work and cultural exchange

Get your hands into some good African Earth!

Inviting Natural builders to come and help build our first buildings at Ndanifor Permaculture Ecovillage , Bafut, Cameroon.

Ndanifor Permculture Eco Village is located in the village of Bafut , not far from Bamenda

Ndanifor Permaculture Eco Village is located in the village of Bafut , not far from Bamenda

It’s time to build something this dry season: we have plenty of good building earth, raffia and access to wood.

Come and help create a small cabin as a first place to stay on the beautiful rural site. We have called out to women groups and local youth to participate in community training programs from January until March 2014.

Part of the activities will be the building of a wood-cook-stove and bread oven for the ecovillage learning center.

Work with me to support this community effort and give Better World Cameroon its first real natural building experience. Share what you know and get practice by immersing yourself in a different context. And escape the northern Winter.

You can also find the project on thePOOSH and follow updates there.

Lets’ talk logistics:

  1. You’ll need a Visa to enter Cameroon– this is usually not difficult, but it poses a time factor. So get on it quickly. We will provide a letter of accommodation or invitation as required for the Visa. Check with your closest Cameroon Embassy.
  2. You’ll fly into Yaounde or Douala- both are about 6 hours distance from Bamenda by bus. Buses leave mornings or evenings and cost about $10. It’s easier for us to arrange for someone to meet you in Yaounde- Better World has an office there.
  3. Living in Bamenda is fairly low cost- Better World will help find a suitable place to stay and negotiate a price for you.
  4. Good food is readily available at low cost. We will share some common meals and spend free time exploring the hills in the area. Our plan is to work on construction for 4 days a week starting January 13. You can join any time until March- we hope to be finished by April 1.
  5. Better World has a FAQ page that may be helpful.

Can we complete this building in 12 weeks?

If you have time and a travel budget consider our offer. Get your hands into African Earth!

Please email me to discuss details and if this is not for you, share it with someone!

Twiga store

traditional celebration

When a traditional Cameroonian fon (king) has passed a new one must be “caught”. This was the case in Nkwen, one of the communities in the urban area of Bamenda. Ritual celebrations go on for days culminating in the catching ceremony at which dignitaries, traditional dance groups from many villages and the local residents gather at the palace grounds to greet the new fon. catching the fon at Nkwen

This happens with tremendous noise: guns are being fired, drumming and singing and a master of ceremonies on loudspeakers. People wear their colorful traditional clothing and anyone of stature in the community is there. We were happy to meet Mayor Langsi of Bafut, with whom Better World Cameroon works in close relationship. Bafut Mayor Langsi at celebration

Only a few days later, the Mayor Langsi was installed into office at Bafut council- following a successful re-election earlier this fall.

But it’s not just major celebrations that make volunteering rewarding and fun. While work isn’t always exciting or glamorous, we do make sure that we spend time together and acknowledge our achievements. When Italian volunteer Isabella Bonetti was about to return home we organized a farewell party in connection with our own housewarming. It’s not easy saying good-bye after three months of collaboration- but we’re grateful for a new friend.

The launch of the new website for Better World that is one of my projects here was highly anticipated by all of us here and our partners in the world. We’re happy it’s there and we continue to add more information and events as they come up. Check out next years International Summer Workcamp for young activists and change makers from Cameroon and abroad.

Joshua Konkankoh and the team in planning meeting

As the year draws to an end, plans are now made for the 2014 calendar: Permaculture classes, Natural building projects and a new office location in Bafut will keep us busy in the coming months. Sonita Mbah from our team is now a National Volunteer under VSO (Volunteer services overseas). In Cameroon VSO has been a strong partner to organisations supporting them with capacity building and placement of national and international volunteers. Sadly, CUSO has withdrawn their funding to VSO Cameroon which means that as of March 2014 there will be no more VSO Cameroon.

Volunteer Action

In my role as independent international volunteer and line manager for Sonita’s VSO program, I was invited to be on a panel on local radio”Afrique Nouvelle” . The program was part of the celebration of international volunteer day on Dec. 5. Also on the panel were from Better World, Silvestre Ngwasuh from VSO and Pascaline from COMINSUD.

interview on afrique nouvelle

Christmas is coming into our awareness as every morning some neighborhood loudspeaker is blaring Boney M’s Christmas album. The region here is very much christian so I expect that the holidays will become more and more evident.

