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Ernest training youth in Okola.

 

In  Garoua, Cameroon last week at a Training of Trainers meeting for the Youth Empowerment through Arts and Media (YETAM) Project, Ernest Kunbega Gwanvoma from GIMAC (Geographic Information and Management Center) took us through the youth digital mapping process that he and Plan staff and other partners facilitated this past year.

Ernest’s presentation is posted below (with his permission), along with some comments from the rest of the group.

 

Why Digital Mapping?

In line with YETAM’s emphasis on use of new technology in youth and community development work, Plan introduced the use of GPS and digital mapping. Training the youths in the use of GPS and digital mapping permitted them to map out their council areas and create an information system, including the road network and other socio-economic infrastructure of their area. This exercise exposed the youths to the realities of their environment, for it took them to all the nooks and corners of their area. This way they could easily identify the problems of their communities and share with their peers all over the world. And what better way than to indicate all this than on a map? Eventually the digital maps produced will be used to track cases of violence, gender discrimination and community development planning issues. They will be used locally and shared on Open Street Map to a wider world community.

Mapping in Ndop Council Area

Objectives

The general objective of the exercise was to produce digital maps for 3 council areas; Ndop, Pitoa and Okola, where YETAM projects are being implemented. To accomplish this, participating youth were trained on the use of GPS for field data collection. They created way points of socio-economic infrastructures for their areas. A data base on all the socioeconomic infrastructures mentioned above was created. The youth also tracked the road network of their council and put it on the digital maps. This information was all uploaded into Open Street Map.

Methodology

We used the following working methodology:

 

  • Training of students /community youths in the use of GPS for field data collection, its potential uses and practical sessions
  • Elaboration of data codification sheets and production of waypoint forms/tracking sheets and data collection sheets for schools and health centers
  • Collection of field data
  • Analysis of data and production of digital maps
  • Uploading of digital map into Open Street Map

 

Data codification sheet, way point forms and data sheets

 

Training youth to use way point forms.

During the theoretical sessions, the youth worked in small groups to brainstorm the data that they wanted to collect about their communities. Community members and Plan staff with experience in data collection, advocacy, research and development programs gave input as well. A final set of data to collect was agreed upon, including schools and health centres in all 3 council areas.  Each group (from Ndop, Pitoa and Okola) also had its own particular aspects that it wanted to map out, based on local context.

To enable the youths collect field data in an organised manner field documents were created and made available to them, including:

  • General codification sheet
  • Waypoint form
  • School data information sheets
  • Nursery school information sheet
  • Primary school information sheet
  • Secondary school information sheet-General Education
  • Secondary school information sheet-Technical Education
  • High school information sheet
  • Health centre information sheets
  • Tracking sheet

 

GPS practice in Pitoa

Collection of field data

In each locality, the start off was at the District officer’s office where a cover letter or letter of introduction explaining the rationale for the field exercise was collected. This letter was presented in the communities as the need arose to avoid any form of embarrassment from the community.

The data collection exercise in was carried out by community youths, students, resource persons and the consultant’s team. In Ndop and Okola, the Partner Vision (PAVIS) and IRONDEL staff (respectively) and all resource persons were involved in the data collection. The student youth population was not available due to classes, so the out-of-school community youth who were involved in the training did the data collection. In Pitoa the staff of Solutions Technologiques Alternatives (STA) and all the resource persons were involved in the data collection. The community youths and the student population participated intensely in the exercise for they had just finished with their examinations and their principal gave them permission to participate in the field exercise during school period.

Formation of Groups

Youth filling out way point forms in Okola

To facilitate field data collection in each of the council areas, field groups were created, headed by a resource person or a staff of the consultant. The groups were allocated an area of work. One group was in-charge of tracking all the road networks and the rest of the groups collected waypoints and data on socio-economic infrastructures.

In places where the information sheet (data collecting forms) could not be filled instantly, the forms were dropped off to be filled by the competent authorities and to be collected later, this was the case especially with schools. Cars and motor bikes were hired to transport data collectors to the field in each locality.

At the end of each day, a review of the day was done; problems, lapses and wrongly collected information were pointed to the different groups for corrective measures to be taken.

Downloading /converting  GPS  Data

To be able to analyze the GPS data the waypoints and tracks were downloaded and saved in appropriate formats that could be visualized in JOSM. (Waypoints-GPX and text format, Tracklogs-GPX and DXF formats)

Attributing waypoint types

Students collected data to link with the way points, for example at this school in Pitoa

Based on the field data collected attribute tables were built for schools and hospitals etc. The data collected on schools and other aspects were triangulated for accuracy (when possible) with data previously collected by Plan or available from local government offices.

