10 Aug 2010
A Visit to one of the Camps housing survivors
The Ukpwa resettlement camp on the outskirts of Wum town in the North West Region of Cameroon is one of the places that the Cameroon government (with foreign assistance) constructed houses and resettled a group of survivors from the lake Nyos Disaster that made headlines in 1986. It will be recalled that in August 1986, a sort of audible turbulence occurred inside lake Nyos and in the process released noxious gas(es) that killed some 1700 people and many more livestock.
These are two links to interesting articles I have read on the phenomenon and incident.
The people resettled at Ukpwa are Bororos whose age old occupation has been the rearing of cattle.
The months immediately following the resettlement were obviously very hard for these people who had not only lost their cattle but also some of their loved ones. Both the houses in which they were resettled and part of the food donated to them were not adapted to their needs.
Most of them had to start life from the scratch. Indeed they had to start a new kind of life altogether. The resilience of the human spirit overcame the wretchedness and penury that was their lot.
Today, when you visit the camp, it is clear that hopelessness has been replaced by visible achievements—thanks to the hard work and ingenuity of these Borroros. Many have rebuilt their herds of cattle and most of them have transformed from cattle farming to mixed farming. They have mastered the art of using cow dung as manure to plant such crops as maize, cocoyams, plantains and pepper.
There is a health center and a primary school that cater for the needs of the camp dwellers. The headmaster of the school (Mr. Kum Rene) who helped me to get around said that his school currently has 285 pupils and one of his staff member is from the resettled community.
Unlike in their previous homes around lake Nyos where they were almost solely devoted to cattle rearing, this settlement at Ukpwa gives the children the opportunity to combine mixed farming with schooling. Mr Kum Rene introduced me to many of his pupils that were taking advantage of this holiday period to guide their cattle around the vast savannah that is filled with fresh green grass during this rainy season period.
The life here is far from being rosy but it is clear that these people have come a long way and they need to be praised for surviving and turning despair into hope.
See Other Travel and Nature related articles that I have published on Cameroon. It is worth considering the context of the time that they were published.
1. Craftsmanship in N.W Region
2. Visiting Douala & Limbe (Article I wrote for SN Brussels Airline Magazine)
3. Discover Rural Batibo in the N.W Region
4. Journey to Discover the Secrets of Oku
5. From Douala to Nyassoso (2006)
6. Cameroon’s retreating Forest
7. The Lake that changes its colour
8. Douala to Onitscha by road (an ecological view)
9. Douala to Wum by road (An Article I wrote for SN Brussels Airline Magazine)
Njei Moses Timah