Well its been quite a busy few months since I last posted. Late February and early March mark the end of the dry season and the beginning of the hot season. The hot season sneaks up on you as the heat and humidity slowly build like the suspense in a well written thriller until, by the end of March, you feel like it engulfs you and becomes the most prominent thought of your every waking moment. Then just when you think you can take no more (and sometimes then some!), that your brain has been permanently fried beyond repair by the constant damp inferno that Batouri has turned into, the crescendo climaxes as the first glorious thunderstorm of the season breaks in a spectacle of swirling, blinding dust, light, and thunderous commotion, drenching the town in the cool delicious rains that signal the arrival of the first wet season. The downpour wipes away the layer of dust plastered on everything by the dry harmattan winds that blown down from the parched Sahel during the peak of the dry season. This rusted dust covers everything so that the sky, the bush, and the town all blend together in a monotone reddish-brown muck. But now the thunderstorm scrubs the air clear of any lingering harmattan grime leaving a sparkling blue sky with white puffy clouds and an astonishingly green and vibrant landscape whose existence I had almost forgotten about under the dust. The pulsating color that surrounds me on the first day after the first rains is beautiful and it is one of those days that make all the shitty days seem worthwhile.
I think I wrote a blog about the end of the dry season last year, so sorry if this one is repetitive. For me, however, this remarkable transition deserves another blog entry.
But back to the ‘real world’ of work…
Quite a lot has been going on actually work wise. We’ve received the money for the chicken project and stated that, I went to the extreme north region to give some training and I started working with a quite impressive handicap association (I don’t know if ‘handicap’ is PC anymore stateside but that’s literally what they call themselves here – Association des Handicapés).
I’ll start with the chicken project since that’s probably what most of you are interested in. So we received the money in late February and right away the group called up the agriculture expert and started the training. Right away I was pleased with what I saw. The teacher, the ag expert, was surprisingly well versed in adult education techniques- a refreshing change from the normal Cameroonian educational approach (a relic of the French colonial system) of rote memorization via shouting and yelling.
Unfortunately the participation among most the youth was abysmal. Granted it was during the school year and I know it’s the youth that do all the cooking, cleaning and caring for younger siblings. Luckily, as always our ‘chef du projet’ Manga, was there to pick up the slack with his fastidious note taking and wonderfully inquisitive questions that showed he was absorbing the material.
There were some serious issues that came up in this section though, such as finding that we under estimated the budget for the food for the chickens by a whopping 50%! Running through the calculations we found that the project is still viable but will just have to cut the number of chickens in half. Later however we found that we could recoup most those lost profits by raising two fields of corn and using that to make our own chicken feed.
Unfortunately, seeing as the fields are tilled, seeded and harvested by hand, this seriously increases the work load for the project.
We have also had problems with fluctuating prices on everything from chickens feed to vaccines to the chickens themselves. Luckily none have been to great to overcome with a little tweaking on our part, but it is still often a cause for some stressful hair grabbing.
Then they dove right into the construction of the coop following the guidelines learned in the training sessions. Here again Manga took up the slack of the youth who didn’t show and bared most the burden but at least we finished in time and on budget! Now we’re waiting on our order of chickens that we placed in Bertoua to be ready, at which time we’ll heading on over to pick up our first load. Then, finally, we’ll actually be raising chickens!
I tried to put up some photos of the progress on my flicker site (viewable from the links on the right side of this page) but the internet is hopelessly slow (but at least its working). It was a struggle to get even this entry up. Speaking of, I think I am stretching my luck with the electricity so I should get this up before they turn of the generator for lunch. I hope everyone is doing well!