 

Production of digital maps

To produce the digital maps of the three council areas the JOSM offline editor was used. The waypoints and tracks were loaded into JOSM. The waypoints were digitized and appropriate attribute information assigned to them as tags. The tracks representing the road network were also digitized using JOSM.

Uploading and visualization of the digital maps

The produced maps were uploaded using JOSM to the Open Street Map site with online connection as soon as they were finished. The maps can be seen at the Open Street Map site.

Challenges and constraints

Bad roads made the mapping difficult in areas where vehicles and motorbikes couldn't pass after a certain point.

  • The student population was not fully involved in the actual field data collection in some communities because they had to be in class, so we worked only with the out-of-school youth population.
  • In Ndop and Okola, rain disrupted field activities and work had to slow down given the bad nature of the roads, which became very impracticable to vehicles and bikes, making the whole exercise difficult, strenous and time-consuming.
  • It was not always easy to arrange for transportation.
  • Most of the students and drivers did not know their full community areas well, so local community guides were recruited to take teams around.
  • In some of the areas the data sheets of schools could not be filled because the head teachers were not available.
  • In one particular area, a head teacher deliberately refused to fill the forms demanding bribe from the youths.
  • In some of the schools the head teachers had no information about the student enrolment and as such the youths had to go to each class and count the students themselves which was time-consuming.
  • Youths had to trek long distances in some of the inaccessible villages by vehicles because roads were very narrow.

Discussion

Despite the challenges faced during the field data collection the mapping exercise was quite successful. Having the digital maps is a real achievement. Having a solid data base attached to geographic location will be a powerful tool to support the youth’s local advocacy work. (Live version of the map is here. To see data, turn on the data layer as shown in the image below by clicking on the blue tab on the right side of the map.)

Open Street Map image of Ndop with data layer turned on. Data to the left belongs to the blue dot near the center of the map.

Pitoa Council Area with data layer. (Visit Open Street Map for interactive view).

Okola Council Area with data points. (See Open Street Map for interactive map).

The group at the workshop (PAVIS, IRONDEL and STA partners, Plan staff and Ernest himself) concluded that digital mapping was a good exercise. One participant commented that the heads of the school hadn’t been aware of the importance of collecting data about their own schools, and the mapping exercise motivated the youth and the head teachers to begin to collect and track data, to look at the status of their building structures and to count their students.

Others commented that the mapping exercise is a tool that really takes the youth around to their environment. Many of the youth only knew specific parts of their communities, but the digital mapping exercise brought them around to the entire expanse of their community. It gave them a reason and an opportunity to get to know the realities of their environment.

The group agreed that in the future, it would be advisable for hand-drawn mapping followed by digital mapping to take place as the very first step of the project, before other project activities (arts, media and advocacy efforts) happen, because the mapping provides the youth with a deeper awareness of their communities and the main issues therein. It also allows them to collect solid data as well as a visual tool that they can use to then carry out their advocacy activities with local councils. (Note: This year, hand drawn mapping was done as a first step, then the arts and media activities followed. Because it was a new activity requiring additional training and preparation for staff and partners, the digital mapping was done in as third step).

One question the group will explore is how to train and support the local councils (who have responsibility for decentralized community development in Cameroon) with IT equipment so that they can keep the maps updated and/or create new digital maps on their own.

These same maps will serve as a base for an additional phase of the project that will involve tracking and mapping cases of violence against children and gender based violence and working with local communities and local government social services to raise awareness about violence and to prevent and respond to cases of abuse. (Similar to the VAC Benin project).

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HSBC Ad Campaign

If you’ve done any international travel lately, you’ll likely have seen the HSBC Ad Campaign on the walkway as you get on your plane. You know the one. It has 3 identical photos, each with one word or phrase written on it, showing different perspectives.

Well, last week in Ndop, Cameroon, I had a random and cool experience that I was a tiny bit hesitant to post about.  But thanks to HSBC Advertisements, I figured something out. (Note, I still really don’t know who HBSC is or what in particular they do nor do I have any intention of using their bank).

I was with some of the youth participating in the YETAM project, filming at a local craft shop called PresPot. When we’d finished filming, we walked down the road towards the local Fon’s (King’s) Palace to meet another group that was filming there. The plan was to eat our packed lunch together.