Should you be interested in directly  supporting my work with Better World  Cameroon I’d be grateful for your donation through paypal (see link at top right).

Happy holidays to all – Peace and Prosperity in Sustainability


I have received a lovely account from Sally who came and volunteered at Baobab too. For your reading pleasure:

Baobab Journal December 1st 2010

I think I will start with my last day at the Baobab shamba because it was so special and all the strands of my time with Terri, the orphans, the building works, the plantings came together.
My daughter, Alice, and her lovely neighbours in Dar es Salaam, George and Theresa, drove up to Bagamoyo. I moved out of Francesco’s Hostel and we went to the shamba.
The children and their carers were already there and having fun in the playground, Alice had bought herbs and planters from Dar so we got to work and planted them and also gave the shamba a new hose. The old one had more water pouring out of the holes than came out the end. Gabriel and David the two chaps who look after the land and animals were very, very pleased with the new hose.
Terri is American and had not had time to celebrate Thanksgiving on the previous Thursday which is the normal day so had gone ahead and organised a wonderful party for all the builders, farm workers, the children, their carers and teachers about 40 people in all. A goat had been killed the previous week and a sausage had been made with the meat left, there was a vast bowl of rice (nice change from the maize porridge) peas with peanut butter quite tasty lots of vegetables. Alice had bought up pre cooked eggs from her chickens in Dar and I made devilled eggs as a starter and she made some goat cheese. It was a feast.
With everyone still sitting on the floor or on the benches around the rondavel Terri told us that Gabriel the gardener was going to give thanks for the meal and then everyone could express their thoughts of what they were thankful for. Every single person spoke either in Kiswahili, Maasai or English or all three. Terri said thank you to me and to all the donors (you guys) and I thanked Terri and her husband Caito for putting up with me and I also thanked the lovely ladies at the Orphanage, Sarah, Helena and Gloria and the lads on the farm. For me the most moving was what David said. He had no English when I arrived and I had only managed to teach him a little bit including ‘you must water the trees every day’. When It was his turn he looked at me and said ‘Welcome every day’.

We ended up with an incredibly sickly bright blue and white cake bought from our funds I had to cut it up into so many pieces and when I licked the icing it turned my tongue completely blue. Tanzanians love food colouring. Every morsel was demolished. I took fond farewells and cried some of the way back to Dar.

A quick run down on my second week there. The English lessons continued to the Mamas at Baobab home and they just loved Bingo, Snap Hokey Kokey and learned so much. I would play with the orphans every day and found it very very hard to say goodbye to them. When I arrived on the motor bike all the neighbourhood children would call out ‘Sally Sally’. I visited the Montessori School for the older children and also the Nurse Training School and I hope through Mediae Trust to fund more text books. I spent some time at the hospital where the children receive their AIDS medication and was impressed with the staff and care there. With our funds the ceiling materials were bought and more cement and the windows are almost finished. The walls of the kitchen are now about 10 feet high and growing every day. I planted another 20 trees to create shade for the playground area.

This may not be my last journal about Baobab. I Just have to go back to see how the trees and shrubs are doing and how the children have grown. It was a truly wonderful experience and again I thank you all and feel that you were part of it too.

I am writing this from a spectacular house near Nanyuki at the foothills of Mount Kenya as I am staying with very dear friends. The weather is like a cool English summer’s day and a great break from the hot steamy coast. I think you may be in snow. Greetings to all


December 1, 2010

Changing worlds doesn’t get easier over time as you may think- culture shock still happens to me when I return back to Canada. First the world seemed so much quieter and so gray here, not to mention cold. My dreams kept taking place in Africa and even now after a week still do.
So let’s go back and revisit Baobab Shamba where we spent our last month.

view from the road with the new kitchen in front

When we returned from Arusha the kitchen walls had been built and the roof frame was started. Everyone was eager to move forward with next steps. The rains had turned the land green again and it seemed like everything was growing.
Our list of things to do was never shrinking: support the garden, work on gray water system, build shower at the house, build sinks for both shower areas, plaster, wall tiling, build stove, and so on.


