Cameroon, the Remix.

4 girls from Mordok, coming in from the fields.

5 girls from Mordok, coming in from the fields.

Cameroon was easily one of the most fascinating, diverse, disturbing and memorable countries I visited in 2012 with Heifer International…and that’s really saying scarf

My visit started with a minor disaster – we missed our flight from the capital city of Yaoundé up north to Maroua, and there wasn’t another one for 3 days. But as so often happens (if only I had the equanimity to keep this in mind), that accident ended up fortuitously taking me on the road to Douala, where we were able to see 3 other projects that were totally unique to Cameroon: one with snails…

Tangue Jokelt Dieudonne, proud member of Heifer's  Melong GIC with his snails

Tangue Jokelt Dieudonne, proud member of Heifer’s Melong GIC with his snails.

one with pigs …

Cute pigs from the CIG Women's project in Douala

… and one project with cane rats, a rodent I fear with hysterical fervor.

(and don't say that he's more afraid of me than I am of him)

(and don’t try to say that he’s more afraid of me than I am of him)

The south of Cameroon, like Douala, is wet, fertile and steamy….

Banana country!

Banana country!

…unlike the sere, flat and unrelentingly dry L’Extreme Nord. Scorched earth, Maroua

In fact, Cameroon is known as “Africa in miniature” because it contains all the continent’s topography: coast, desert, mountains, rainforest and savanna.

The southerners tend to be short, chubby, affable and primarily Christian…President Emilienne Zikou and VP Denise Nannou, GIC Ndoungue

…while the northerners are tall, lean, reserved and often Muslim.muslim girl

And it is the North that I worry deeply about. Water has always been scarce here, but never more so than now, with climate change prolonging the dry season to almost 11 months a year.mother water

The women of Barza, where Heifer dug a  bore hole, still have to walk about 5 miles each way, every day to secure enough water for their households, and even though men now share the task (thanks to Heifer gender equity trainings!) it’s a grueling, maddening waste of time and energy.woman w water

The people of Cameroon, though, are lovely, particularly in the L’Extreme Nord. As I was watching them one day, I wrote this in my book:

“Poverty isn’t pretty. It’s messy, smelly, sweaty. Filthy water hangs in the gutters of the streets. Old, beat-up things are used to the point of extinction and well beyond.boy and toy

Children in tattered cast-off clothing run barefoot through the dust. holding on

But poor people in Africa are also often heart-wrenchingly beautiful. friends

They rise above the destitution of their surroundings, the women sailing like colorful jibs through the channels of a jumbled market… two beauties…splendid and serene.”

Yes, I loved Cameroon. In fact, I love the energy, faith, colors, strength and smiles of Africa as much as any place I’ve ever been. kids

Who wouldn’t?


To read more about the inspiring Heifer projects I visited in Cameroon (including the rats), click below:

Categories: Africa, Agriculture, Animals, Cameroon, Heifer International, Photography, Travel, Water, Women | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 11 Comments

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11 thoughts on “Cameroon, the Remix.

  1. Meredith

    wonderful to get to know more about people; we live in such enclosed spheres despite all the ‘globalization’ going on. Thank you, Betty

    • Meredith, I feel the same way — and with every country I visited, I went through a whole process of discovery and enlightenment and a sense of — how did I not know this about this country and these people?? It’s such a wonderful learning experience!!!

  2. Anonymous

    Some of your portraits take my breath away. That doesn’t happen often. thanks. But what about that bore hole?

    • Amy — thanks for liking my photography, but it’s hard to take a bad picture of people who are so mind-blowingly strong, resilient and dignified! About the borehole …yes, they need more. Many more — but boreholes are really expensive … about $15,000 to $25,000 each and the L’Extreme Nord needs about 11,600 of them for water security. That would be about $174 million –not likely to happen at the government’s behest. But it’s really unbearable, right?

  3. Does Heifer have plans to dig a closer water hole for the Barza people?
    Loved getting another look at Cameroon!

  4. Love hearing from you, Joy!! Heifer’s borehole is right in the village, and each family can have 2 20-liter jerricans a day from that well. They also sometimes allow other villages to come in and share the water, but since that really taps out the water, that’s a real act of generosity. To get supplemental water (since the Northerners tend to have large families and they also need to provide water to their animals) they have to walk to the closest source of water — which is that little stream that you see running beside the woman with the baby on her back. It was really hard not to feel tremendous anger that people are living this way, in 2013 … and we are allowing it. Seriously, water is a human right as far as I am concerned. (Aren’t those Cameroonian women gorgeous??)

  5. This was lovely. These pictures show that Cameroon loves you right back, too.

  6. The pictures just take my breath away.

  7. Anonymous

    Love the remix. Keep them coming!

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