There were more people than normal out on the road we were walking on, so it seemed to me that something was up. Then one of the kids pointed down the road to show the reason why.

The Ndobo were coming. ‘Ndobo?’ I asked? I could make out what looked like small group of people, some of them dressed in brown grass skirts.

Ndobo

As they got closer, I remembered a blog post (perhaps ScarlettLion’s or maybe a link she posted?) a few months back, where someone had taken shots of people in different places – I think mostly in Africa and in Haiti – wearing similar types of costumes to the ones the Ndobo were wearing. In any case, the Ndobo were definitely something to behold, and since I’d seen that post, they were now sitting within some kind of broader framework for me.

[Update: Thanks to Meghan for her comment below, with this link to the blog post I am referring to with the stunning photos. They are by Phyllis Galembo and on exhibit at the Tang Museum: “These portraits of masqueraders build on Galembo’s work of the past twenty years photographing the rituals and religious culture in Nigeria, Brazil, Cuba, Jamaica and Haiti, as well as the homegrown custom of Halloween in the United States. Organized by Ian Berry, Malloy Curator of the Tang Museum, in collaboration with the artist.”]

‘So what are we supposed to do?’ I asked.  ‘Are the Ndobo scary? Are we supposed to run away? Stay here? Get off the road? Bow down?’

‘Just watch them when they come,’ one of the girls told me. ‘They will ask you for some coins and you just give them some.’ ‘Are we allowed to film?’ I asked. ‘Yes, once you give them some coins they will be happy and you can film.’  I dug around in my bag to find some coins.

There were about 6 Ndobo, all teen-aged boys and young men, and a bunch of excited younger boys with them.  They moved in a way that was part stealth, part walking and part dancing as they approached. Someone played flutes as they moved along.

‘Why are they here? Why today? Who are they? What do they represent?’ I wanted to know. The kids had all kinds of different answers. ‘They come out to announce the corn harvest season is here.’ ‘They are just looking for money, so they make those shirts and clothing at home, and then they become Ndobo.’

‘In my village,’ said one of my co-trainers, ‘only certain of the young men are allowed to be Ndobos.’ ‘No,’ said one of the girls. ‘here any boy who wants to can just make his clothing and go out. My brother, when he became that age, he made that clothing and went out just to get some coins.’ Another of the kids said ‘They come out when there is a town hall meeting to ask for money.’ ‘Ha, it’s an income generation project for the youth,’ said one of the other co-trainers.

Meanwhile the Ndobo were approaching, and everyone was waiting and kind of excited to see what they would do. It was one of those amazing and random moments that make me love life. It was not scheduled purposely so that a white person could see some ‘local traditions’. It was not a tourist show. There were no tables with locals performing for respected visitors. It would have happened regardless of me being there or not. In my line of work, those moments can be rare and I was savoring this one.

We stood off the road in a clearing, and watched the Ndobo arrive, their entourage of overexcited sparkly eyed young boys with them watching us from a distance, flicking their eyes at me regularly. Maybe they wanted to know what I was going to do also, how I was going to react to the Ndobo and vice versa. I wondered also if it was going to be somehow weird because I was there. I was thinking how surreal it was, and how cool their ‘costumes’ were, remembering that blog post about young men in similar dress with photos that seemed to be from some kind of museum exhibit… thinking that this was real life, not a museum…. Then thinking about how in museums things from Africa are often called ‘handicrafts’ or ‘anthropological exhibits’ whereas things from Europe are called art…. Wondering what the difference really is.

The Ndobo  took their stance for a moment in front of us. They were carrying little sticks and whips made of grass and palm. They surrounded us and started lightly thrashing me and my colleague Georges with their sticks and whips in a vaguely threatening way, but not one that caused any fear. The feeling was someplace between theater and in-your-face reality. I found my coins again, and several hands came forward to collect them. The kids with us were watching and laughing, the little boys accompanying the Ndobo were giggling.

After I’d given out my coins I looked behind me and saw that one of the Ndobo had a stick against the back of Georges’ neck and another was holding his grass whip against Georges’ shins. Georges rolled his eyes and dug around to find some coins for them, also laughing. He dropped the coins into the outstretched hands and the Ndobo let him go. One of them stood in front of us to get his picture taken, and then they moved off down the road. We carried on towards the Fon palace.

When we arrived to the Fon palace, the other group of youth asked ‘did you see the Ndobo?! They came here and danced right in front of us! We took pictures and films!’  They were pretty animated too, so I felt less like a silly foreigner, getting excited about seeing ‘local tradition’.

We sat on the steps of the local council’s building and started in on lunch – boiled plantains and koki bean. The rest of the day, all the kids could talk about was the Ndobo. I kept thinking that the Ndobo reminded me of Halloween… harvest time festival, costumes to hide your identity, playing tricks and asking for treats.

I posted a picture of the Ndobo on Twitter. But I hesitated before doing it. A colleague saw it and said something about Africa stereotyping. So she had the same reservations.

I held off on the blog post… but then HSBC came to the rescue.

African Tradition

African Stereotype

African Entrepreneur

It’s interesting how uncomfortable ‘Africa’ can make us. But I guess so can anything, anyone or anyplace that is complex and involves human behavior and culture… I guess you could say the Ndobo are a small piece of a much larger ball of string, just like high heeled shoes, plastic surgery, tattoos and henna, and shaved heads. Ask HSBC.

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PresPot

While I was in Cameroon last week, I had a chance to go out to film with one of the youth groups. Earlier in the week they had worked together to map out their community and look at local resources, and one of those resources was PresPot, a local business that makes different types of clay products. It’s part of a larger initiative, supported by Presbyterians (get it? PresPot?).

the road to PresPot

The PresPot is a pretty cool place.  It’s located down one of the roads leading off the highway near Ndop, the main town in the area of Bamenda where we were working.

PresPot Manager

The kids had their storyboard and their interview already prepared, and they got going by first asking the manager for permission and his consent to film and do some interviews. They explained that they were not doing a film for commercial purposes but as part of a project they were working on.

The manager gave them an overview of the work area, gave staff permission to be interviewed, and then went through the shop where they sell their things, explaining each product in detail.

Clay waiting to be formed into something

The clay used comes from the area nearby, It’s one of the highest quality clays. A ton of different items are made here out of the clay.

Builds up some nice arm and back muscles

Making zebras for a Noah's Ark

There’s everything from tiny trinkets, carved by hand to big pots using the potters wheel. One guy explained that he was making a lot of Noah’s Arks. He was carving little zebras using a knife.

Spinning by foot and making a pot

I watched another guy spinning a pot. He uses his foot to spin the wheel. He mentioned that PresPot also has a guest house, and that lots of foreigners come to visit and rest there. I asked if they also do pottery classes but he didn’t seem to get what I meant.

(I know some people who would love to go to the beautiful mountains of Ndop, and spend a week learning to throw pottery….)

The workshop gets really warm with the ovens going

After the pieces dry, they are fired.  It was pretty hot in there.

Forming the roof tiles

Out back, away from the firing ovens, one guy was making clay roof tiles. He said he makes 150 tile per day and they take 2 days to dry and then they fire them. He works Monday through Saturday.

Laying the tiles to dry

150 per day

Adding final touches

Another guy was adding little figures to the pots that the other guy was spinning. He was using glue to attach them.

and this guy finishes them up

And another one was finishing the pots up.

Final products

the PresPot Shop

The shop has all kinds of clay products as well as products that come from 2 other regions that work with wood and with fibers, bamboo and palm.

There is a shipping area where their items go out to the whole world.

I kept wondering if this little business was really sustainable, or if a Presbyterian NGO or church was supporting and it was barely profitable like many of the little craft businesses I’ve seen people try to fund.

The kids were doing the questioning, not me, and so I didn’t butt in to ask. It does seems like this small business is thriving. It’s nice to see that this exists in the community, and it will be cool to see the kids’ video on it.

I also think it’s interesting that the kids chose to show the PresPot as one of their community resources, but they didn’t mention any of the small business/ market sellers lining the streets of Ndop.

Walking down the main road in Ndop, there are people selling fresh boiled peanuts, roasted corn, and palm wine.  There are mechanic shops, and places to get your hair done and fabric shops. There are corner stores and taxis and bars.  Maybe the kids will do a piece on the market as the project goes on.

If you ever get out to the Bamenda area, I’d suggest checking out PresPot and maybe staying there to kick back for a couple days. Maybe they will teach you to throw some pots….

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I recently wrote about how difficult I find it to know what the etiquette is when riding in a car with a hired driver. So I was happy to see that the owner of this van, hired to take the youth out to film in Ndop, Cameroon, last week, had the good sense to clearly inform passengers of the rules.

No fighting.

Don't send your head or hands outside.

Sit down when the car is moving.

The driver is not responsible for any unpaid load.

No discussion with the driver when the car is moving.

No vomiting. No smoking.

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