Remineralization Workshop in Cameroon

April 2011 marks the modest beginnings of a new era of sustainable development in Cameroon. A two-day workshop beginning April 1st, sponsored by Remineralize the Earth (RTE) and organized by Dr. Gilbert Kuepouo, introduced the principles and practices of remineralization in the context of a new agriculture for Cameroon. This small country in central Africa is a place of natural diversity and rich agricultural traditions, but in recent years, industrialized farming has taken a heavy toll on the health of the environment and the integrity of rural communities.

Dr. Kuepouo, born and raised in Cameroon, is RTE’s international coordinator for his native land. He holds a Ph.D. in petrology and geochemistry and is intimately familiar with Cameroon’s various soils and bioregions. Soon after completing his doctoral studies, Gilbert created the Research and Education Center for Development (CREPD), a non-profit organization with the goal of “bridging the gap between the science and action of nature conservation in Africa.” CREPD is accredited to the United Nations Development Programme (UNEP) Governing Council/Global Ministerial Environment Forum and is a Strategic Approach to International Chemicals Management (SAICM) NGO focal point. CREPD is now an active force in Cameroon’s movement toward sustainable agriculture and a healthy environment.

In addition to Dr. Kuepouo, who holds a Ph.D. in geochemistry, four speakers attended the conference. Dr. Armand Kagou Dongmo, from the University of Dschang in West Cameroon, discussed the importance of magnetism in agriculture. A report on the mineral resources in the highlands of western Cameroon and their potential agricultural uses was provided by Dr. David Nkouathio, also from the University of Dschang. Dr. Jean Pierre Tchouankoue of the University of Yaoundé reviewed and analyzed remineralization efforts in Brazil—efforts in which he was personally involved. Dr. Tchouankoue is featured in a documentary, entitled Agroecologia Quilombola, that depicts the central role of rock dust fertilization in bringing greater stability and economic vitality to some of Brazil’s rural communities. This documentary will soon be available on RTE’s website. 

Amidst these more detailed presentations, Dr. Kuepouo discussed the general framework for remineralization in Africa. He also brought up the example of the successful RTE sustainable development project in Costa Rica, in which intercropping of twenty species of remineralized trees, including soil-building Jatropha trees, provided food, fuel, and income for local communities. Toward the end of the first day of the workshop, all four attending experts participated in a working group to explore the options for integrating the science of remineralization into undergraduate and graduate programs at Cameroon’s universities.

To conclude the first day, the participants clarified and summarized the recommendations and action plans that had been agreed upon in the course of the workshop. Perhaps the most significant resolution was to pursue reforestation of deforested areas using local plants and Jatropha trees according to the Costa Rica model. Also, from their extensive experience in higher education, the participants recognized the importance of introducing the principles of remineralization into the universities of Cameroon. To this end, an academic proposal on the topic of rock fertilizers will be developed and submitted to the local universities, and the conference participants will strive to integrate rock dust fertilization into undergraduate- and graduate-level curricula.

The universities are certainly important in this effort, but people from all social strata must have access to information about the benefits of remineralization based on local, widely available materials. Keeping this in mind, the participants also agreed to create a newsletter that will make practical, up-to-date information about rock fertilization available to anyone who is interested.

The next remineralization workshop is scheduled for April 2012. By then, perhaps, the message of remineralization will be slowly penetrating into all quarters of Cameroon’s society. There is much work to be done, but the seeds of change have been sowed. Like so many other nations, Cameroon has suffered from the dehumanization of its agricultural heritage. Much knowledge has been lost, and many traditions have faded into obscurity. A vibrant, community-based, health-promoting agriculture is an attainable goal, but it will be forever elusive unless the people learn how to create and maintain fertile soil using rocks—the most inexpensive and abundant of all materials.

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