We have been urgently fund raising to buy Gaston Bityo Delor, our Cameroon partner, a truck. We provided a car, but that is proving to be totally inadequate for the task of delivering Inga seedlings to the farmers on Cameroon roads. Gaston provides each farmer with 200 seedlings for a starter plot. The car has space for 200, but Gaston found that on the very rough roads of Cameroon 200 are far too heavy. The exhaust gets knocked off. He cannot safely carry more than 75.
Many farmers are waiting for their Inga seedlings. Gaston has 5000 seedlings in his nursery. He can grow up to 10,000. But how is he to deliver them to the farmers?
The Seedling Express. It can deliver thousands of seedlings to the farmers.
We've made it! We have the money for the truck. Thank you to all our supporters.
A Cameroon road, and how to drive on it by car. Photo by Gaston Bityo Delor 2011.
Gaston gives training on Inga and sustainable farming, and relevant environmental issues and nutrition where possible, to groups of interested farmers. He then distributes the Inga seedlings that he grows to them, ensures the seedlings are planted right and makes follow up visits. Each initial plot will not only help that farmer to improve his own family's life, but is meant to serve as a demonstration to his neighbours, so many more can benefit.
Each farmer leaves one tree for seed, both to expand his own plantation and to supply his neighbours. These farmers will be the nuclei for the promotion of Inga in their neighbourhoods.
Row of young Inga in a farmer’s plot. Photo by Tiiu Miller 2011.
Gaston has established an Inga seedling nursery that can accommodate 10,000 seedlings on his own land at his home village of Bizang.
Bizang nursery. Photo by Gaston Bityo Delor 2012.
He has also planted a seed orchard of 50 trees there, which are coming into production. However distributing seedlings all over Cameroon from one location makes for many long, expensive journeys, and means that if any disaster struck that nursery there would be no back up. Nor will 10,000 seedlings at a time be enough as the project expands. There is considerable interest among Cameroon farmers in taking up the Inga.
Initially Gaston advertised for people with land who wanted to improve their farming and so escape from poverty. He got a good response. He selected a group of about 20 for the first training session, and these farmers have now been supplied with Inga seedlings and started their Inga alleys.
Teaching the first group of farmers, and Inga poster. Photo by Gaston Bityo Delor 2010.
In January 2011 Gaston attended a national agricultural show where many people came to his stand and 454 signed up as being interested in the Inga system. Since then others have asked to be provided, and he has given more training sessions.
Visitors to Gaston’s stand at the Ebolowa agriculturas show in January 2011, looking at the posters, and taking home seedlings. Photo by Gaston Bityo Delor 2011.
So more nurseries are planned in three other locations where Gaston has contacts. There are mature Inga trees near Ambam so a nursery is planned for there, and a suitable farmer who already has his own Inga plot has been found to care for it. People from Buea and Mundemba have contacted us wanting to have the Inga, so nurseries are planned for there too. These will be semi-independent Inga promotion centres, but at least initially overseen by Gaston.
Map of Cameroon showing existing and planned Inga nurseries, and farmers who have planted their Inga alley plots. April 2012.
No one could have worked harder than Gaston. He has been getting the seed and growing the seedlings and now has a good supply. But hiring a vehicle to take them to the farmers is very expensive, and taking the seedlings by bus is difficult and impossible for larger numbers, and also costly. Yes, indeed, at the start of the project Gaston even resorted to carting seedlings by bus. That's real dedication, and we don't know how he managed it, but he did.
We then got him a very ancient but serviceable car, hoping to at least partly solve the problem. Only partly because using the car in the wet season was not going to be feasible on Cameroon roads. So the seedlings would have to be delivered in the dry season, which of course is all wrong, because they need the rain and should be planted in the wet season. When planting in the dry season the farmer should water them till the rains come. Difficult, as they don’t have handy taps and hoses. They have to carry water from a stream or water hole.
The waterhole for everything including dinking water at Allen, and the path, steeper than it looks, up from it. Mrs. Mendo Antoinette carried water for her seedlings from here and got very good Inga alleys. Photos by Tiiu Miller 2011.
But the car has not stood up to the rigors of Cameroon roads. It is too low and when loaded with the 200 seedlings that Gaston gives each farmer, the exhaust keeps getting knocked off. So a truck is essential.
Gaston Bityo Delor standing in front of one of Mrs. Mendo’s alleys, which is ready for pruning. Note how few weeds are still growing in the alley. Photo by Tiiu Miller 2011,
Gaston studied botany and has been trained in agroforestry. He is also the son of a farmer and farms himself. So he understands farmers and their problems. There is still a good bit of rainforest left in Cameroon. Slash and burn farming is common. Indeed Gaston himself knew no other ways of farming until he came across the Rainforest Saver website and learned about Inga alley cropping. He contacted Rainforest Saver in May2009 and we have been working together since then. RFS has supplied him with funding for the training, for building the nursery, for the distribution of seedling, the car and so on. But now the urgent need is for a truck. The seedlings cannot be delivered without it.
Part of the fantastic Lobé Falls, Cameroon, with rainforest behind it. Photo by Tiiu Miller 2011.
Fortunately there was a mature Inga tree near where Gaston lived and he was able to get seed. Then he found some more Inga trees in other places in Cameroon. So he has been growing the seedlings, established a seed orchard, taught three groups of about 20 farmers each about the system and distributed seedlings initially to the first group (April 2012). As resources become available, most importantly once he has a truck, the other groups will also be supplied, and more farmers trained, and so on.
Gaston teaching about Inga at Bengbis. He was invited to give this training by the government Deputy. Photo by Gaston Bityo 2012.
Inga has been successfully grown in Cameroon before, but not for alley cropping. It has however been used as a good fallow crop, which compared favourably with Calliandria and with natural fallow. The seedlings grown by VSD are healthy with nitrogen fixing root nodules.
Nitrogen fixing root nodules on roots of one of Gaston’s Inga seedlings. Photo by Gaston Bityo 2010.
Slash and burn is a major cause of the loss of both primary and secondary forest in Cameroon.Each time a farmer starts Inga alley cropping instead of burning the forest an area of rainforest is saved, not for one year but year after year after year.
We urgently need more funds to continue this very promising project, particularly for the truck.
Please donate whatever you can afford.
Than you very much
Be it much or little we, Gaston and the farmers will be very grateful.
Cameroon children: Gaston’s youngest. Photo by Tiiu Miller 2011.