Wednesday, August 8, 2012



That mid-morning in October 2010, the people summoned to attend   a meeting announced several days before were present in the conference hall of the city district council. All were seated. But, the “chef de quartier”, the man whose presence was absolutely necessary was no where to be found The neighbourhood meeting was going to make little sense without his presence, given the tremendous influence he has over the people he rules in the neighbourhood. In fact, his presence was all the more necessary as the meeting was summoned to chart strategies for mobilising all the residents in the neighbourhood to participate in all stages of the execution of a series of socio-economic infrastructures - which the people desperately need – financed by the World Bank through a program – PDUE – in the Cameroon’s Ministry of Housing and Urban Development.  Yet, the man who was supposed to be the first at the meeting as the “quarter head” was the last, and there was no indication that, he was any where near to attending the meeting. Some of the people present began loosing their patience as they had other businesses to take care of. Thirty minutes, one hour, two hours, “no chef de quartier”. 

After some time, the organizers of the meeting were told that, the “chef” did not come because, he was not given his “carburant” or fuel. In fact, in Cameroonian parlance, carburant means “money” given to an official (not all ask for it though) before he/she officiates at a ceremony or an event. They were told that, the chef de quarier had expressed surprise that, a World Bank funded project should fail to give “his share” of   the World Bank money. He was quoted to have exclaimed in total dismay, C’est quand meme la Banque Mondiale!” /”It’s the World Bank after all!” meaning an institution which has so much money, all the money in the World! And he could understand why the organizers did not see as natural to give him the Bank’s money.
Curious and paradoxical as it may sound, this “chef de quartier” was not to blame entirely for this development unfriendly attitude. Rumour was to blame. How? 

The government of Cameroon contracted a huge loan from the World Bank and in 2007, it set up a structure, PDUE charged with the responsibility to conceive and supervise the construction of health centres, schools, markets, sports arenas, community halls and access roads in some of the poorest neighbourhoods of five cities of the country – Maroua, Bamenda, Douala, Mbalmayo and Yaoundé. From the start, the beneficiary population was quite enthusiastic and energized to cooperate, and participate in all the stages of the project cycle. 

But, somewhere along the line, something happened. A rumour-virus hit and dis-activated the connecting chains in the implementation process of the project, and was about paralysing the whole project cycle.  Rumours held that, the World Bank channelled money for the poor in the poor neighbourhoods through the PDUE, the councils as key partners in the project, and some members of the executive of the NDC, but the money did not trickle down to them. Some people reacted by not attending meetings. Some government officials such as divisional officers as well, were not quite hot to attend meetings because they were not steamed with some “carburant”/fuel.  The initial enthusiasm generated by the project began waning and was almost petering out. This was a sufficiently serious threat to efforts by PDUE to provide basic amenities to populations living in some of the most life-negating areas of the five towns concerned by the project.  The amenities were their first ever in fifty years after the independence of Cameroon.

Given the seriousness of the challenge, the executing agency PDUE, called in communication “doctors” to deal with the rumour-virus and save the project. After a stiff competitive selection process under World Bank criteria, Change Communications (Change Comms.) was taken for the job. We were committed by the terms of reference, to find out more about the communication-based obstructions to the implementation of the project, and to find a lasting solution to it by way of training intermediaries who would serve as interface in information flows between the executing agency and the public, and between the project management and the beneficiary communities.We carried the training between February and March 2012.

The situational analysis, (baseline study) we carried out as a prelude activity to our mission of training selected members of the Neighbourhood Development Committees (NDC) of the five towns confirmed rumour as a seriously dislocating force to the project. The generation of rumour was in itself a consequence to a number of factors: insufficient information available and accessible to all, use of inappropriate channels for the scanty information available and with flows limited at the up-stairs of management, ignorance of the beneficiary due to very low levels of literacy in some cases,  the multi-ethnic composition of the inhabitants with conflicting interests and difficulties mobilizing such a mix for concerted action towards the attainment of collective good,  and the subversive activities of some local political elite in their attempts to arrogate the paternity of the projects to their list of achievements, if they have ever recorded any at all.

