Report of my trip to Sierra Leone
By Gaston Bityo Delor | Ultimas Noticias No. 95 July 2019

Introductory note by Tiiu Miller.

There are many millions of slash and burn farmers throughout the tropical rainforest belt, in many different countries.  A recent study* found that in Africa this shifting agriculture accounted for about 80% of rainforest destruction. Worldwide the percentage is more like a quarter, - much less, but still significant. We don’t hear much about these. The emphasis is on palm oil and other agricultural commodities, logging and cattle ranching as the causes of rainforest loss. 

 

I like to think that this is because no one wants to blame the poor who are only trying to survive. I don’t know if that is the explanation or not, but indeed the only way to curb this destruction is to provide these people with a better, sustainable way to farm, and Inga alley cropping meets the bill.  

 

To have an impact on both poverty reduction and climate change we need to spread this technology, so we were delighted when our Cameroon partner, Gaston Bityo, was invited to take Inga alley cropping to Sierra Leone.  Below is his account of the trip. 

 

 

 

CAMEROON INGA PROJECT

REPORT OF MY TRIP TO SIERRA LEONE

By Gaston Delor Bityo

 

I went to Sierra Leone to start the Inga project there, to train local farmers on the Inga alley cropping system on the invitation of PAD-SL a non-profit organization in Sierra Leone working with local farmers in Agriculture, Clean Water, Education and Nutrition in partnership with Rory’s Well, a charity from the UK**. I was also to be trained in beekeeping. 

 

Inga pods packaged for travel. Photo by Gaston Bityo 2018

 

I had to bring the Inga seeds to Sierra Leone. So the day before my travel I collected about 60 Inga pods and put them into 2 big bags of 23 kg each.

The day of my travel (October 30, 2018) I went to the Yaoundé Nsimalene International Airport with my wife Melanie and my daughter Ivana (to see me off). Ivana had decided to accompany me to the airport instead of going to school. Later by, one of my sons, Ronald joined us.

 

We arrived at the airport around 12 o’clock. Before check in I had to pay for the Phytosanitary Certificate for the Inga pods I was bringing to Sierra Leone. Tony Evans (of Rory’s Well) had obtained all the necessary permits.

We took off around 4:30pm to Nairobi, Kenya. We reached Nairobi around 9pm (Nairobi local time, 2 hours ahead of the Yaounde time). 

 

The next day they started the checking in to Freetown, Sierra Leone around 8 o’clock. We took off around 9 o’clock (local time). We reached Freetown, Sierra Leone around 5pm (local time), where I found 3 people waiting for me:  Steven, his collaborator Foday and the driver Ibrahim. We left Freetown around 5pm (local time), in a car to BO town, about 200km from Freetown. We reached Bo around 9pm. 

 

The people who came to welcome me at Freetown were very kind. As soon as we met, Steven immediately called Tony and told him that Gaston (as they called me) is already in Sierra Leone. Tony was still in the UK, but he joined us a week later with his wife Karen and other people. Tony was very happy to learn that I was already in Sierra Leone. 

 

My wife was very anxious not knowing where I was. She called Steven who handed me his telephone telling me that I have a call from Cameroon, I recognised the voice of my wife and we could talk again in Bulu, my mother tongue.

 

I spent a night in a Hotel at BO. After diner, I chatted a bit with Steven and the others to make a plan for the next day. We were to continue to a rural village called Taninahun, where Tony has built a small house and where he always stays when he is in Sierra Leone. 

 

Getting the seeds out of the Inga pods, and keeping them moist .Photo by Gaston Bityo, 2018.

 

The next day I started the work which brought me to Sierra Leone. We unpacked the Inga pods from my bags. The 60 Inga pods I brought gave about 1280 seeds, and then we put all the seeds into plastic bags filled with soil. A few days after, the seeds started to grow and almost all the seeds I brought grew very well. We received a call from Tony that I could not start to train the local farmers in Inga alley cropping system before his arrival. 

 

The Inga seeds in the black plastic bags, and good growth two weeks later. Photo by Gaston Bityo 2018.

 

The day that Tony arrived I started the training with local farmers. Tony found me at the training centre with the farmers. He was very happy to see me. The training lasted 3 days, with a practical session beside the training centre measuring the distance between trees on the same row and between alleys and digging the holes where the Inga seedlings will be planted. We could not plant the seedlings because they were still too young at that moment. But they have grown up now and have been planted out as inga alleys in Taninahun and Massarella, Steven’s village. 

 

Young Inga seedlings planted out in alley formation. 

 

The training was based on:

1-   What is slash and burn agriculture

2-   What is agroforestry

3-   What is the Inga Alley Cropping system

4-   Inga alley cropping system: How it works

-       On flat lands

-       On slopes

-       In cocoa farms

5-   What are the benefits for farmers

6-   What can be grown in the Inga alley cropping system

Everybody, included Tony, was very happy with the Inga training I did in Sierra Leone. We are the first ones to bring the Inga into that part of Africa (West Africa).

 

During the training we received the visit of a very big man in Sierra Leone, who I guessed was from the Sierra Leone government. He met us at the training centre with Tony. Tony introduced me as a Cameroonian Citizen who came to train local farmers in the Inga alley cropping system. The man was very happy and told me that I could come to Sierra Leone very often to train other people in other localities and also for follow up visits.

I told Tony that if the people apply the training they got correctly, they will boost their crop production and preserve their environment, as is now the case in Cameroon.

 

A man, Neil and his wife, Kath came from UK for the beekeeping training. I learned how to build a bee hive with local materials like bamboo, how to get the bees in the hive, how to make a bee suit with local materials, how to collect the honey, how to process the honey, how to make the bee wax and how to make some lotions with the bee wax….

 

 

Making a beehive out of locally available materials, and no, he’s not the next man for the moon, only demonstrating a beekeeping suit. Photo by Gaston Bityo, 2018.

 

After the bee farming training I went back to Cameroon. We left Taninahun, Tony, Karen his wife, other people and me, on Monday the 26th of November, 2018. We spent a night again at BO. On Tuesday I left BO for Freetown. The next day I left Freetown for Yaoundé. First stop Accra, Ghana, where we are told that our flight to Yaounde, Cameroon has been delayed for 2 days.  One day in Accra, Ghana and another day in Nairobi, Kenya. When I arrived in Cameroon I found my wife waiting for me at the airport. 

 

The trip in Sierra Leone was a very new and good experience for me. I learned so many things. Not only I was happy to bring the Inga project there, but also to be trained in beekeeping. I like beekeeping and now I could practice it with the Inga project in Cameroon. Although I have not yet got the bees in my hives, but I think very soon they will come. 

 

I seize this opportunity to thank RFS through Mrs Tiiu. She is the one who put me in contact with Anthony Evans. I also thank very much Anthony Evans who made my trip in Sierra Leone a reality and took care of me during my stay there. I also thank Steven and his collaborators for their warm welcome to Sierra Leone and their assistance during my stay there. I will not forget Mr. Foday and his wife Bedou, where I was staying. Also Junisa and Mr. Arouna and others I forgot the names…..

 

Finally I want to thank also my family (my wife and my children) for their support to the work I am doing.

 

References

https://news.mongabay.com/2018/09/whats-causing-deforestation-new-study-reveals-global-drivers/

**www.roryswell.org