Wed. Apr 17th, 2024

By Leocadia Bongben

Bafut people have showcased their indigenous knowledge to the world by the way they reconnect with the land, food, and their ancestors. This was during an event dubbed Mandela Day. Mandelah is a traditional festival of the Bafut people, meant to fight hunger in the land. During the ceremony, there is a Mandelah dance, also known as the Royalty Dance, where music from flutes and drums produces a sweet melody to which the people sway and rock gracefully.

The Mandeleh event is part of the Conscious Food System Alliance (COFSA, a UNDP project for indigenous people from Colombia, the Philippines, and Africa). Better World Cameroon, an NGO that promotes permaculture in the Bafut Eco-Village (burnt down in the heat of the Anglophone crisis), had the privilege to represent Africa with events organized from February 14–15, 2024.

The location was the Bafut Palace World Heritage Site. Princess Abumbi Prudence, the Better World Cameroon Coordinator, oversaw the event.

Bafut people shared indigenous knowledge with online participants under the theme “Regenerative Peace Education from Africa for Seeding the Future: from Ubuntu to Kapwa: Reconnecting with Land, Food, and Ancestors through “The Spirit of Ndanifor.”

Through the event Mandeleh, the Bafut people showed the world how they nourish people in the community by respecting food by the way they eat Achu, in the spirit of togetherness from the same banana leaves, licking their fingers, a way of connecting with nature and their ancestors. Achu is eaten with either yellow soup or black soup (garden eggs and mushrooms), among others. The black soup without oil, consists of spices blended to make a delicious soup relished in the land.

On this special occasion, Queen Abumbi Constance led the audience on a trip down memory lane to explore the meaning of the yearly celebration of Mandeleh. According to legend, the ancestors told Niba Sissu, the ancient king of Bafut, that he should encourage his people to concentrate on farming to feed the people and get ready for the days of famine rather than depending on hunting when there was hunger in the land.

Indigenous elders, on occasion, shared their knowledge with the younger generation. They say that by taking young people along to the farm, they transfer their traditional farming practices and customs through quality apprenticeship. Also, by working in community associations, they share knowledge through a community of practice and work on large portions of land by the sheer power of community in the spirit of togetherness, The Spirit of Ndanifor.

According to Abumbi Prudence, holding the event in the palace signifies acceptance and blessings from the king and, by extension, the ancestors, since the king is the link between the living and the dead.

King Abumbi II extended an invitation to Better World Cameroon to share expertise and skills with women and young people in the Bafut Eco-village to support the sustainable development of Bafut. “We share what little we have with the needy and destitute. We have organized this hunger dance with you for you to visit Bafut and share what little you have with us so that we can cultivate crops and produce enough food to feed ourselves. We will provide you with the assistance you need,” the King of Bafut, King Abumbi II, said.

The festival was equally an opportunity for the king to initiate the Better World Cameroon team members as privileged people to become community leaders. It is worth noting that everyone in Bafut land, according to tradition, cannot greet the king unless they have gone through a rite of passage. The king performs the ritual. This explains why some people keep their distance whenever they meet with the king.

During a practical workshop on the farm, shared online, women and teenagers also shared their knowledge of indigenous farming and food preservation. They suggest utilizing dried grass as compost and animal dung as manure instead of fertilizer. In addition, they employ wood ash, (bio-char), which is used on various crops before planting to stop rot and supplement additional nutrients. Young people and women gave planting demonstrations for cassava, yam, and cocoyam. It was also a chance to discuss food preservation. Turmeric is preserved in powder form, taken with tea, and eaten with meals.

All stakeholders co-created indigenous and modern learning tools for inner development. Activities initiated by Better World Cameroon based on “The Spirit of Ndanifor “philosophy were recorded as short video documentaries on indigenous conscious food principles to inspire the world.

Stakeholders adopted “The Spirit of Ndanifor Manifesto” and a declaration to align themselves with CoFSA principles of food consciousness.

In the Bafut Eco Village intergenerational program, women and adolescents learn about permaculture, turmeric/ginger transformation, and other regenerative agricultural skills. Presently, many people are no longer able to benefit from these activities because the village was burned down as the Anglophone crisis rages on in Cameroon’s Northwest and Southwest Regions.

Despite the war devastation, the Bafut indigenous kingdom has the view and aspiration in the reconstruction phase to open Bafut to the world by showcasing their simple indigenous knowledge of community living with nature as an economic model of shifting the community from aid to food sovereignty, ecological agriculture, and regenerative business by making civil society part of the process. The Bafut Ecovillage puts young people’s and women’s projects and compassionate support in synchronicity with integrity and mutual respect through networking and sharing stories. In this model, people come in with their story and leave with another story.

Bafut is a top-notch trainer for regenerative farming, mending human-land relationships, and teaching trainers for these practices—a fact that the world needs to know.

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