On the basis of this baseline data, Change Comms, conceived contents, and designed methodology for the training. The training was carried out by seasoned communicators and information experts. Shifu Ngalla, Coordinator of Change Comms, as the brain behind the conception and design of the entire training program was the lead trainer. To deal with various components of the communication-connected problem, we designed modules on basic notions of information and communication, rumour, citizenship communication, techniques of mobilization etc. We expected that, at the end of the training seminars, the participants should be able to mobilize the primary beneficiaries of PDUE projects (quarter residents) to participate in all phases of the project from conception through all stages of the project cycle, prevent poor management of information marked by the spread of rumour all of which constituted a serious constraint to the realization of PDUE projects, disseminate abundant and reliable public information to enable people better understand the philosophy and activities of PDUE as a development organization, and to use information and communication correctly as tools for the  protection of the infrastructure already provided.

Given the very low levels of literacy of some of the trainees, Change Comms designed a methodology based on the simple principle of learning by doing.  We used lots of practical drills to concretized illusive communication concepts, pictorials based on local colour and flavour to familiarize them with concepts and digest them for easy assimilation. We also used linguistic devices. Whenever necessary, we used lingua franca of the people such as Fulfulde in Maroua, and Pidgin English in Bamenda and Douala. In Yaoundé and Mbalmayo, the Ewondo language was used from time to time. Our lead trainer Shifu Ngalla’s linguistic proficiency was particularly helpful as he could switch from French to English, French to Fulfulde, and from English to Pidgin English. Bingono Bingono Francois, an accomplished communicator and man of theatre, simplified some of the most complex communication concepts by simply dramatizing them. 

In a brief chart during the seminar in Bamenda, the PDUE coordinator, Marie-Claire Essono expressed satisfaction with the job done by Change Communications. She encouraged the organization to continue with “same spirit of seriousness.”

At the end of the day, the series of seminar born out of an atmosphere of suspicion provoked by wild rumours and marked by uncertainty at the start of each session, turned out to be sessions of communion between trainers and trainees , and by extension, communion between PDUE and the beneficiaries.
However, an evaluation of how the trainees are applying what they learned during the seminar would  be necessary as a matter of logic.

Photo album of workshops
1) Yaounde III – Nsam-Efoulan, Ngoa-Ekelle, Dakar
 Consultant/Lead Trainer Shifu Ngalla 
Participants presenting an Expose on a workshop topic

Participants practicing the Public Speaking exercise in Yaounde

 Participants at the CRTV National Station Yaounde 
2) Douala II Council – New Bell and Nkolmitag,
Bingono Bingono training participant at the Douala II Council Library

Bingono Bingono, Lazare Etoundi and Lead Consultant Shifu Ngalla in Douala

Some underdeveloped quarters of New-Bell Douala

Participants visiting the CRTV National Station Douala 

3) Bamenda Atua-Azire Community Hall - Atuazire, Mugheb, Ntambag

 Participants at the Atua-Azire Community Hall

Jean Claude Tchapchet   and   Mme Marie Essono
  PDUE Training Officer               PDUE Coordinator
                             Atua-Azire – Bamenda

Demonstration exercise on spread of rumour/kongossa
Bamenda – Atua-Azire Community Hall  

  Lead Trainer Shifu Ngalla training participants in Bamenda 

Lead Trainer Shifu Ngalla replying to a Participant in Bamenda

 Participants visiting CRTV Installations Up-Station Bamenda

4) Mbalmayo Motel Hall – Obeck and New Town

Francois BINGONO BINGONO training in Mbalmayo

Participants visiting the District Hospital Mbalmayo as an  information centre

5) Yaounde IV – Nkoldongo and Ekounou
 Lazare Etoundi at the Workshop in Nkoldongo

Participants in methods of role playing in Nkoldongo

Wednesday, March 24, 2010




Resource Persons:
  • Dr Ghogomu; Geography Department, University of Yaounde 1
    Ayuk Elizabeth,
    Geography Department, University of Buea
  • Eno Chris Oben, Regional Delegate for Communications, South West Region
  • Shifu Ngalla, Environmental Report and Coordinator for Change Communications


