Wednesday, June 30, 2010

Greetings from Cameroon (Part 4)

Teke’s water source. There are numerous
 springs that feed this stream.
Greetings again from the Southwest Province of Cameroon!

Another week has passed, and the stress of the visa situation has since left us, thankfully.

We continued the week surveying and evaluating the village of Teke. This is a village that we were handed the design of their planned water system at the beginning of the summer, and we came across major concerns from an engineering perspective. It is frustrating to see how many of these water systems have been designed. There appears to be a lack of understanding of fundamental hydraulics and of health organization codes, and this is evident in both the design plans and in speaking with the designers and the water committees of the villages. The training (if any) of these designers is inadequate… and there isn’t any true engineering schools in Cameroon. Many of them are technician schools, which are a great start, but there needs to be better understanding of very basic hydraulics.

One of the biggest problems that result from these poor designs is that communities can be told falsely that a system will work. In several of the systems we have evaluated, there have been issues of poorly performed surveys and improper use of hydraulic terminology. Systems have been designed badly, with pressures in some locations high enough to burst pipes, tap stands that water will not reach, and expensive storage tanks when they are not needed. In short: villages are under the assumption that the design will work, when that is not the case.

Granted, some of the systems we have designed for villages may not work up to the standards we would like. There are many things that need to align and come together for a gravity based water system to work, and we have come across major characteristics of the villages’ water sources that does not make the design of such a system easy. Some things consist of whether the stream source provides enough water for the demand, the elevations along the path to the village, and the length of the distance from the source to the village. However, it is important to be able to have an honest and frank conversation that may be hard to have with the village leaders. We will be expecting to have such conversations with two villages in the next few days.

Now on to lighter matters – I can tell you the place you do not want to be: when your home country’s football (soccer) team loses to an African nation when you are in an African nation… Everyone around us began to cheer pretty heartedly when the final whistle sounded. As much as I wanted Ghana to do well, it was bittersweet to see them do well at the hands of the US. America played great, and they had incredible opportunities to score. But the difference between teams that win and those that don’t is that the ones that win capitalize on those opportunities. So hats off to Ghana, they earned that win with some fantastic shots.

It is hard to believe I have been in Cameroon for just over 4 weeks now, and I am halfway through my trip. There has been so many beautiful sights I’ve seen and experiences which have already shaped me for the better, and I’m excited to see what we can accomplish in this last month before we depart on the 30th.

Until then, I’ll just be dreaming of funnel cakes from the Great Darke County Fair!

Geoff Holmes, Civil Engineer, FE, University of Dayton '10 graduate

Photos below: (L) A dance club in Kumba – I am slowly losing my 2nd left foot, (R) During a 2nd survey trip to Teke, our team member Wyatt got knee high in water while walking along the stream.


  1. I'm really enjoying your posts. Keep up the good work over there.

  2. Great stories, thanks for sharing them.

  3. good work Geoff! have you taught the locals how to throw a disc yet?

  4. Corboy - unfortunately, I have not...
    But funny short - my two partners were once tossing a disk outside of our house during some downtime, and our neighbor came out, looked at them funny, and asked, "Do you want a ball?"
    Who says you need a ball for a sport?


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