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Grow hope for 150 Cameroon schoolkids

by Cameroon Association of Active Youths
Grow hope for 150 Cameroon schoolkids
Grow hope for 150 Cameroon schoolkids
Grow hope for 150 Cameroon schoolkids
Grow hope for 150 Cameroon schoolkids
Grow hope for 150 Cameroon schoolkids
Grow hope for 150 Cameroon schoolkids
Grow hope for 150 Cameroon schoolkids
Grow hope for 150 Cameroon schoolkids
Grow hope for 150 Cameroon schoolkids
Grow hope for 150 Cameroon schoolkids
Grow hope for 150 Cameroon schoolkids
Grow hope for 150 Cameroon schoolkids
Grow hope for 150 Cameroon schoolkids
Grow hope for 150 Cameroon schoolkids
Grow hope for 150 Cameroon schoolkids
Grow hope for 150 Cameroon schoolkids
Grow hope for 150 Cameroon schoolkids
Grow hope for 150 Cameroon schoolkids
Grow hope for 150 Cameroon schoolkids
Grow hope for 150 Cameroon schoolkids
Grow hope for 150 Cameroon schoolkids
Grow hope for 150 Cameroon schoolkids
Students hard at work
Students hard at work

Volunteers Hugo de Oliveira and Mathilde Schoenauer Sebag arrived from France on the 19th of March 2015 to help with our school gardening project.

Hugo and Mathilde visited the gardening clubs, and enjoyed  introducing the students to new seeds, since the children were generally only familiar with the north-west’s primary crops, plantain, cassava, cocoyam, and maize.

Mendankwe Primary School 

The first school visited by Hugo and Mathilde was Mendankwe Primary School.   Since many of the seeds provided in the past did not sprout, the volunteers discussed ways to better nurse the seeds.

 A nursery should protect the seeds from dryness, excessive sun, heavy rains, and parasites. The quality of the soil in a nursery is usually better than the soil in the field; a finer soil should be mixed with manure in order to increase the nutriment content.

Mathilde had the idea of introducing a cotton nursery. When covered in humid cotton, most of the seeds find the appropriate conditions to sprout.

 The seeds were put in the cotton, and then watered by the children.The focus was laid on measuring the water on each of the seeds to avoid drowning them.

Unfortunately, rats were able to access the shelf with the seeds at night and they destroyed most of them.

 After the nursing activity, the volunteers went to the garden to plant some seeds with the children. The children had already prepared the beds.

At the end, Liliane, one of the teachers made a presentation on the various species cultivated in the region.

 

Bome Mbengui Secondary School

 Here, Hugo gave a presentation about agriculture in France, followed by a little game in which the students had to rank the different food crops grown in Cameroon relative to the amount produced.

 The winners were able to identify both cassava and plantain in the top two, and maize in the top four. They were awarded with candies.

Then Patrick introduced the seeds to the students and to the principal, Martin.

Due to recent rains, the soil was too muddy to plant that day, but a local resident had helped the children create suspended nurseries made of bamboo. He said the soil was unstable and that the sticks holding the nurseries had been moving with the rain, indicating that erosion is a serious problem.

 

Chomba Primary School

The following day,  Hugo and Mathilde went to Chomba Primary School. This school is in a remote area and requires a hike of a few hundred meters from the clay road to access it.

The volunteers and students started by transplanting a few plants that were nursed. The rest of the beds needed to be scattered again to be planted. Once a seed paper bag was finished, the students put it through a stick in order to label the area. 

The school visit ended with a presentation of agriculture in France with a portable projector, and with a ukulele demonstration and songs from Mathilde.

 

Fundong Secondary School

Fundong is far north of Bamenda. Only Hugo and Ruth, a field teacher gardening specialist, were present because Mathilde had already started working on a water management project for the Batibo municipality.

After a presentation on agriculture in France, Hugo introduced two videos with some mechanized agriculture used to plant and to harvest Irish potatoes. The goal was to show them that farming without hard labor is possible and is already developing in Cameroon.

The volunteers and students then went to the field to set up the nursery. With the  help of the local assistant, the students mixed the soil with some high quality manure before planting. Ruth showed the students how to mark the trenches before sending the seeds inside it.

 

Gusang Secondary School

The visit to Gusang Secondary school was very productive. Even CAMAAY’s director Patrick had to work hard!

The students and volunteers ahd to scatter the garden and to make sure to remove the roots of the wild yams, since just removing the plant at the surface does not keep the roots from sprouting new shoots.

Hugo and Mathilde met Mr. Ferdinand, a worker at the school who is close to retirement. He told Hugo and Mathilde that he would like to farm once he retires. He wants to grow corn to feed chickens and pigs in order to sell meat.