Early January brought a handful of new volunteers to the farm. Some came with high skill: Eckhard Beuchel, a builder friend of mine from Germany, followed my invitation to build a stove for the kitchen. The idea was to create a stove that allows for different fuels (hoping for fuel briquettes made from agricultural waste in the future), or at least get more from a given amount of firewood.
We came up with a stove that heats three pots with one fire and an oven that can be preheated by the cooking fire as well. Have a look:

While he was working on the stove I built the third and largest concrete sink and counter:
Well I didn’t do it without the help of Sean on the arches and the guys onsite who mixed the concrete on a Sunday morning.
All through the week the site was buzzing with activity. CM tells a good story of it all from his perspective on his blog.
Tile mosaics transformed the shower space, two other concrete sinks for laundry were cast in place, trees planted and another building started: Terri and Caito are now building a home for themselves.

Terri and Caito’s house
The compost bins

Sean built a solid set of compost bins and we held a demonstration class for the folks on the farm.  This is what our permaculture intro has come to: compost, trees, and greywater. If any two of these still work and live when I return I’ll be thrilled.
Really we are introducing ideas and inviting change of behaviour and that just doesn’t happen overnight. Small steps- pole pole
Finally here’s a series of images taken over time from the road entrance to the farm:

in the beginning : the Guava tree
the office was first
then the eating banda
next came Ubuyu 1 the house


and now the kitchen out front.

Soon the trees will grow up all around, the brick making will be done and the smell of food cooking will drift towards visitors who approach the buildings. Karibuni – Welcome!

Nov. 23

Masai compound from road

It took hours to get out of Arusha; picking things up , shopping, waiting for people and traffic.
Finally, around 1 we left town towards Kondoa region. Along a new paved road it was easy driving at first. We were crossing Masai land, where round houses in clusters dot the landscape and herds of cattle move about. Occasionally we got dangerously close to a goat or a cow crossing the road as we sped along in the Land Rover. Donkeys are plentiful too: Masai 4×4 Seppo said.
Then the pavement ends and we drove alongside road construction for what seems like hours. Rough, bouncy, dusty- I was glad for the 4×4 vehicle and Seppo’s knowledge of the road.
The houses we drove past changed:  square little brick houses with small fenced yards lined the streets in the villages. In the distance the edge of Ngorongoro park.
On fresh pavement again: We reached the town of Babati. “No Mzungus here”said Seppo. There’s a lake and a hotel on the edge of it- green grass, tables, a bar. Feels like an oasis after the drive. We ordered two beers and stretched our legs. There are hippos in this lake , about 300 or so. Local fishermen will take tourists to see them by canoe.


We didn’t have time for that- another couple of hours to go before we would reach camp. But before  leaving town we went to the market for some fresh vegetables. Not much to pick from: Onions, potatoes, tomatoes and Mangoes. Dried goods in little shops surrounding the stands.
Leaving Babati the road becomes dirt road- good solid red earth. The rich color makes my heart sing. The road winding its way up through small settlements and rich treed landscape offering views in the distance of valleys and finally to the North the evening light on the Masai Plains. Breathtaking. Not much further ahead lies the camp also overlooking the plains and the Village we now are part of: Mnenia.
My excitement kept growing with every move. Seppo pointed to the tents and set me up in the big Safari tent- with a bed!
Soon it got dark and we sat with a few Kerosene lamps and a couple of solar lights. Costa, the builder who is here, made some food and then another surprise: Full Moon rising over the Eastern horizon. The beauty of the moment brought tears to my eyes.
Early to bed, the night was cool and in the morning I was looking for some warmer clothes. A few hours into the day the heat comes back and we look for shade again.
Morning visit to the village. Seppo has been working with a group of women on a project that will have them produce briquettes made from plant waste. They will also make paper and be able to generate some income from these.When we drove up there was great excitement.  And much laughter as we struggled with languages. We have a young interpreter with us who patiently relates what we have to say.
The building that the women are using is located next to a water tap. Village water taps are where women gather- carrying water in buckets on their heads.
Later yesterday we met again with the group and presented our idea for a small store next to the tap to have as selling point for anything they produce: paper, briquettes, pottery etc.
They loved the idea and got really excited when we suggested that we build it together without the fundi- the tradesman we always seem to be waiting for. It will be us and the women starting next week after two volunteers arrive.