As part of our trip to St. Mary's College in Ndop, the two faculties were treated to a tour of the UNVDA rice processing facility. UNVDA stands for Upper Nun Valley Development Authority. The plant takes the rice from a number of different farmers and processes it together, combining forces to be able to have industrialized capabilities. It was very interesting.
Many teachers were surprised to see so many bags of rice, millions of kgs of rice, in storage. Some were offended that so much food would be kept from the public, until they learned on the tour that the rice must be aged in order to cook properly.
The tour was all in French, so I spent my time nosing around and taking pictures. I don't understand a word of French. I picked up some of the content from conversations the teachers had amongst themselves.
One of the interesting things about the tour was discovering that the region only uses about 1/8th of its potential farmland. The goal of the UNVDA is to slowly begin to develop more and more land, until by 2020 it is all used for the benefit of the local economy. Upon hearing this, one of the teachers brought up "by 2035 we will emerge," a reference to Cameroonian President Paul Biya's goal of developing Cameroon to the point where it is an "emerging" nation by 2035, as opposed to the developing nation it is now.
Paul Biya, by the way, supervises much of the work around here. You see his face on the wall on calendars, in framed portraits of him where the picture was taken in the 90's, on people's t-shirts and other clothing, on huge posters hanging from lampposts... He is the "people's choice," as the t-shirts proclaim. They've been choosing him for 30 years now.
I liked seeing how rice is processed and made available to the people. It was fascinating and informative, both hearing how things work and seeing how tours work here, how people behave and what tidbits from the tour they latch onto. I hope the UNVDA is successful in its efforts to develop the rice production and the land, helping to put Cameroon to the road to emergence.