 

Babessi Secondary School 

 The last school our volunteers Hugo and Mathilde visited was in Babessi, near the village Ndop. Surprisingly, this region is much warmer than Bamenda. Babessi is in a valley, which stores the heat. With the abundance of rainfalls, rice was cultivated.

 The teachers and principal were very welcoming to Hugo and Mathilde. After another presentation about agriculture in France, Hugo and Mathilde went to the garden to start cleaning and making the beds. 

Overall, we were a bit disappointed that more progress had not been made, but feel very pleased withthe work our volunteers did and are hopefull we will soon have some thriving crops. 

A student putting the seeds in cotton
A student putting the seeds in cotton
The Principal at Babessi Secondary School helping
The Principal at Babessi Secondary School helping

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Participants at  P.S MENDANKWE
Participants at P.S MENDANKWE

Thanks to a partnership with YPARD Cameroon, we have been able to extend our activities to include five primary schools: G.S.CHOMBA, G.S NSONGWA, G.S STATION, P.S MENDANKWE, et P.S RENNAISSANCE. We have recruited four volunteers who will be working one day per week in each school.  In the spirit of intercultrualism, we selected two Francophones and two Anglophones, so each can improve their bilingual skills.

We selected and assessed the garden sites as follows:

P.S MENDANKWE  and G.S CHOMBA each have a large garden area with good soil and a water tap nearby

RENAISSANCE BELOW FONCHA and G.S STATION each have a large garden area with good soil and a stream nearby.

At G.S NSONGWA, there is no water available nearby.

We started activities with a presentation about the project to the children, and the election of garden club members.

Everyone wanted to be a member of the club's executive committee. The eventual election of committee members was a useful lesson in democracy. Each school elected students to the following positions: President,Vice President, Secretary, Financial Secretary, Treasurer, Farm Master, Public Relations Officer, and Discipline Master.

The teachers who manage the clubs at each school are:

G.S. CHOMBA: BIH TANGY Raphael; NDANGHA Mispa

G.S. STATION: PONGWO TATAH David

P.S MENDANKWE: ASONGNDA Lilian Taniform

G.S NSONGWA: AMABOH Alice; ASOH Mary

P.S. RENAISSANCE: SHU Jeplline

We used six different types of seeds in each school: Zinnia, Pepper, Tomato, Cabbage, Collard, and Spinach. These seeds had been nursed before transplanting for two to six weeks. Children at each school brought manure from their home for use as compost.

To compost the manure, we used sticks, grass and ground. The sticks allow us to move the grass and soil in such a way that when we water the compost, it will decompose well. In each school, we lay down dry grass, covered it with soil and then repeated the layers.

We worked the compost into the nursery beds and mulched with grass to protect the seedlings from sun, wind, and water erosion.

Once the gardens were prepared, we asked the children to draw their best or favourite vegetable garden. Almost all the children in each school chose carrot, tomato, cabbage, and pepper for their dream garden.

We also selected some vegetables that were unknown to the children: beetroot, cumcumber, squash and spinach.

We talked about some advantages of growing the vegetables that the children had drawn and those they were unfamiliar with, then presented the different nutritive valuesof each, and talked about the different ways that to cook or eat each vegetable.

The children were excited to receive seeds for practical experience at home.

We are pleased with each school's garden so far, with the exception of G.S NSONGWA, where there is no grass for mulch or compost, no nearby water, and the teachers and administrators are not engaged with the project and are often unavailable.

 

Water Tap at  P.S MENDANKWE
Water Tap at P.S MENDANKWE
RENAISSANCE club members
RENAISSANCE club members
Preparing compost piles
Preparing compost piles
Sharing seeds to take home
Sharing seeds to take home
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The agricultural extension officers and club members of the different schools have discussed and chosen the vegetables to be grown, taking into consideration the ecological zones, soil types, and climatic conditions of the different areas.

The following seeds were ordered fron SEED PROGRAM INTERNATIONAL or obtained locally:
Radish, Squash, Mustard, Tomato, Cabbage, Carrot, Okra, Spinach, Beets, Lettuce, Diakon radish, Broccoli, Cucumber, Collards, Coneflower,Cauliflower, Peas, Pepper, Galia melon, Zinnia, Onion, and Beans.

We have also received free chaya, katuk, moringa, Ethiopian kale, amaranth, seminole pumpkin, and watermelon seeds and cuttings from Echonet.org, to be grown experimentally in smaller quantities.

Using the selected list of vegetables, we asked the students to draw their “dream gardens.” Their designs will be used to develop the final plan for planting, which begins later this month. 

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Bucket irrigation
Bucket irrigation

CAMAAY participated in a two days capacity building workshop organized by WATER FOR CAMEROON in Ndop on how to use bucket kits for small gardens;  composting; the importance of the moringa tree as an organic manure; and how to use bio-sand filters.

