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 something.
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.
one with pigs …
… and one project with cane rats, a rodent I fear with hysterical fervor.
(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….
…unlike the sere, flat and unrelentingly dry L’Extreme Nord.
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…
…while the northerners are tall, lean, reserved and often Muslim.
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.
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.
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.
Children in tattered cast-off clothing run barefoot through the dust.
But poor people in Africa are also often heart-wrenchingly beautiful.
They rise above the destitution of their surroundings, the women sailing like colorful jibs through the channels of a jumbled market… …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.
To read more about the inspiring Heifer projects I visited in Cameroon (including the rats), click below: