“It was amazing to see the community come together to dig the pipeline. We all participated in the digging and laying of the pipes in the trench. It took us two weeks to complete this job.”– Farmer Tantoh, Project Manager, Cameroon.
Dr. Neil Shulman, Global Health and Humanitarian Summit
“It doesn’t matter where you come from, you are never too small or insignificant to contribute to the long-term sustainability of our planet. By doing simple things to the best of your ability,you are improving our world.”
Dr. Neil Shulman, American doctor, medical writer, and Associate Professor in the School of Medicine at Emory University knows the merit of storytelling for stage and screen. His own story, Doc Hollywood, was made into a movie starring Michael J. Fox in 1991, and will soon be made into a Broadway Musical by Warner Brothers. Dr. Shulman founded the Global Humanitarian Summit. It was at the most recent such event in Atlanta that he met Tantoh Nforba Dieudonne from Cameroon, and knew that this man had a book and a movie wrapped up in a charismatic yet humble caring presence, and infectious smile.
The man from the land known as Africa in Miniature, Cameroon, is better known as Farmer Tantoh, a name, and brand, as accessible as the man himself. A specialist in spring water catchment protection and agroforestry, Farmer Tantoh is committed to environmental protection, environmental education, and community building through his Save Your Future Association (SYFA- pronounced See-Fah).
Farmer Tantoh’s studies have taken him far and wide, from studying rural development at Regional College of Agriculture (RCA) Bambili in Cameroon’s North West Region, to tropical agriculture in Scotland, springwater conservation with Buddhist communities in Northern Mongolia, the study of watersheds in Russia’s Lake Baikal, the monitoring of streams in San Francisco and comparative watershed study of Lake Tahoe and Lake Baikal. In a one-year scholarship sponsored by the US Department of State, Farmer Tantoh obtained a Certificate in Sustainable Organic Farming Practices.
There is a saying I picked up from an Assyrian (Aramaic-speaking, the original language of Jesus) in West Hollywood once. He received an unprecedented A+ from his film school in San Francisco: “Don’t start out to be great. Be great to start out with.” By the same token, Farmer Tantoh did not start out to get a Ph.D, he had a PHD to start with – Persistence, Hope, and Dedication.
My connection with Farmer Tantoh, like many, is a blessed mixture of fortune and friendship. He is a great friend and partner of Global Cooperation Day, initiated by my mother, Professor Liz Greenwell.
Part of my role involves the application of Prof. Greenwell’s principles of Social, Ethical and Responsible Investment throughout Africa. In that capacity, I received a call from an official rated by Forbes magazine as one of Africa’s most influential people. We did not hesitate to introduce him to Farmer Tantoh.
In this world, where 1.2 billion people have no access to clean water, we believe that it will be Farmer Tantoh who will transplant his success with the Sicia Clean Water Project in Cameroon to a region where 50,000 people – and, nearby, 10 million people – have no access to clean water nor food nor education nor housing. We look forward to seeing that transformation and strategy become a striking reality in the capable and compassionate hands of Farmer Tantoh.
Let’s take a snapshot of a mere fraction of Farmer Tantoh’s accomplishments to date:
– On 13 September 2005, in a letter from Clarence House, HRH Prince Charles was “very impressed” with Farmer Tantoh’s work, and “very much enjoyed” Farmer Tantoh’s “delightful photos”.
– Without any funding whatsoever, Farmer Tantoh created a botanical garden to demonstrate how natural plants can show the value of improving the quality of a stream and saving the stream by highlighting its value. Benches, bridges, relaxation huts, permeable pavers, and a handicraft shop are further additions planned for his botanical garden.
– In Nkambe Central, 1000 homes began to crumble due to soil erosion. Farmer Tantoh helped with the landscaping of 300 homes while educating residents about environmental protection. Farmer Tantoh’s training and methods were taken up by 25 villages.
– Gene Barry, one of the first ever Peace Corps Volunteers, set up by President Kennedy in 1963, visited Farmer Tantoh’s village in that same year, and returned to the village to work with Farmer Tantoh 45 years later!
– Using his skills in watershed management, Farmer Tantoh has overseen the planting of over 10,000 trees.
– Though drilling for water can be messy and muddy, Farmer Tantoh and 49 international volunteers from USA, Canada, Europe and Asia installed and tested water pumps, then trained villages to install their own water pumps.
Following on from that, the Students Association for International Water Issues (SAIWI) from the University of Reno, Nevada, trained on manual drilling to provide clean water.
– Farmer Tantoh identified 100 threatened springs in the whole of North West Cameroon and other regions. A spring in Yaounde,the capital city of Cameroon, serves 5000 people during a water crisis. It needs rehabilitation, construction of stand taps, a washing point, and conservation.
– Reliable forms of transportation – sturdy land cruisers or at least four-wheel drives- are needed to move from place to place to monitor progress and transport water supplies.
For the future, Farmer Tantoh plans to drill wells in need of clean water, expand and create new botanical gardens, establish a training resource center, continue the conservation of watersheds/catchments by planting trees and building water reservoirs, to secure safe accommodation and transportation for international volunteers, train future environmentalists and to start his own landscaping company.
That future for Farmer Tantoh is already moving in leaps and bounds, with his latest update received today, shared in the photograph for this article:
Greetings from Cameroon and hope you are doing well.
Just a quick note to update you all that l recently received another award called Princess Recognition Award by Marie Claire Kuja Foundation USA. They were in Cameroon for an Empowerment conference where l was a guest speaker. To my greatest surprise, they told me the day before the end of the conference l was one of the laureates nominated for the award for my dedicated services to our environment.
Thank you all for your support.
From little things big things grow.
Congratulations and best wishes, Farmer Tantoh!
September 7, 2016.
I have added this documentary that Farmer Tantoh did with Cameroon Television, on the provision of water for people with special needs: