A quick stop in Cameroon – science, development, termites

Cameroon is a country of extremes and the fieldworks there, for sure, belong to the most challenging ones. The things work either extremely well, easy and smooth, or not at all. Working at such a sinusoid of ups and downs is indeed demanding and often exhausting. Although my colleague Jan Šobotník and I are experienced with the country (6 and 9 trips, respectively), Cameroon always finds a way to surprise us. And that’s why we love working there so much!

This year's trip combined the elements of scientific research, diplomacy and developmental strategies targeted at the local communities. The first part of the work took place in the village of Ebogo and its surrounding. It is a unique place in terms of biodiversity and especially the insects, whose area still contain fragments of pristine forests. One of the most exciting samples is the "gigantic" termites from the Anoplotermes-group, soil-feeding termites that have secondarily lost the soldier caste. As these termites are considerably larger than any other African member of this group, they likely represent a new genus, to be described in the future. In addition to the termite research, we had also contacted the primary school in Ebogo, and thanks to the contribution of the Únětice primary school, stationery and teaching materials for the local children were bought. For 90% of the Ebogo pupils, as well as in other rural areas of Cameroon, primary school is a terminal stage of education. Only a small fraction of students are lucky enough to continue at the secondary level, not speaking about high school or even university education. That is why we decided to continue in cooperation with the local school and, in the future, to prepare lessons focused on the development of the English language (Cameroon is a bilingual country), environmental sciences and the importance of general education to society.

The second part of the trip took place in the capital city Yaoundé, where we visited several international organizations and universities. These were, for example, ICRAF (World Agroforestry Center), with which we have long-term cooperation on agroforestry, biodiversity and domestication of indigenous trees, or HIES (Higher Institute of Environmental Sciences), with which we signed a Memorandum of Understanding in 2018, and which has recently applied for the Erasmus + program. Among other highlights, HIES is the home institution of three of our doctoral students (Armelle Chanou, Irene Mbouwe and Patrick Choungo). Thirdly, I would like to mention the non-profit organization Key Farmers Cameroon, whose representative I met after five long years. The tensions between the anglophone (at least within the Southwest region) and the francophone parts of the country seem to be easing up a bit, and therefore we hope that there will the possibility to cooperate with the western parts of the country soon again.

To conclude, the Cameroon trip was short but intense! We believe that we have managed to establish/renew many important contacts, which will be involved in our joint scientific research and development activities in the future. Our plans are truly ambitious, and we look forward to bringing our dreams to reality!

Anna Maňourová + Jan Šobotník

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