No.83 Inga alley cropping for the Baka (pygmies) of SE Cameroon. Part 1
By Tiiu Miller | Ultimas Noticias No. 83 November 2016

I apologize to all our readers for the recent lack of newsletters. There were many reasons for this, but lack of activity in RFS was not one of them. So I now hope to make up for it.

As many of you will recall, we did a crowd funding, in association with Global Music Exchange, and with support from the French NGO   ‘09 Cameroun’ (http://09cameroun.pagesperso-orange.fr)

in July to take Inga alley cropping to the Baka (pygmies) of SE Cameroon. This was very well supported. We made our target and more, and we are very, very grateful to all who contributed. It is so encouraging and heart warming to have had so much support for this project.

 

The Baka

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Baka children. Photo Martin Cradick.

Originally the Baka were hunter-gatherers in the Congo basin rainforests. Now

they are being forced out of their forest home to live in roadside villages. While they lived in the forest without outside interference they lived well on the bounty of the forest. Now they face extreme poverty, discrimination and exploitation, and are one of the poorest people on earth. One in five children dies before the age of five.

Description: Macintosh HD:Users:tiiuimbimiller:Inga Project:Website_Newsletter:November2017:web_Nov.2017:Untitled-10a.jpgLife in roadside villages is not only unpleasant but also dangerous as the forests of Cameroon are carted away. Photo Martin Cradick (off video).

As well as being hunter-gatherers, the Baka have always also planted some crops. With limited land their traditional “slash and burn” method of agriculture is no longer sustainable. Without theirbeing able to move to new fields, allowing the forest to reclaim the old, the fragile soil soon loses its nutrients.

Inga alley cropping was created to deal with this problem. The Baka contacted our Cameroon partner, Gaston Bityo, in August 2016. In March of this year Gaston made a short, preliminary visit to them to assess the situation and so as to be able to draw up a budget for a full training trip. He also took a batch of Inga seedlings with him. These were planted at the Baka school at Lakabo.

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Planting out Inga seedlings at the Lakabo school. Photo Gaston Bityo 2017.

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Planting the Inga seedlings Gaston brought to the Baka in March. Photo Gaston Bityo, 2017.

We also provided the Baka with money to create two Inga nurseries. There was at least one Inga tree in the neighbourhood from which they got seed to plant in the nurseries.

These trips are not without problems. On the way back the rain came down very heavily, and they (Gaston and co-driver Denis) pulled up at the side of the road to wait for it to pass, as they couldn’t see where they were going. But unfortunately the strong wind brought a tree down on top of the truck. There was a loud noise and they thought the bonnet and windscreen must have been broken, but when the rain ceased and they cut away the tree they found these were not damaged, and they themselves were not hurt either.

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Denis Amougou extricating the truck from the fallen tree. Photo Gaston Bityo 2017.

Gaston and Denis went back to the Baka in September to do the main training visit, for which we did the crowd funding.  They found that the seedlings that were planted in March, and the ones that the Baka grew subsequently in the nurseries had done well. They brought a few more seedlings with them to have more to plant out with the Baka or at the school.

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The children unloading the seedlings from Gaston’s truck. Photo © Gaston Bityo

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More unloading. Photo  © Gaston Bityo

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Kids are great! Photo © Gaston Bityo

Such enthusiasm! If we can make that last they will grow good Inga trees and get good crops thereafter, creating a valuable demonstration plot for the school students, their parents, and anyone else who is around.

There was of course classroom education as well, for both adults and children.

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Photo © Gaston Bityo

This covered more than just the technique of planting Inga alleys. For example, it included discussion of the problems of slash and burn farming, and why Inga alley cropping was much better. Gaston used the generator and screen he was able to buy thanks to the crowd funding to show slides, and also the black and white animation of Inga alley cropping, which you can find at http://www.rainforestGasaver.org/watch-them-grow-animation

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Gaston Bityo illustrating the Inga system on the blackboard, and showing the animation on the screen.Photo © Leonard Mbagué (Baka leader)

In the next newsletter, Part 2 of taking Inga to the Baka, we will give you Gaston Bityo’s own account of the training.

With best wishes and many thanks to all who helped with the crowd funding,

Tiiu

Rainforest Saver