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Opinions of Tuesday, 14 October 2014

Columnist: Tikum Azonga

The landscape of Mbu (Baforchu)

(I dedicate this article to all the members of the Baforchu family: Mbu, Santa Mbei, Baba II, Njah, Baforkum, Ngyen Mbo and Bassamba in Nde Division of the West Region)

Topography

There are two distinct features that stand out distinctly, when one examines the geography of Mbu (Baforchu) village in Santa Sub Division. One is its hilly relief and the other is the colanut trees interspersed in the flora.

The village is so hilly that I describe it as a place where you must climb up and down, regardless of where you are going within it. That applies to when you leave the house and go to the back in order to use the latrine or even when you step out to cut banana or plantain leaves for wrapping cooking.

Tough relief

Having grown up in Baforkum (Bambui) and not in Mbu itself, I used to wonder whether climbing was not too much of a burden to the inhabitants, especially since Bambui to which I was accustomed is basically a level land village. I remember that when I went to Baforchu in my childhood days, I used to feel sorry for ardent church goers from the Mbony family (where my mother came from), especially my Uncle (now of blessed memory) Pa Abednego Achu and my cousin Ni John Achili Mbony who is a distinguished teacher and currently proprietor of a reputable Nursery and Primary School in Bamenda.

Early on Sunday mornings, I used to see them climb up the long stretch from the market right up to the hub of the village, Tsughe Sop, where my aunt (junior sister to my mum) lived and whose home was my base whenever I was in the village.

Pa Abeni (that is how he was popularly known) and Ni John would climb up the steep road, bible in hand, go past where I was standing at the entrance into Mami Anna´s compound and after our mutual greetings, proceed up towards the Presbyterian Church without any sign of exhaustion.

The role of colanuts

Concerning the colanut trees in the village, I would rather you read the extract that follows, taken from “An Economic Analysis of Rural Activities in Mbu Village Santa Sub Division”, which was a study a son of the soil, Festus Achiri Mbah carried out as part of his course in Veterinary Nursing at the National Centre for Zootechnical and Veterinary Training in Jakiri, Bui Division, in 1997.

Suffice it to know for a start that the author´s assertion according to which “in Mbu colanut is the main cash crop today” is not an exaggeration. This is because revenue from colanuts has helped to educate many Mbu children. In fact, the author says: “The majority of the villagers are educated. In fact, most of them have had formal education at least in a primary school”.

Colanuts come under Chapter 2 of the investigation and under the sub title of “Cash crop production”. The author writes: “Coffee and colanuts are the main cash crops produced in Mbu village. Coffee however is cultivated on a very small scale and by very few farmers. The decrease in coffee prices which took place some years ago, prompted farmers to cut the coffee plants and replace them with plantains and other crops.

In Mbu village, the colanut is the main cash crop today. According to information from villagers, the trees were never planted by any person. Their forefathers on settling there met the trees where they are now. As such, nobody owns them except those that are found in individual compounds. The said landlords have a right to claim ownership of any tree that is in their compounds.

As far as harvesting of colanuts is concerned, stringent measures have been put in place by the village authorities giving equal opportunities to interested harvesters. The measures are that nobody whosoever should pluck the colanuts from the trees.

Villagers are bound to pick the colanuts from the ground only. Some persons prefer to pick at night when others are asleep. The second measure puts a ban on the use of any lighting device. Thus picking is usually done between the hours of seven and four in the morning. However, colanuts fall off the trees at any time of the day. So from time to time, people visit the trees during the day…”

After talking about storage, grading and pricing of the commodity, the author assesses the impact on the youths of the village: “A majority of the youths of Mbu make a lot of money from the sale of colanuts.

A few of them buy the finished product and add to what they have preserved. When the quantity is reasonable, they then transport to markets where demand is high. Most of it is supplied to the northern provinces of Cameroon and to neighbouring Nigeria. A disease common with colanuts is the attack by weevils and as of now no prophylactic treatment exists.