In my volunteer work I’ve chosen to use my growing photography skills to document some of the events and occurrences for Better World Cameroon. At the moment we are focussed on a water catchment project.
From a small trickle of sweet and dependable water that we were barely able to access, the eventual intention is to have it filtered, contained and then pumped up to the kitchen and dormitory. As Ndanifor Permaculture Ecovillage is meant to be a community resource and learning centre, the local Regent of Bawum was approached and he pledged the community’s support.
Every mutanibaa ( the day after country Sunday, a community work day) one “quarter” of Bawum (one of the Fondoms within Bafut) sends a group of folks to help. Both women and men bring hoes, shovels and cutlass to clear land, dig and clear mud from the channel as we slowly approach the source of our spring.
The major thrust of work has been at the end of the dry season. Our intention, as project leader Joram Shu has stated, is to get below the water table, deep into the earth where the water source appears to be.
The first week’s group of people worked long and hard, from a muddy track on the surface to a ditch a metre and half deep more than 50 metres long descending into the valley bottom. Through topsoil down into a grey clay that had building manager Elke Cole expressing interest for plaster.
The women pulled muddy slop downhill continuously, opening up the channel while at the head of the excavation the men burrowed into the hillside, deeper and deeper. Strong young (and occasionally older) men lifted great, wet slabs of clay up and over their heads onto the edge of the ditch, There someone would either pick it up by hand, hoe or shovel and throw it onto an ever increasing pile.
The second week we had women carrying large rocks down for the filter bed and cistern, on their heads, and in their arms. Young men had brought wheelbarrow loads of sand and gravel anticipating the eventual creation of each piece of the system. However the digging continued. After cutting right at 90 degrees chasing the water our flow had increased to 4+ litres a minute.
This week the flow from the right hand turn had diminished and seemed to be coming directly below a raffia palm. With more excavation, the channel deepened and the flow increased. Everyone in the ditch, now over two metres deep near the source, comes out covered in grey slip.
After 3 sessions of hanging about the edge I felt it was time to take my camera into the heart of the experience. Most of the community had left so I knew I wouldn’t be getting in the way. Unfortunately, lacking experience and having a large lapse in judgement, I neglected to note the depth of mud, the narrowness of the ditch, and the risk to the camera. I did manage to get some footage, grey walls grazing the lens, as I slowly sank deeper and deeper into the soft and grasping clay, one foot disappearing almost to my knee. No purchase on the sheer and slippery walls.
Unwilling to proceed and get both legs swallowed up, I had a hard time turning myself in the canyon like passage. Extracting the one foot while maintaining balance meant the camera made contact with the wall.Yuck! Covered almost completely in grey clay slip I pulled myself out and lay the camera in the sun, while I went for cleaner water to at least wash my hands.
From now on I’ll remain the observer. I have some footage, interviews and a record of the progress. When the project is completed I intend to create a video. It will be a celebration and acknowledgement of community involvement and support in the creation of natural resources; human and environmental. Offering possibilities for the community.
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