African University Foundation organized a 2-day conference focusing on women leaders in Tali, Cameroon on March 14-15, 2007. The purpose of the visit was threefold: 1) To obtain some firsthand information about Tali and other villages in the Upper Bayang Subdivision; 2) To discuss women’s groups activities with them and highlight some of their achievements, challenges and possible solutions; and 3) To sensitize and mobilize them for their roles vis-a-vis African University. The conference was directed by African University Foundation’s consultant, Dr. Gladys Ejomi Martin, a retired international pediatrician.
Dr. Martin left Buea, accompanied by Mrs. Mary Tanjong and Miss Elizabeth Tanyi, both members of African University Foundation Cameroon (AUFCAM). They were joined in Tali by Mr. Amah Taboko, the Field Coordinator of African University Foundation in Cameroon, who had gone ahead to finalize arrangements for the visit, Reverend Apostle Betang, the Vice Chairman of AUFCAM and Mrs. Mary Tambe, another AUFCAM board member from Yaounde.
Reverend Apostle Egbemba Betang, the Vice Chairman AUFCAM was in charge of the local arrangements with his team. They, including Mr. Amah Taboko, ensured that the plans were well executed. The delicious lunches, prepared by Reverend Betang’s wife and other women, were served at his home and this confirmed the hospitality of the people and offered more opportunities for interactions.
Tali 1 is one of the 59 villages in Upper Bayang Subdivision, Manyu Division. Upper Bayang Subdivision has a population of about 50,000. The drive to Tali is scenic, through undulating hills and valleys. The subdivision has four forest reserves, which are assets for tourism and timber exploitation. There is also a vast distribution of rivers and their tributaries. There were farmlands of cocoa, palms, mangoes, African plums, cassava, etc., along the road, to which the farmers usually trekked 2 – 4 hours to and fro. Vehicles were scarce and will be fewer still when the rains set in. One can thus appreciate the repeated complaints of the women – lack of transportation and access to markets.
We informally and formally met with His Royal Highness, Chief Simon Orock Baiyee of Tali 1 and some of the elites. Most of them were present at the two-day meeting. I was pleasantly surprised to meet with former colleagues and friends, some of whom are retired. This subdivision is blessed with experienced, senior administrators and professionals, who even if not resident in Tali, are well established in their villages and expressed interest in supporting African University, if and when the time arose.
The Chief of Tali 1 gave this mission top priority and postponed several important activities so the women and elites could attend the meetings. He was pleased to note that most of the women who had come on the date earlier proposed, still returned in their numbers. He personally participated at the two day meeting and on the second day came with his quarter heads. He welcomed us and expressed gratitude to African University Foundation for making the visit possible; congratulated and encouraged the women to work harder. He thanked the women and elites for their participation at the meeting and their understanding of the schedule adjustments. He urged us to help push, so that the university becomes a reality in the near future and to solicit technical and financial support for the women’s activities.
was held in Tali 1 Community Hall. In spite of the short notice of the adjusted dates for the meeting and other important ceremonies in the villages, there were many women from 12 villages and Mamfe town. They participated actively during the presentations, singing and dancing. Each group was officially represented by the leader and one member but some groups had more. The presentations were made on the first day and they were succinct – the name of the group and village, number of members wherever possible, the major activities, achievements, problems and their priority needs. Forty one projects were presented and this showed that the women are involved in a wide variety of food and cash crop production as well as animal breeding. They have even gone into the “so called” men’s domain of cocoa and oil palm farming! Some women were in two or more groups. The problems and challenges were grouped under 7 major headings and presented as such the next day.
Lack of funds and technical support underscored most of the groups’ activities and it was interesting to note that a few groups were generating cash to lend out to other women. They needed additional cash to better serve their clientele. Certificates of participation were awarded to group leaders only while it might have been preferable to award them to each group.
During the Question & Answer session on the women’s projects, it was proposed that in order to increase production, women should extend their farms further into the forest areas, while leaving the farmlands around homes to regenerate. The use of the African University site temporarily, will not only keep it clean, but also produce crops and cash. This will also facilitate the eventual survey, planning and construction of African University.
Apart from specific requests for increasing food production and cash generation, teaching/learning materials and essential medicines like analgesics, multivitamins/minerals and first aid kits would be very useful and welcome to the primary school children and women.
Dr. Gladys Ejomi Martin and her delegation visited the future campus of African University. This very extensive area is situated near the administrative center (post office, health etc) and it stretches along the main road in Tali 1. It lies between two rivers that cross the road. Since it is still covered by thick bush, we just walked a short distance towards it, along a footpath. Some economic plants were growing along the path and further in. These can be exploited while waiting. Dr. Martin and her delegation also visited government institutions such as the Tali Health Center, Post Office, Government Primary School and a few surrounding villages.
According to Dr. Gladys Ejomi Martin, the desire to see African University develop from a dense tropical forest to a modern institution of higher learning, is a good enough reason for several trips to Tali and the environs. Although the roads are dusty in the dry season and sticky when the rains fall, the physical features, fauna and flora make up for it. A suitable vehicle helps. The timber exploiting company should be asked to help improve the roads. She hopes that more African University Foundation board members and friends will also make visits, as they plan and implement the creation and functioning of African University.
In sum, the 2-day conference enabled the African University Foundation consultant, Dr. Gladys Martin, to appreciate the high level of enthusiasm and determination of the Tali community and the surrounding population in general to realize African University.
A complete report of the trip contains some information that may help plan trips to the area and what visitors can do, in the mean time, to help the women in the community.
Dr. Gladys Ejomi Martin thanks African University Foundation in the United States for giving her the opportunity to visit Tali 1 and the environs, discuss successes, problems and solutions with the people. She is particularly grateful to the Chairman and board members of African University Foundation in Cameroon for making the visit possible; the Chief of Tali 1 and the elites in Upper Bayang Subdivision for their time and hospitality; the hard working, enthusiastic and friendly women, without whom the mission would not have been successfully accomplished. I enjoyed the frankness of their presentations, dances and songs, especially the one composed for me. The driver, Mr. Mbi Dickson, expertly handled the small car on that road.