Cameroon: Permaculture is ‘the African way’ in country’s only eco-village (IPS)

| August 31, 2015

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Joshua Konkankoh has a vision―that the answer to food insecurity lies in sustainable and organic farming.

The Cameroonian civil-servant-turned-farmer is pursuing that vision. He founded Better World Cameroon, an NGO which develops sustainable agricultural strategies that draw on indigenous knowledge to prevent food crises and extreme poverty.

Better World Cameroon runs Ndanifor Permaculture Eco-village in Bafut, in the country’s Northwest Region, 300 kilometres northeast of the capital city, Yaounde. It is Cameroon’s only eco-village. Eco-villages are settlements in which human activities are designed to support healthy ecological and material development which can be sustained indefinitely.

The eco-village fertilizes its soil organically by planting and pruning nitrogen-fixing trees such as species of Acacia, Leucaena and Calandra in mixed-crop farming systems. When the trees mature, farmers prune them heavily and use the leaves to make compost. The trees regenerate and the cycle repeats itself.

He says: “Here we train youths and farmers on permanent agriculture, or ‘permaculture.’ I call it ‘permaculture the African way’ because … we are adapting [the concept] to our old ways of farming and protecting the environment.”

Local councils and traditional rulers are encouraging farmers to embrace his initiative. They believe it to be ecologically-, socially-, economically- and spiritually-friendly.

Lanci Abel is the mayor of Bafut. He says: “When an idea is new, people only embrace it [once] it is recommended by authorities. We are carrying out communication and sensitization of the population to return to traditional methods of farming as taught at the eco-village.”

Workers from the eco-village teach farmers in the surrounding villages how to grow more than one crop on the same piece of land, and how to use organic fertilizer to obtain high yields.

Mr. Konkankoh says, “We encourage rural farmers to guarantee [their own food security] … by producing what they also consume, and not cash crops like cocoa and coffee.”

Better World Cameroon teaches farmers about the importance of manure, and trains them to produce it and sell it to other farmers. Farmers learn about controlling erosion, managing water and intercropping.

They also learn about the value of biodiversity. Mr. Konkankoh explains: “Biodiversity was protected by traditional beliefs. Felling of some trees and killing of certain animal species in certain forests was prohibited. They were protected by gods and ancestors. We want to protect such heritage.”

The eco-village has started a reforestation project by planting 4,000 medicinal and fruit trees to absorb carbon dioxide emissions.

Fon Abumbi II is the traditional ruler of Bafut. He believes the methods that the eco-village employs to grow fruits and vegetables, and the medicinal plants it uses, will improve local health.

Many producers of health care products around the world use herbs indigenous to Africa, and there is a global demand for such products. Fon Abumbi II thinks there is a promising future for villagers who grow these herbs.

Houses in the eco-village are built with local materials such as earth bags and mud bricks, with grass roofs. Local women earn a living making and selling domestic appliances such as earthen ovens and stoves.

Mr. Konkankoh says, “We found out that permaculture was a solution to sustainability, especially in Africa. So I felt we could … think globally [but] act locally.”

To read the full article on which this story was based, ‘Permaculture the African way’ in Cameroon’s only eco-village, go to:

Photo: Scene from Ndanifor Permaculture Eco-village in Bafut in Cameroon’s Northwest Region, the country’s first and only eco-village which is based on the principle that the answer to food insecurity lies in sustainable and organic methods of farming. Credit: Mbom Sixtus/IPS