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A gift of empowerment

The season of gift giving is coming around as Christmas time approaches. Who do you choose to support with your donations or efforts? Are you hosting a seasonal party that could be a fundraising event? Does the company you work for support charity?

I am once again in Cameroon, working with Better World Cameroon toward the ambitious goal to transform the rural area of Bafut into Bafut Ecovillage. I invite you to consider some of our activities when choosing who to support:

Africa Kitchen Revolution stove projectOur stove project “Africa Kitchen Revolution” will train women in villages to build rocket cook stoves. In our experience this is a process that groups can learn to supply each member with a stove in subsequent weeks. A rocket stove is an energy efficient stove that uses small amounts of firewood, cooks two or more pots at a time, and has a chimney to remove smoke from the kitchen.
What a perfect gift for a family! Or even a village. A donation of $200 will enable us to run a workshop for a group of women.

 



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Our Permaculture learning center in Alegnwi will continue to be developed. This coming season we will build beautiful sleeping spaces for our visitors and volunteers. A solar system will be installed and the spring secured and constructed to deliver fresh, clean drinking water.
builders with raffia benchAs part of the center we look for kitchen equipment, and our hall and sleeping rooms will need furniture. To stay with our ecological building strategy this will be made by local craftsmen.

 

 

farmers dicuss colocaciaVillagers in more remote parts of Bafut are looking for support with farming issues and transport. Your support may help us find expertise on crop diseases to help insure food sovereignty.

Better World’s network reaches around the globe and we offer a few ways to make donations:

  • Paypal: on our website is a paypal button (top of sidebar) that takes you to the account of our Partner Ndanifor Gardens UK trust. Donations that are received this way get extra power, because funds raised by the trust are boosted by the British Government. If you live in Britain, you can also get your tax receipt from them. You can make general donations or name the project or purpose you wish to support
  • Those of you who are residents in Germany can make a bank transfer to our partner organisation SONED Berlin Friedrichshain e.V., account # DE53 4306 0967 8025 3066 01, BIC: GENO DE M1 GLS . Assign to either Better World Cameroon or Stove Project Better World Cameroon. Tax receipts are available for larger amounts upon request to info@soned.de
  • Using MoneyGram or Western Union is a fast and secure way to send your donation. You will have to name administrator Sonita Mbah or director Joshua Konkankoh for us to be able to receive the funds.

Please write to us if you have questions or concerns.

May the season’s blessings bring peace, abundance and good connections to all!

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Celebrating Bafut culture

traditional costume at Bafut

It’s holiday season and while we are not in the Northern Hemisphere to follow our family’s traditions like enjoying Glühwein at a festive Christmas market in Germany or going into the woods to find a christmas tree, we have great occasions here in Cameroon.

Fon's dance BafutThanks to Better World Cameroon we have a relationship with the Bafut Palace and received invitations to the annual Fon’s dance, including a lunch and an evening banquet. This is no small affair! The small village area around the palace is filled with folks in their colorful traditional costumes. Bars are doing record business as are the producers of traditional jewelry, and other adornments.

When the music begins and gunshots blast the excitement is palpable- people cheer and start dancing. Imagine a large square filled with a crowd in a rhythmic circular  motion .

The evening banquet was a pleasant surprise: set in a courtyard surrounded by stone walls, the atmosphere was more intimate. Live music playing ‘bottle dance’ , voices singing, people chatting, and food and drink for all.

CM did a lot of filming throughout and I have compiled a short video for your enjoyment. With this video I wish to express my gratitude to the community in Bafut and Better world Cameroon.

 

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Natural Building in Cameroon- start of another season

discussing project work with women

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?

discussing the project with local builders

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.

meeting hall for learning center

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.

eco-hut gets action

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.

 

Design is discussed with builders

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.

women will be building

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.

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O.U.R.Ecovillage: 15 years of inspiring people

Today I want to share a campaign worth considering:

Of course I’m biased, I used to live there.

I spent more than 10 years designing, building and teaching at O.U.R.Ecovillage.

