Cameroon communities empowered through outreach
In July 2017, students and staff at the university of Buea in Cameroon ran two outreach workshops with local communities of Ndu and Bafut in the North West Region of the country. The aim of these workshops were to present the findings of research conducted by disaster risk students concerning the possible impact of climate change on food and water security and open discussion and debate on possible mitigation strategies to reduce their impact and vulnerability.
Protecting tea farm productivity in face of climate change
The first workshop took place at the Ndu Tea Estate on the 8th of July 2017. The NTE is a plantation with 2,000 permanent workers and 10,000 part-time workers. The aim of the workshop was to release research findings on possible impacts of climate variability and change on tea production in the Ndu Tea Estate. This was a follow-up of the research carried out by one of the Periperi-U partially sponsored Masters thesis by Godwill Tansi.
Over 70 people participated at this workshop with major stakeholders such the Divisional Officer for Ndu, Traditional rulers, the Ndu Tea Estate Manager and workers, privately owned tea plantation owners, other farmers and public servants.
The research findings of the thesis presented at the workshop revealed that for the past 24 years (1991 to 2014), temperature in Ndu had increased by 1.2° C. In terms of rainfall, the pattern of annual rainfall between 1991 and 2014 depicts a decreasing trend over Ndu. With regards to the relationship between rainfall and tea-yield, it was realised that tea yield was slightly decreasing. For temperature and tea yields, it was observed that the higher the temperature, the lower the yield of tea. Low tea yields in this case were favoured by an increase in pest population that fed on the tea crops.
During the workshop several strategies were proposed to improve on the tea yields, including the introduction of drought-resistant species and availability of meteorological data to the farm workers at the appropriate time. These proposals were greatly appreciated by the Estate Manager of NTE and other small-scale tea owners who have been battling with declining yields for the last decade.
Challenging water security in Bafut
The second workshop took place on the 25th of July 2017 at the Council Hall of Bafut. Bafut village hosts a population of over 80,000 inhabitants and the majority of them do not have access to potable water sources. The aim of this workshop was to present information from the research findings by Ms. Modest Lumnwi from her Masters thesis which focused on the state of pipe borne potable water supply in South East Bafut.
Approximately 55 participants were present at the workshop which included major stakeholders in the community such as the Lord Mayor, the Divisional Officer (D.O), the Delegate of Mines and Power, chairpersons of the five (5) pipe borne water project schemes present in the Bafut community and a representative of the Fon of Bafut
The research findings from the MSc thesis presented to the community and stakeholders revealed that the majority of the people living in the South East of Bafut do not have access to potable water as stipulated by the World Health Organization (WHO) both quantitatively and qualitatively. Quantitatively, the majority of the people have access only to 6.5 litres of water per person per day as opposed to WHO standard which is a minimum 20 litres of water per person each day. Qualitatively, all the water sources in Bafut were contaminated with faecal coliform (bacteria) linked to uncontrolled activity at the catchment sites such as farming and cattle grazing; the absence of treatment protocols and the presence of rusted pipes.
Just like at Ndu, recommendations were made for improvement in the quantity and quality of the Bafut potable water sources. For quantity, both field and remote sensing techniques were recommended to be used to delineate catchment areas. For quality improvement and control, boiling and filtering of the water before drinking were proposed for a start before better measures are put in place.
Challenges and possibilities going forward
While the workshops were very successful at engaging with communities and local stakeholders and identifying potential solutions to many of the issues they face, the challenge which remains is translating words into action. Professor Ayonghe at Buea University stated that while communities appreciate the outreach and sharing of research between the university and communities, such affected communities want immediate solutions to solve their problems, of which the university lacks the resources or expertise to implement. However, to overcome this the Periperi U team at Buea University, have produced reports for each of the affected communities outlining the main research findings, major issues which hinder the communities, recommendations for action to solve these problems, as well as potential stakeholders and institutions that should be engaged with to attempt to see the recommendations put into action. Through such reports, it is hoped it can empower communities to take ownership of the initiatives to reduce their risk.