No. 48 Highlights of 2013. Part 1 Cameroon.
By Tiiu-Imbi Miller | Newsletter No. 48 January 2014

It has been an active year, ending with the first week of 2014, when the latest harvest from the first two Inga plots and the adjacent no-Inga comparison plots were gathered,  clearly demonstrating the value of the Inga, as shown in the diagram below.

 

 

It takes more than one or two prunings of the Inga to provide a sufficient accumulation of mulch to hold water in a drought, which may account for variations in early harvests. Please note that pruning the Inga provides valuable firewood for cooking too

 

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Second sowing of Gaston Bityo’s Inga plot at Bizang. Gaston feared the hens might eat some of his maize, but the harvest was good (see diagram above). Photo Gaston Bityo 2013.

 

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Mrs. Mendo’s plot was pruned straight after the second harvest because the trees were well grown, as seen from the rich prunings on the left. Melanie (Gaston’s wife) gathering the third harvest on the right. Photo Gaston Bityo 2013.

The map below gives an overview of what has been achieved in Cameroon so far.

 

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Several more plots are expected to be ready for pruning, sowing and harvest this year.

 

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Two of several plots that will be ready for pruning this year .The right hand plot is at Ambam, where we also hope to start a nursery when funds allow.  Photo Gaston Bityo 2013

 

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The nursery at Bizang, which can hold 10,000 seedlings,  has been kept restocked. The adjacent seed orchard is producing a lot of seed. The family are helping with planting them for the nursery. Photo Gaston Bityo 2013.

Not all the plots marked on the map were a success. Some failures were inevitable. There were a couple of deaths, and one man was chased out of the village for adultery. But a couple of farmers simply neglected their Inga plots. One of these should have got a harvest by now too, but got nothing. Gaston is not a man to give up. He got the farmer to go to the plot with him and they cleaned it up and now it looks great (see below).

These farmers have never done anything like this before, and, even though it has all been explained to them, some still don’t believe that they get keeping the produce!  So patience is needed.

 

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On the left is the exemplary plot of Denis Amougou, Gaston’s co-driver and the mechanic who keeps the truck on the road. On the right is the plot that the farmer initially neglected but who has now, with Gaston’s help, cleaned it up to try again. Photo Gaston Bityo 2013.

Gaston has started a couple of new farmers with Inga plots, but most of the work has been on following up the earlier ones, and in furthering the work started in Akonolinga where 94 farmers have signed up, and the work of Gaston’s co-workers, Linus Arong in Mundemba/Fabé region, Atanga Wilson in Buea, and Prof. Tabouguie in Kumba.

Akonolinga

 

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Gaston has delivered more seedlings and also seeds to Akonolinga, where at least ten farmers have recently started Inga plots. But many more are waiting, so he took seeds there and a nursery has been established. Photos Gaston Bityo 2013

 

Description: Macintosh HD:Users:tiiuimbimiller:Inga Project:Website_Newsletter:January 2014:newsletter48Highlights:WebHighlightsCameroon:Akonolinga2Web.jpgThe well at Akonolinga will greatly help in growing the seedlings for the nursery to supply the 94 farmers who signed up to wanting Inga. Gaston has given a training session there. Photos Gaston Bityo 2013.

The projects with the three community leaders who contacted us earlier – Linus Arong from Mundemba/Fabé village, Atanga Wilson from Buea, and Prof. Tabouguie Alphonse from Kumba – have all progressed.

Mundemba/Fabé

 

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Community meeting about the Inga organised by Linus Arong in the Mundemba/Fabé region, and delivery of Inga seedlings to them.  8 villages in the region are interested – 400 farmers, if we can find the money to train and supply them. The pink banner reads ‘Inga edulis plant(_) sponsored by Rainforest Saver Foundation.’ Photo Linus Arong 2013.

 

Description: Macintosh HD:Users:tiiuimbimiller:Inga Project:Website_Newsletter:January 2014:newsletter48Highlights:WebHighlightsCameroon:MundembaCombined1.jpgPlanting out on the left, and Gaston Bityo and Linus Arong on the right. Photo Gaston Bityo/colleague 2013.