Bucket kits for gardening

The bucket kit is a simple drip irrigation system designed for vegetable gardens in periods where there is less rain. The bucket kit has all the parts to make an irrigation system using an ordinary bucket. The kit may be adapted for 2, 4 or 6 row garden. This irrigation system works by gravity. When a 20 litres (5 gallon) bucket of water is raised one meter (3.3 feet) above the ground (measured from the bucket) sufficient pressure is generated to force the water from the bucket through the irrigation tap on the ground. Tubes connect through the bottom of the bucket to the irrigation tap. Water drips rom the tap into the soil and provide enough moisture for a vegetable garden to feed a family of three or four.

Demonstrations on how to set up the kit were done by participants in a group of four. At the end of the training, we purchased 8 of these kits which we shall use in our gardens.

Composting

Composting is an essential element of organic, sustainable farming, so we were eager to learn more about it. 

We learned that hot composting can:

  • improve water retention,
  • balance Ph,
  • improve soil structure,
  • kill most weed seeds,
  • building healthy populations of beneficial soil micro-organisms,
  • and provide timed release of nutrients.


Participants also received lessons on the different types of composting materials, building a compost pile, pile size, location of the pile, using compost and troubleshooting

Participants contructed a compost pile under the supervision of the facilitator.

Moringa oleifera, a multi-purpose tree

A brief presentation was made on moringa oleifera, a multi-purpose tree by one of the facilitators. Discussions focused on what is moringa oleifera, how it grows, and its many uses, including water purification, organic manure, animal fodder,and human nutrition. Grown plants and seeds were presented to participants that they were encouraged to grow for local useand for commercial purposes.

A free sample of moringa powder and a gift card explaining its benefits and uses is available for a $50 donation.

Bio-sand filters

The workshop ended with a presentation on the bio-sand filter (BSF) as an effective means of water purification. 

The BSF works the same way as traditional slow sand filters, which have been used for centuries. The filter housing is simply a concrete container, with layers of sand and gravel inside. A bio layer at the top part of the filter iswhere the bad water poured into the filter is cleaned.
We left grateful to the workshop organizers for the great information received and eager to use it in our school gardens.
The BSF will remove more than 99.9% of parasites and over 97% of E.coli bacteria and nearly all suspended sediments, eliminating most disease-causing pathologens.  One filter will treat enough water for drinking, cooking, and personal hygiene purposes for a typical family. The cost in NW Cameroon is approximately $30.
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Greetings from sister school in Cameroon
Greetings from sister school in Cameroon

I visited Trillium Charter School in Portland, OR last week to collect the letters the kids had written to their penpals in the Susana Bilingual Primary School near Bamenda in northwest Cameroon, as part of CAMAAY's sister school project. I gave a short PowerPoint presentation to teach them a little about Cameroon and their sister school, but wanted to do something more to punch it up a bit. I had read about moringa oleifera and been able to order some free seeds for our gardens from the EchoCommunity.net; moringa turns out to be near-perfect nutrition, packed with protein, nutrients, and anti-oxidents. Great for the kids to learn about and plant for their project in Cameroon, and great too, I figured, for the kids to learn about at Trillium. So I ordered some moringa powder and mixed it in with some fruit chunks and juice for a power smoothie that I brought along with me for the kids to taste.

When I showed a slide about moringa's nutritional benefits, one student keyed in on it having twice as much protein as yogurt and said, "so I could eat nothing but moringa and be healthy?" Yes indeed, I explained, though we can't get the fresh leaves here and the powder isn't palatable unless mixed with something else. When it came to the actual tasting, some of the kids were reluctant to try it, since even a little powder had turned the smoothie a vivid green. But one by one they took a sip, and one after the other exclaimed "This is really good!" Of course it was mostly the fruit they were tasting, but they were thrilled to be able to drink something that was so good for them that also tasted so good. One of the kids insisted I write down the recipe for his mom to make for him. You can see one of the kids in the youtube video that I've attached a link to who can't put his cup down and keeps drinking it the whole time.

So I'm hopeful the moringa the kids plant in their school gardens in Cameroon can have a pretty dramatic effect on their health. It's supposed to increase energy and focus too, so it should even help them with their studies.

If you want to try some yourself, or give some to a friend to try, through Dec. 31 we are offering 2 TBSP of moringa powder, together with a personalized gift card explaining its benefits, and use in the CAMAAY gardens, and the smoothie recipe, with every $50 donation. If giving as a gift, don't forget to select the "in honor of" tab for your donation.

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Organization Information

Cameroon Association of Active Youths

Location: Bamenda, north-west region - Cameroon
Website:
Facebook: Facebook Page
Project Leader:
Patrick Chung
Bamenda, north-west region Cameroon

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