2 augustus 2015

For 23 years already working as a development worker/technician/advisor (what’s in a name) in Africa, and still wondering the joy and energy some locals expose to change the course of life.
Over the years I’ve crossed many paths of wonderful astonishing people, people with a clear vision, a dream for a better future, a dream grounded in the day-to-day reality.

Life goes on

Asking an old lady (Actually I called her “Maman”, since I lived here in the hills of Mushubati-Gitarama for one week in 1992 as part of an intercultural training. Since her husband died, she lived in the big house with one of her sons, who was the head master in the local primary school, a boy and a girl from a poor family. The girl was working during school-break to gain her school-fees. Years later she became one of the best extension workers I’ve ever met in Africa.) after the Rwandan genocide why she was cultivating her field, far beyond her own needs… (Her son was killed, when he was running for the Hutu-militia and/or the Rwandan Patriotic Army. He left the hills of Mushubati with the rest of the families living around, leaving “Maman” behind, since she was too old. He never came back.) …she simply answered that when she dies, and people come to occupy the place, they’ll have to eat something, regardless if they are from the family or not.

Dreams are the most powerful tools in development

“Mama Susan” from “Oyili Nnam” in Messam, in the Great Rainforest Region south of Yaoundé, Cameroon had a vast tree-nursery, where she was growing rare tree-seeds the Baka-pygmy found inside elephant dung, Moabi-trees she would give back to the forest for future generations, since she would never see the final result… over 200 years. Behind the house you walked straight into the rainforest, where she managed 20 hectares of forest, where she cultivated vegetables, roots and tubers, but also re-introduced indigenous trees. Each tree that was taken from the forest, was replaced by tree others. By the time I’d never heard of permaculture, but I think what Mama Susan performed there in the rainforest was a very close hit. Besides taking care of the forest, she also took care of the villagers. Knowing the traditional medicine and the use of every plant and bark out of the forest around, she was appreciated by lots of people who came to her for consult and treatment.
A plan she presented to a local NGO in Mbalmayo, that was laughed away by the Cameroonian lady director, was despite the refusal executed over a period of 2 years, step-by-step, without outside help… the only thing she was looking for was someone to share her, and her communities’ ideas… to listen to her plans and to get some respect. Every time I showed up in Messam, something had changed. From a small village-shop and a deep-freezer, over the construction of a “First Care”-unit, towards a village pharmacy (for which she benefitted a training organised by the Ministry of Health) and a local taxi-service. And above that all, she had two sons at the Yaoundé-University. Did I tell you she lost her husband some years ago, and that since then she’s always busy taking care of the future generations of the rainforest people.

a death elephant is a death elephant is a death elephant is a death elephant

And finally, in 2010, I started working for GIZ (former DED) in Benin. With U-AVIGREF (Union of Village Associations for the Governance of Wildlife Reserves), I found an organisation in the North-West of Benin, that fought for their cultural and natural heritage, as I’ve never experienced before. A clearly motivated team with well-prepared, well-structured and well-documented files.
Fighting for their offspring, so they could live in the same environment their ancestors did before, against blind and stubborn politicians and business-men, who were only looking for immediate profit, regardless of the outcome for local people and for the environment.

It was a privilege to be allowed the share the same path

I’ve crossed the path of many people, but the only ones I will always remember, are those who were disinterestedly working towards the future, valuing their own capacities, using their own scarce resources. They were moving mountains, that no-one thought possible. They inspired me, became a part of me, and made me who I am today.