Being a DWIG member, you can make your membership either boring or exciting. I prefer to make it active, exciting and not at all boring. Each month, DWIG offers a coffee morning, a group lunch, an outing and a happy hour drink(s). A coffee morning is oftentimes short, hurried and a kiss-hello-how are you-goodbye-see you soon-sort of thing. It is when you meet, greet and set up further or future private get-togethers with each other. Lunch is usually more leisurely at a pre-selected restaurant that might be new or one that you’ve been to. Food can be good, can be bad, but the company will always be great! Happy hours are your let-loose-let-your-hair-down time and shared not only with other members but with partners too! But the outing is really your get-to-know-each-other and explore-Douala/Cameroon-together time.
In February, we visited the Safacam rubber and palm plantation and factories. Safacam is located in Dizangue, some so many hundred kilometers from Douala (between 1.5 and 2 hours from Bonapriso). DWIG member, Nancy, graciously hosted us and arranged the plantation and factory visits with Safacam.
At 8:00 on a Wednesday morning, a small group of DWIG members trooped towards the plantation; sharing 4 cars; traversing the usual bustling road at Ndokoti; driving on the pretty Route Chinoise and proceeding with caution on the highway that would bring us all through Edea onto Dizangue. When we arrived at the gate of the plantation, Nancy and Simon, the plantation manager, met us and immediately led the way to the inner sanctuary of the plantation. We visited the rubber trees first.
As soon as Simon started explaining the development and life cycle of rubber trees, somebody asked the question on why rubber trees lean on one side. His answer: wind direction. It was fascinating to see the actual latex (that liquid that comes from the trunk of the rubber tree) flowing into receptacles so that it may be made later on into tires, gloves or condoms! But touch not the thing! It stinks – it really does! Harvesting the latex is best left to the care of the men as they skilfully wield their odd-shaped knives to scrape off the bark, and let loose the much-coveted white stinking liquid. On the other hand, it is the womenfolk who work in the nursery. Simon shared that the tasks of planting and rearing young rubber trees are given to the women because they are more accurate (necessary for grafting) and provide better care to the newly planted trees, like mothers to their babies.
After the rubber trees, we drove on to look at the palm plantation. Simon’s assistant was eager to explain a palm tree’s life story and how workers would know if the palm nuts were ready to be harvested. Another worker showed off how he cuts off branches that are dry and useless, pointing out that the workers have to keep the surroundings of the palm trees clean so that when a nut falls from a bunch, it can be seen easily. Apparently, a fallen nut signals that the whole bunch of nuts is ready for harvest and can go into oil extraction and processing. Palm nuts provide two types of oil: edible oil used for cooking; and non-edible oil used for soap making. One tidbit learned from Simon, is that the palm tree has a male flower and it’s actually quite useless for the oil business. They, however, provide a tool for reproduction during pollination. After delivering on its role, the male flower shrivels, dies and needs to be cut off and discarded!
During the quick tour of the rubber and palm oil factories, Gerard and Sebastien, factory managers, explained to us the rudiments of rubber and palm oil productions. But the sun, the smell (remember the stinking liquid? Processing it gives off an even worse smell!!!), the noise and the heat in the factories were overpowering us all. Thus, we hurriedly requested both gentlemen to show us the finished products; admiring them with oohhs and aahhhs. Safacam produces rubber for export to tire manufacturers in Europe, the US and Asia. Meanwhile, palm oil produced is only for consumption in Cameroon because despite the number of palm plantations and factories in the country, there is not enough palm oil produced for the local market.
With growling stomachs and near-low sugar levels, we were happy to speed off towards the club house where lunch was served. Now the club house is another story. Perched on a small hill overlooking a lake, the clubhouse was a perfect setting to end a wonderful outing. From a simple but delicious offering of brochettes, roast chicken, plantain, French fries and roasted vegetables, we stuffed ourselves and relaxed while taking in the breathtaking view spread before us.
Back to Douala at 15:00, we made it home on time.
Written by Joy G.