Walking a Mile in Her Shoes
Actually, we trekked and climbed about 5 miles to visit Eunice’s farm, and our path was much easier than her typical route. Eunice is a GHAPE borrower and a farmer. She grows potatoes, corn, and beans. Then she sells the vegetables to people from her home. Traveling to the closest market in Belo would be much too far. I rode for 30 minutes on a motorbike to reach her village, and the 5 miles that we hiked together was only the portion of the trip (beyond the village) that was not passable by motorbike. When I announced at the borrower meeting that I wanted to see her farm, everyone warned me that it was very far away – a 3 hour climb. I knew her three hours would be a much faster pace than mine, but I also knew I needed to go.
So, off we go – Eunice, the GHAPE Branch Manager Donald, and myself. After about 30 minutes at my slow American pace, Donald realizes we need to take a bike if we want to reach her farm before sunset. I readily concur, and we keep walking until we reach the next village. There, I rest while Donald arranges for two bikes. It takes awhile because we have to find bikes with enough horsepower to manage the treacherous roads. Seriously, I felt like I was on an open air, no-seat-belt, “reality” roller coaster. There’s a reason the locals walk. And yet, I also felt very safe because the drivers in Cameroon are very careful.
When Peter, our motorbike driver who is also a GHAPE borrower and the Treasurer and Opinion Leader for his Center, dropped us off, I naively hoped that were very close to Eunice’s farm. But no, we climbed for almost 2 hours. Eunice makes this journey at least once per week carrying her produce on her back after harvesting, and remember, she walks all of it – no motorbike. Eunice is very strong, and today she was very patient with me. Along the way up and back down, Eunice and Peter both introduced me to many more GHAPE borrowers. There are three Centers – about 125 borrowers – in this section of the mountains, and almost all of them are farmers. Most of them have similar hikes as Eunice to reach their farm and return back to their village.