Saturday, April 20, 2013

Kumba's Farms and Forests

After completing nearly three months of Peace Corps training in 1971, I was assigned to Kumba, then a city of 48,000 surrounded by plantain, oil palm, rubber and cocoa farms and relatively dense forests. I drew the short straw because all my fellow Volunteers were assigned more scenic and cooler climates.

Yet over the next two years Kumba became my home, which after several months I would not trade with any other Volunteer. I traveled by 125cc Suzuki to visit farmers in the area. Below is a clip from a longer YouTube video showing a typical farmstead of plantains that provided excellent shade for poultry projects, which was the core of my work as an agriculture extension agent of the Meme Division Agriculture Department Extension Services. The farmer praises his workers in Pidgin English, which I spoke relatively fluently once, for doing a good job of clearing the farm of weeds. The sound of rustling plantain leaves and the smell of the tropical soil are far different from those of the Iowa corn and bean fields.

During the rainy season it could be difficult to reach my farmers. The scene below from a longer YouTube video shows one truck trying to pull another from having slipped off the main road. The muddy roads of Kumba can be even more slippery than the snow covered roads of Iowa.

I can feel the warm breeze in this YouTube video of a motorcycle ride through Kumba's suburb of Fiango.

Below I can still smell the strange scents of colorful food in Kumba's open market, which after time smelled less strange but always remained pungent, in a clip of this video.

Since I left Kumba the population has increased by at least 100,000 inhabitants and with this surge in population, there is much pressure on the surrounding forests. Rapid deforestation by overseas-based timber companies was already an issue when I lived in Kumba, and I can only imagine that the need for local communities to band together to protect their forest from the companies and even themselves is even more important today. Below is a clip of a video describing the work of Canadian volunteers who are helping local officials to make informed decisions about how to manage their forests.

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