  • Preparation of workshop material and arrangemant of the hall by Awafong Julius (Project Coordinator) and Tata Donita Nshani (Project Research Assistant)
  • Assembly of Participants at the conference Hall of the Women’s Empowerment Centre - Kumba
  • Arrival of Local officials and His Excellency the British High Commissioner to Cameroon and his suite
  • Introduction of workshop by the Change Communication Coordinator, Shifu Ngalla.
  • A word from the Regional Delegate of Communication for the South West Region, Eno Chris Oben
  • A word from the British High Commissioner to Cameroon.

Climate Change; what it is, causes, impacts and consequences at the global level. Dr Ghogomu, The University of Yaounde 1.
Climate Change in the Western highlands of Cameroon (North West and West Regions) Dr. Ghogomu.
Climate Change; the forest and coastal ecosystems. Ayuk Elizabeth, University of Buea.
Discussion with participants on solutions to Climate Change at the village community level what can or should the community do? Dr Ghogomu, Ayuk Elizabeth, Shifu Ngalla.
Pole of Community Radiobroadcaster as intermediary communicators for development in general and the fight against climate change in particular. Eno Chris Oben
Guiding principles in the production of radio programmes on the environment in general and climate change in particular. Structuring a programme on climate change (a model structure). Shifu Ngalla
Discussion with participants on relevant topics/themes for the production of programmes on climate change in their various localities. Shifu Ngalla
Assessment and Resolution of workshop/Work in Commissions.

At the end of the workshop on climate change sponsored by the British High Commission to Cameroon which took place in Kumba from Monday, February 22 to Wednesday February 24, 2010 for rural radio broadcasters in the South West and North West Regions of Cameroon, participants at the workshop saw the need to work together in a synergy for better programming and advocacy on the environment and climate change related issues hereby resolved as follows:
1. Send special appreciation to the British High Commission for sponsoring the workshop.
2. Wish that more of such workshops be organized to strengthen the capacities of Rural Radio Communicators.
3. Hereby form an association of Rural Radio Broadcasters of English Expression known as North West and South West Association of Community Radio Broadcasters abbreviated (NOSACOB).
4. That the Global Objective is to cause change of mentality towards the environment and climate change related issues and intensify networking amongst members.
5. The association shall source for partners to attain her objective.
6. An interim to organize the smooth take off of the association.
7. The interim executive comprises the following:
a) The Coordinator
· Mr Obi Joseph – Voice of Manyu – Mamfe
b) Vice Coordinator
· Tamnjong Ndi Richard – Donga Mantung Community Radio – Nkambe
c) Secretary
· Mngo Demse Macarius – Oku Rural Radio
d) Vice Secretary
Emmanuel Ndongo Mulonge – Bonakanda Rural Radio - Buea
e) Treasurer
Nnah Gillian Tita - Lakesite Radio – Kumba
· Ngwan Patrick M. – Bui Community Radio – Kumbo
· Atabong George – Lebialem Community Radio – Limbe
· Jani Colette Welle – Lakesite Radio – Kumba
· Olive Ejang Tebug – The Post Newspaper – Kumba
· Ines Sob MoyoupaOcean City Radio – Limbe
· Seidu Maweh – Water Project Initiative – Ndu
· Muchop Walters Tebidson – Batibo Council Community Radio – Batibo
· Amina Ali – Donga Mantung Community Radio – Nkambe

Participants/trainees drawing up a radio programme on Climate Change (Group 1)

Participants/trainees drawing up a radio programme on Climate Change (Group 2)

Resource Person (Elizabeth) explaining to participants about Climate Change.

Resource Person (Dr Ghogomu) explaining to participants about Climate Change.

Coordinator of Workshop/ChangeComms (Shifu Ngalla) explaining to participants the technics on comminucating on Climate Change and how to build a good radio programme on Climate Change.

Deputy Britsh High Commissioner to Cameroon in an interview with a participant.
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