They have planted a community Inga plot and have trees to provide seed in the future. We need resources to build a large central nursery, and some village nurseries, and for Gaston to give more training sessions until the local people are ready to work largely independently. There is a great opportunity for future work here. It is moreover located by national parks and wildlife reserves, as well as under pressure from a palm oil proposal, so anything that enables these farmers to use their land sustainably is doubly welcome here.

Buea

 

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Atanga Wilson showing a row of newly planted Inga seedlings, and a farmer transporting the seedlings – with helper. There are 15 more farmers that Atanga wants to start with Inga. Photos Atanga Wilson/colleague 2013.

 

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Atanga Wilson has contacted several schools, both primary and secondary, and these are very happy to have their students educated about the environment, including the sustainable farming with Inga. These are farmers’ children to whom this is very relevant. Photo Atanga Wilson 2013.

Kumba

 

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Prof. Tabouguie in the middle in the left photo, and the participants of the Kumba training session on the right at the end of the training. Gaston is thing from the left, with Prof. Tabouguie on his right and Linus Arong on his left. Photo Gaston Bityo/colleague 2013

 

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Denis (on the right of left Photo) showing how to get seeds out of the Inga pod, and Prof. Tabouguie’s nursery on the right. Gaston has found that you can transport seeds in the pods or a bucket of water for a few days, but see comments below. Photo Gaston Bityo 2013.

There are Inga trees near Buea, which is near Kumba, but more needed to be brought from the South. Not only was there a shortage, but this makes for a better genetic mix. There are several advantages to transporting the Inga as seedlings rather than as delicate, moist seeds, but on the other hand these take much more space in the truck. So Gaston experimented with bringing both pods and seeds in a bucket of water, in a journey of at least three days. Both lots germinated very well, but it was hard to get the seeds out of the pods, so the bucket of water is better. The secret of success with that was to change the water whenever it started to warm up. That way Gaston found seeds can be carried for five days.

 

The future

All the farmers who planted Inga plots earlier were told that we expect them to promote the Inga to their neighbours. That will be the next exciting and important stage for this year and later. But we cannot proceed with this till they have seen for themselves that the system works, and that we really are there to help them, not for our own personal gain. There are a number of ways to proceed with this stage, and exactly what we will do will depend also on how the farmers themselves want to proceed.

 

Some possible problems that have been raised.

Two problems regarding the whole approach have been raised. The first is that Inga edulis is native to the Western Amazon. Are we right to promote it in other parts of the world? In fact we are not introducing it to any other countries, nor could we, as we have no quarantine facilities. These would be essential to prevent the spread of diseases and pests, regardless of whether the tree itself caused any problems or not.

Inga edulis has already been distributed over much, probably most, of the tropical belt, mostly as a shade tree for coffee or cocoa. It has settled in well without being a pest. Indeed, it is believed not to be native to Honduras, where much of the original work with it was done. It has settled in there so well that it can be considered to be an honorary native. There is no reason why it should cause any more problems elsewhere, and apparently it doesn’t.  Plants (animals are more tricky) have been taken from one country to another from time immemorial. I ‘Googled’ to see which of the food plants we grow here in Britain are native. After an hour or two I was left with blackberries, and possibly turnips! No potatoes, carrots, cabbage, wheat, onions, etc.  See the Rainforest Saver July 2012 (no. 35) newsletter for more discussion on this. . Of course no one is suggesting that importing Japanese Knotweed or the Giant Hogweed to the UK was a brilliant idea, but the problem with these surely lies in the characteristics of the plants rather than that they are non-native. 

The other problem is more serious. We are depending on one species (Inga edulis)  – or at most two or three closely related species. Sure, it is resistant to pests and disease, but resistant does not mean immune. What if some disease or bad pest struck it?

At present, the Inga is the best species, and finding as good an alternative is not easy. See again the Rainforest Saver July 2012 (no. 35) newsletter. But we are supporting on-going research into other possible trees in Honduras in association with CURLA (part of the National University of Honduras) and FunaVid (a local NGO). Meanwhile the problem of slash and burn farming is very urgent. There are about 250 million farmers – with families – practising this form of farming, comprising maybe a sixth of the world’s population.  If they are given no alternative slowly and surely they have no option but to destroy the rainforests, for otherwise they would starve. If we wait till all problems are solved before we take action, will there be any rainforests left to save? Or will there just be hunger?