Posts Tagged With: Water projects

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 something.red 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?

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

https://heifer12x12.com/2012/06/01/bienvenue-cameroon/

https://heifer12x12.com/2012/06/06/poverty-slimed/

https://heifer12x12.com/2012/06/08/hunger-no-games/

https://heifer12x12.com/2012/06/11/dead-hen-walking/

https://heifer12x12.com/2012/06/13/just-add-water/

https://heifer12x12.com/2012/06/15/one-womans-nightmare-is-another-mans-dinner/

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

Goat-ed into greatness.

 My first visit to a Heifer Nepal project took me way up into the hills surrounding Kathmandu – where immediately the air got sweeter and the views became more and more spectacular, with the Himalayas shimmering like a mirage in the distance.

My Heifer guide, the lovely Puja, told me that when Tibet invaded Nepal, the cavalry stayed on the hilltops as lookouts and they eventually settled there, which helps explains the Tibetan look of the Tamang people here (and my immediate attraction).

Our destination was Ramkot Village where a Heifer project had been started in 2008 through a local partner group: Women’s Feeling Unity Forum, with the adorable acronym WFUF. In Nepal, Heifer always partners with a local NGO (non-government organization) that has organized the community through a Women’s Self Help Group, proven the participants are committed and motivated, and then applied to Heifer for animals and training. Once approved, WFUF’s staff was trained and paid by Heifer to be the hands-on managers of the project in Ramkot and three other villages — and their hard work with Heifer has paid off. Even though this Ramkot Heifer project is complete (projects are active for 3 years, then go into a reporting stage for another 2), the group continues on, thanks to the efforts of some very compelling women.

Vice President Tirtha Tamang (everyone’s last name is his or her caste group) is 38, married to a farmer, with 2 sons and 1 daughter. Like two-thirds of women in Nepal, Tirtha is illiterate – but in the Heifer program, she learned to read slowly, write her name, and do basic arithmetic. From the original Heifer gift of 2 does, Tirtha has raised, bred, fed and sold dozens of goats to pay for her children’s education; now two are in college and one is entering high school.

Think of that! Instead of passing along illiteracy, she has totally rewritten the future for her children, turning goats into college degrees. And that’s not half of what Heifer has helped this community accomplish for itself!

Madame President Mithu Tamang

Under the leadership of President Mithu Tamang, Ramkot women started a group savings account in 2008 (each member contributing 100 rupees – about $1.20/month), enabling the members to borrow money for seeds, medicine, school fees, or family emergencies–like food– at minimal interest. When you’re living on $2/day income, easy access to money means a lot… and the repayment rate is 100%. The women have built a new, cement community center to host their meetings and other village events, as well as two beautiful new bamboo greenhouses for starting seeds. In fact, with the manure from their animals and Heifer trainings in raising organic produce, the women grow enough vegetables to feed their families and sell in the market. It’s a 3-hour walk to the market (each way) and they carry their produce on their backs, leaving at 2 a.m. twice a week during harvest months — but on a good day they can make 500 rupees ($7) in sales.

Tirtha & Mithu with the women’s group water harvesting cistern, new greenhouses below, and hills of pumpkins.

OR… if they sell a young male goat about 4 months old, the women can earn 12-15,000 rupees (over $100). A female goat can start having babies at 6 months, have 3 kids every pregnancy, and up to 2 pregnancies a year.

So –don’t you love Heifer math that adds up the multiplying effect of the single gift of a goat?? (And of course, all the women have passed on the gift of offspring and trainings to other village families in need.)

Heifer has been working in Nepal with women’s groups since 1993, and in less than 20 years has helped more than 60,000 families like those in Ramkot with the gift of livestock and training. That’s a great story. But as we were bouncing back down the road to Kathmandu, Puja started telling me about how Nepalese women’s groups are joining forces, forming larger cooperatives and instituting change on a whole new scale – like the $60,000 water project all the villages around Ramkot are working to build, that will allow them to double their production.

Why Women’s Self Help Groups (and co-ops) are a great idea.

That concept (and the beautiful smiles of the Tamang people) took my breath away. More on co-ops tomorrow!

Never underestimate the power of a Nepalese woman!

Categories: Agriculture, Animals, Heifer International, Nepal, Photography, Travel, Women | Tags: , , , , , , , , , | 22 Comments

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