Wednesday, 9 April 2014

Homemade micro Hydro

While in Cameroon an opportunity came up to visit the site of a small hydro project in Kugwe near Batibo (the Palm Wine capitol of the world!).
Local engineer  Farmer Tantoh arranged the trip and we wedged ourselves into a crew cab. Elke and I sitting up front, Joram and Tantoh conversing behind us non stop.  Our driver, Divine, quietly   answered our questions; (mostly Elke's) names of towns, items for sale at the side of the road with a little about himself while enjoying his music as we passed through the inevitable checkpoints.
 The road was good, paved within the last 3 years, through rolling hills mostly deforested and covered with grass.  Occasionally we'd dip into a jungle like valley but the majority of terrain around the settlements and villages was small farms. At numerous junctions there would be clusters of motorcycles,  large plastic containers hanging off the back, stacked sideways; 20+litres each, blue and white, empty or filled with mimbo (palm wine) for sale elsewhere, the drivers waiting...

Turning off the pavement we spied a fellow climbing a palm beside the road, his palm stem belt allowing hands free action when trimming the fronds.
The road  began to deteriorate, narrow, more potholed and still we drove on turning eventually down a trail, wheels straddling the twists, turns and contours. Parking amongst a group of houses,  people emerge with great smiles on their faces extending hands to shake and even a few hugs. Adult men mostly, children shyly looking through doorways holding back.
After a few moments of greeting we are immediately underway walking along the path following a line of wire strung up on poles through trees past extensive gardens, swales running down hill, burnt over and in various stages of cultivation. The air is thick with moisture, it's warm and I'm immediately sweating.

The trail descends, crossing a stream, swampy and fetid with decomposing vegetation the air filled with the spicy smell of something blooming.

 It gets steeper, slippery and the men attempt to help me, to stop me from falling as I grasp this or that root, vine or branch.

 We  hear the waterfall and  then stand at the top where they have engineered a sluice-way to pipe the water to the turbine another 50 metres below.
No water runs now, the pipe is punctured. Unfortunately, rocks hurtling down inside have broken the plastic. But for 5 days they did have light in the village.

What effort it  must have taken to haul the pieces and parts down this steep and treacherous slope!

 We continue, handholds necessary as I negotiate the nearly vertical climb and descend onto another small outcropping.

Here they have installed their turbine using a used auto transmission and various mechanical and electrical components.
   It sits now waiting to be reengaged. Ingenious, resourceful and creative, these folks are still positive, hopeful and encouraging.
 Elke and Joram film and interview them standing proudly behind their creation, the waterfall roaring in the background.

Everyone then inches out onto the slippery rocks, another 70 or 100 metres above the last drop and we all pose for "snaps".

On the way back up my shoes seem to fall apart (velcro doesn't like mud), I'm exhausted, recalling in my youth bushwacking through the Devils Club and Salal above Sombrio on West Coast Vancouver Island. Thankfully I've seen nothing here like Devils Club, grabbing whatever I can to haul myself up. Reflecting on my age, I compare myself to these   30-40 year old "young" men who almost daily make their way through this landscape.

 Back at the village I learn that the women, missing from the meal, speeches and mimbo drinking session we enjoy later, are off working their farm/garden plots a 3 hour walk away...

They have big dreams here; to improve their children's chances of success by providing  light so they can study at night,  by creating fish ponds to supplement their diet,  building cabins for visitors to stay and of course to get their electrical system working again as model of what can be done with a little ingenuity and resources at hand.

This experience like many others, inspires me in my exploring, meeting people and assisting where possible as we continue to create a better world for all.

1 comment:

  1. Here is a short video of the project: