What does it take to get a building project off the ground in Bafut, Cameroon?
What will be our most successful ways to share knowledge and skills?
How can we work with the local community and have different interest groups meet and move together?
These and other questions are my focus at this time of beginning the work of building a meeting hall and small kitchen at Ndanifor Permaculture Ecovillage. The building will be the first part of a learning center where Better World Cameroon intends to teach “Permaculture African Way”. It will also demonstrate natural building and set the direction for the remaining development.
How did we get this far?
As a new volunteer last year I got engaged in the vision of a sustainable demonstration site in Bafut. This is part of a larger vision for Bafut as Ecocity for 2020. Part of this demonstration site is a farm, where people learn and practice organic growing and where Permaculture design is gradually being implemented.
A teaching site cannot fully operate without shelter for people. A design was developed for a learning center with accommodation in form of an Eco-lodge. Big plans for a small organization.
Ndanifor Permaculture Ecovillage is recognized by GEN (global ecovillage network) Africa as one of their African examples. This is bringing attention to us, and we expect to be hosting events at this site in the near future.
Close relations with Bafut Council and the local Palaces are also important elements for this vision.
In early 2014 I worked with a group of local women to build the eco-hut. This was a teaching course to get a natural building to the village. Entirely self funded, this building was built largely as volunteer effort, in one or two working days per week. Suffice to say it didn’t get completed in three months. The local builders did put a roof on it and now the cabin is waiting for completion.
Fast-forward a few months to November 2014.
We are back in Bamenda after a stay in Europe. While abroad I was able to secure some funding from LUSH Charity Pot for the next structure, the meeting hall.
Coming back here, that means expectations- word gets around and as soon as funding is in the game everyone wants a piece of it. It gets political.
I am a builder in a foreign land here,
and I must observe local custom and learn about the local hierarchies at play. In the village we have a local government represented by the Quarter-head. He reports to Bawum Palace (which is different from Bafut Palace). As an organization we are also working with Bafut Council and Palace, Bafut being the larger Region that Bawum is part of. Our immediate community are the people of Alegnwi, part of Bawum.
The leader of the women’s group we worked with last year is also a representative in the village. Are you confused yet?
Villagers here have responsibilities to their community.
They are for instance expected to participate in communal work parties, some of which have been taking place at the ecovillage site.If an individual isn’t regularly turning up at such workdays, his or her reputation suffers.
So here we are looking at putting together a team of builders from locals, to exchange skill and knowledge and to build a beautiful hall. I have a rough plan, so as we discuss with the builders we refine just how exactly this will be done.
Meetings before action
At an initial meeting at the siteI explained my vision of the building to three traditional builders and the leader of the women, as well as a couple of members of our organization.
The ball is now in the builder’s court to give us an estimate for the stone foundation and a post-and beam structure for the roof.
Before we actually make any contracts we will have to visit the Quarter-head and state our intentions and share our plan. Only with his sanction will this project be able to have the community-building effect that we intend.
Updates about the project
will be posted here occasionally and more frequently on Better World Cameroon facebook page.