Inspection trip to the Faro Valley, North Cameroon
By mid-August Joan Riera (Middle-Africa’s founder & director) will lead a small group to the remote Cameroonian region of the Faro Valley.
This savannah region situated in the North Province of Cameroon, was explored by the German colonizers in the early 20th Century and rapidly forgotten due to the absence of any precious metals, minerals, or rich soil for export agriculture. By then, as it is now, the area was governed by a Lamido, also known as Emir (like the one we find in Northern Nigeria and Niger). This Muslim ruler controlled several tribal groups who belonged to the paleo-sudanese family (dark skinned short individuals) and professed the cult to the ancestors. These peasant and hunter groups continue to leave both in the savannah area around Poli, the Faro region capital, and the more traditional groups reside in the isolated mountains around Hoy and Tchamba.
This unknown region came back to public knowledge after the British Anthropologist Nigel Barely (b. 1947) wrote his famous ‘The Innocent Anthropologist’ in 1983. Barley lived for several months with the Dowayo tribe and in the book he describes with a subtle British sense of humor the surrealist situations the Westerner encounters when living with a different culture.
Today the Middle-Africa team believes that it is the time for the Faro Region to become part of our Cameroonian itineraries. The reason is that Joan has known the region since 2002 but has only done short incursions to the area with groups of tribal and nature lovers, and we think that it is the time to develop a strategy to facilitate the arrival of more groups to this area. In Middle-Africa we always clarify that our goal is to bring tourism to different parts of West and Central Africa but with the logics of responsible tourism. Always groups that should not exceed 16pax and that there is a clear benefit for the local population. In the case of the Faro Valley a Canadian company, specialized in mining discovered in 2009 some interesting sites in the Poli Mountains. This means that suddenly, this isolated region and its fragile ecosystem might be under threat. Adding to that, some missionary groups have installed evangelization centers in Poli and in Tchamba and have started to bring tones of second hand clothes to ‘dress up the savages’. These two clear threats to the peaceful evolution of the peoples of the Faro have made us become an active part of the region’s immediate future.
In Middle-Africa we believe that well managed tourism can protect ecosystems and ameliorate the living conditions of tribal groups without having to modify their living existence or folklorize their culture. After more than 10 years working in Africa we have learned a lot of how things work in these countries and that one needs to look for consensus with all the actors. In this case we will be meeting the present day Lamido of Poli –mayor of the city and traditional ruler of the Faro Valley-, the local tribal chiefs (Koma, Dowayo, and Mbororo tribes), the Polish missionaries (the most active in the region), and we will try our best to meet the Canadian engineers in charge of the mining plan. It will not be easy, but that is the challenge and know what we want. We need to find a balance between economic development and the sustainable development of this virgin valley in the North of Cameroon. In future newsletters and in our Blog we will inform all of you, who love Africa and believe that tourism can be a solution not a doom for the last traditional communities of the African Continent, about how things are evolving in the Faro Valley.