While life at O.U.R. Ecovillage consumed a lot of my energy it has given back equally:

I have

  • become a communitarian
  • learned to listen
  • had a venue for natural building and creativity
  • felt the power of the circle
  • witnessed the sparks when people wake up
  •  met hundreds of people young and old
  • enjoyed countless delicious meals in community
  • lived in a cob house
  • shared skills I learned at O.U.R. in several settings worldwide

and most of all O.U.R. Ecovillage is my home community no matter where I am.

community love

Consider this:

Eco-villages are seed communities for a change in lifestyle. Important processes happen there: people learn to live and work together, deal with personal issues that are triggered by living in close proximity with our “mirrors”.  Staying longer has us ever more deeply connected. Moving away from individualism to communal power.

Living in Africa I’ve experienced a culture where the community comes before the individual. This is something those of us from Northern developed countries are not used to and struggle with. The African village community quickly gave a sense of belonging for me. Helping each other goes two ways.

I believe it’s time we become villagers again and step over our fears of losing private space. Places and Organizations like O.U.R. Ecovillage are leading the way to sustainable community. Breaking new ground, sometimes literally with development permits and Natural Homes, with Permaculture vision and local food and the courage to step outside the box.

Speaking of food: one of the incentives of the campaign is a nice meal at the Zero Mile Eatery…..

Claim yours by making a contribution

 

 

 

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Celebrating International Women’s day in Cameroon

Elke Cole at Bafut womens day celebration
Elke Cole at Bafut womens day celebration

author marching with group

I had no idea how important participating in the International women’s day celebrations would be, until I asked my women building group: “what about women’s day?” and they all started talking with excitement. It was as though they’d been waiting for the question.

Yes they wanted to march! They would need a banner. And what about a uniform?

We painted a banner: “Ecovillage women builders” in colorful lettering on the back of an existing Better World Banner.  Having a new one printed was beyond our non-existing budget.

We wore our headscarves that were given for the wedding reception, identifying the group as “we’re together”. Having uniform dresses made was also beyond our collective and individual budgets.

On the morning of international women’s day my husband and I took the taxi to the playing field in Bafut where the event was to happen. Canopies were set up for shade, and groups, or representatives of groups, were trickling in. We picked up our designated 14 chairs and found a good spot under a canopy to set them up with the banner leaning in front of them to bring in the group.

As usual things came together slowly until the place was filled with approx. 1500 people – including dignitaries like the mayor, several political representatives, and the fon.

Finally our women arrived. “How do we want to march?” Short discussion on holding the banner for good visibility, on what to do with our hands and arms as we march. (I realized that I had never marched in any formation before- not part of my education)

Bafut dignitaries donate to Women

Dignitaries make a donation to women’s day in Bafut

 

But first: speeches- “Women eh!” The call is answered “EH!”

Dignitaries speak, some musical performances and finally the call to line up by sectors for the march. There were more than 40 groups, some with large memberships, ready to participate.  We were divided into geographical sectors and would return to our seats after our march-by.

Bafut group marching at international womens day

women’s group march in colorful uniforms

 

Marching music and cheers from the audience accompanied the women marching in colorful uniforms identifying their groups. When our call came Scholastica and Mercy lead with our banner, Dorothy followed holding a builders level like a torch and we all followed  two by two.

building group marches

Alegenwi builder women march

Back in our seats I expected everything to wrap up quickly- but there’s more!

“We have to see who gets the prizes” – oh- there are prizes ?

I don’t know what is judged here- but we didn’t win a prize. Maybe a little more practice next time?

And then a truck brought in sacks. :”Everyone gets seeds” “This is where we get our corn” –

Ah, another piece I didn’t realize but everyone there was waiting for.

 

watching the march

waiting and watching from our spot in the shade

 

 

group of Alegenwi women

proud participants

Jump ahead a few hours and back in Bamenda, we’re going out for dinner- maybe a quiet meal somewhere.

NO WAY! Every bar and restaurant was filled with mostly women, shouting, singing, celebrating.

Our chosen spot was packed too- we squeezed into a couple of chairs and enjoyed the loud crowd and joyous atmosphere.

International Women’s day in Cameroon is an important event as women look to take their place in government and business, in schools and at work.

“A woman’s place is not only in the kitchen, a woman’s place is not only at the farm” was the refrain of a catchy song we heard- Lets keep singing that one, for the women in Cameroon and elsewhere!