Cameroon / Cameroun: Country of Contrast
Bicycle Africa / Ibike Tours

  Dispatch 7 - Foumban  
  Jakiriā€‘Foumban (71km, 43 mi)  Foumban is the center of the Bamoun empire, still ruled by a sultan.
Points of interest:  Sultan's Palace, museums, crafts shops, market.
Cycling conditions: dirt, a 10km downhill early on and then rolling through the Nun Valley.

Jakiri: sweeping the streets in the morning In the early morning when shadows are still long people were up and about in Jakiri, including this man who is sweeping the street.  Fortunately the clean-up discipline pretty much matches the drop-it-where-you-are-ethic or the town would be heavily trashed.  Town clean-up, in most places, is a daily event.

Jakiri-Foumban roadJakiri: small rural store in the morningThe sun was out and the air was still crisp when we got started.  It was cold if you stood in the shade, but the sun's radiant heat was sufficient to substitute for a jacket.

Jakiri-Foumban road: small farm Higher on the hills the small farms were mostly agriculturally oriented.  As we descended, this section of the Nun Valley seemed dryer and less fertile than areas further to the west.

Jakiri-Foumban road: deep ruts Jakiri-Foumban road Jakiri-Foumban road Jakiri-Foumban road

Here are four picture (below) from the same area in 1986:

Jakiri-Foumban road Jakiri-Foumban road  Jakiri-Foumban road Jakiri-Foumban road 

Jakiri-Foumban road: Zebu cattle In the more arid areas, if current practice is any indication, the best use of the resources seemed to be grazing cattle, though there were large areas that seemed to be totally unexploited grasslands.

Jakiri-Foumban road: people head-carrying wood Jakiri-Foumban road: girls head-carrying woodIn one section we passed a couple of groups carrying bundles of stick on their heads.  It looked like it was no short trip.  If they are traveling long distances to collect fire wood it doesn't bode well for what remains of trees in the area.

Jakiri-Foumban road: Nun Valley Jakiri-Foumban road: Nun Valley

Jakiri-Foumban road: fish pond Continuing further east the land gets a little hillier and wetter.  In one community they had built some fish ponds.  This is sort of "fish by numbers" project.  At the beginning the fish farmer know the size of the pond.  With that information he know how many fry's (frequently Nile tilapia) he needs to start with.  With the pond full of water the fry's are release and you feed the pond is fed to keep a good algae bloom.  After an appropriate number of month for the specie of fish being used -- maybe six months -- the pond is drained and everything is harvested and prepared for market, except the number of fry's needed to restock the pond, which are set aside.  The pond is refilled, the fry's that were set aside are released and the cycle is repeated.

Another agricultural product that needs more water is coffee.  There are basically two ways to prepare the unroasted 'green beans' that are traded on the world market.  Shelling coffeeThe big producers take the ripe, red pods and crack the shell open in automated machines that separates the shell from the beans.  The beans then go into large tanks or vats of water where they are fermented (about three days.) It is then dried and becomes the 'green bean' ready for the global market.  In Cameroon, much of the coffee is grown by small producers.  Smaller producers, like the gentleman in the picture, ferment the grain in the shell (7-10 days), then crack the shell and dry the 'green bean' until it is ready to sell to the coffee market organization.  Unfortunately, even though this process is more labor intensive, the small producers tend to get a lower price for their beans.

Foumban Approaching from the west the first prominent building you see in Foumban are churches.  There is a little irony in this because Foumban is a more Islamic area.


Fon of Bamoun Palace, FoumbanFon of Bamoun Palace: statue of horsemanOne of the impressive buildings in Foumban is the Sultan of Bamoun's palace.  The Sultans changed their title from fon when the converted to Islam around the beginning of the 20th centrury.  There is a statue of what appears to be an Islamic warrior in the front of the palace.  Fon of Bamoun Palace: On the palace wall there is a list of all of the Bamoun Dynasty Fons/Sultans up to the 18th, Njoya Seydou, who was enthroned in 1933.  To bring this up to date, Sultan Njoya Seydou died in 1992 and Ibrahim Mbombo Njoya was enthroned as the 19th Sultan of Bamoun.

Fon of Bamoun Palace: warrior dressFon of Bamoun Palace: mask collectionThe second floor of the palace houses a museum of royal items of the Bamoun Kingdom, including the symbols of power, personal items from the Fons, books, musical instruments, masks, weapons, etc.

Fon of Bamoun Palace: mask collection

Foumban market

Foumban market



Foumban market: pepper and tomato sellerFoumban market: beans and spice sellerOutside the palace is the art/craft market and the general market.  For a business that depends upon tourism the merchants in the artisans market have distinctly antagonistic marketing strategies.  It is of their own making that there are no photographs of them.  Whether it is their intention or not, they come across as ornery and to the extent that I have had the stamina to engage them, their prices are high.  On the other hand it is interesting, engaging and colorful to wander in the general market.

Linguistics notes for the day: The area around Jikiri and Kumbo is linguistically fairly homogeneous with Lamnso' (Ring>East) as the primary languages.  As you drop down into the Nun Valley we reentered the Mbam-Nkam>Nun language group, for which Bamoun, the language of Foumban, is one of the largest.  There is probably an (or some) other language(s) spoken between Jakiri and Foumban, like Bangolan, but we didn't talk to anyone with specific information to this effect.




Next dispatch.



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