Sarah and I both found the (free!!) tour of the tea estate fascinating. Dismounting the bikes, we were hit by the sweet smell of tea all around us – a smell we have been used to encounter only in our tea-cups! Joshua took us first to meet the manager who answered some of our questions, showed us some pictures and passed us on to our guide for the morning. We were then shown how the tea was dried, shredded, oxidised and packaged, and when we left we were given free boxes of tea to take home.

We hiked from the tea estate back down to Belo – a hike of about 4 hours through the same magical scenery we had witnessed on the way up. Fortunately, we missed the rains that day (thankfully, it was still only the beginning of the rainy season), but that evening they poured down and we had the joy of listening to it from the cosy abode of our beds, with hot cups of fresh tea!
Day 2: Mount Oku Crater Lake
The bike ride to the lake took us over soaring peaks, down into lush valleys and through tiny mud-hutted villages, past farmers in their fields and tumbling waterfalls, over peaceful rivers and across grassy plateaus. In all honestly, I have never been on a more beautiful bike ride in all my travels. I barely noticed that it lasted for two whole hours (one way) and that the pathway was often bumpy and muddy; I only had eyes for the landscape.

We reached Lake Oku in the late morning, where we bumped into the brother of a friend who also happened to be travelling in the area. The peaceful blue-green waters of the lake, surrounded by forest, made for a restful picnic spot and the three of us ate, dipping our toes in the cool waters, while Joshua narrated the stories and myths of the sacred lake and its spirits. He then took us up to a viewpoint from which we could see the lake stretched out amongst the forest below. Up there in the cool breeze, with that view before me, I was pretty sure I would never see anything as beautiful in the rest of my travels.
Day 3: Mbingo Waterfall Hike
Both Sarah and I had thought that nothing could beat the scenic ride to Lake Oku. We were wrong: the following day we encountered scenes that surpassed everything we had witnessed before. Joshua took us and Sean on a 6 hour circular hike to a nearby waterfall. Part of the journey included a stretch of hiking along a mountain ridge which overlooked Belo and its surrounding villages on one side, and wild grasslands with Fulani cattle herders and wondering horses on the other.
At the waterfall, we picnicked and swam in the cool waters. Climbing over rocks, we made our way to the foot of the waterfall where a sweet pool welcomed us. After about an hour of swimming and resting, we started the hike back to Belo.
Thanks to RUDEC
All in all, our stay in Belo was made as wonderful as it was because of the efforts of Joshua and RUDEC. Throughout, Joshua was a reliable, knowledgeable and safety-conscious guide who made all our excursions flow as easily as the rivers. By ourselves, we would not have been able to negotiate all the transport, find the right paths or learn about the area as we did. "See our tourism  page at by Joshua"
We also found the volunteer house warm and welcoming. For only 2000 CFA per person per night, it provided a homely sanctuary for our time in Belo and also the opportunity to meet other volunteers working in the area and listen to their stories and knowledge. What’s more, we were also offered help in the form of a cook and someone to wash our big load of dirty travellers’ laundry, for which we were only asked to give a donation. 
Yet perhaps the best part of travelling with RUDEC is knowing that our guide and accommodation money is all going to a good cause. During our time in Belo, we learnt a lot about RUDEC and the work it does, met the people behind it and saw its impacts; I’m happy that I was able to support an organisation that I respect while having a quality vacation at the same time.
Thank you, Joshua! And thank you, RUDEC! We look forward to coming back for more.

By Leanne (SA) and Sarah (UK)