The Jungle and I: Notes from Gabon

1670 map of West Africa by English cartographer John Ogilby. Depicts the African Gold Coast, Ivory Coast, and Slave Coast from Guniea south through the modern nations of, Sierra Leone, Liberia, Mali, Burkina Faso, Cote D’Ivoire, Ghana, Togo, Benin, Nigeria, Cameroon, Equatorial Guinea and Gabon. Ogilby modeled this map after the 1639 Hondius / Janesson map. (Courtesy of Wikipedia and Geographicus Rare Antique Maps)


Our Gabonese friend Christian travels frequently between Gabon and South Africa where he presently is reading for a PhD in Soil Science.

Christian and Collen on one of his last visits – always keenly discussing ideas and possible projects.

Being a scientist Christian also involves himself with community work and never tires of ideas how to improve the lot of his people living on the fringe of an enormous indigenous forest. He advises them how best to clear forest areas and plant crops not only to feed themselves effectively but also to procure cash crops while at the same time implementing forest rehabilitation programs. The following photographs detail a few of his ideas.

Small field of pineapple plantings with our friend Christian inspecting the crop.   
Processing the fruit.
Ready to be sold on the local market.

A series of interconnected fish ponds to breed tilapia.

Nile tilapia (courtesy of Wikipedia).

The almost impenetrable indigenous forest of Gabon contains in its core, seen by few, the last remaining paradise on earth, inhabited by pygmies, forest elephants and gorillas, chimpanzees, mandrills and other endangered animals. It is however, threatened by logging companies who are cutting ever deeper into the forest to satisfy the world’s – and here especially China’s demand for precious timber as well as mining for rare minerals. That is where our friend comes in with precious ideas and schemes. Not that he has any illusions about the overwhelming political pressure to exploit those resources, but – and that is so great, he does not give up in the face of virtually insurmountable obstacles.


Forest Elephant in Gabon. (Courtesy of Wikipedia and National Geographic.)

We salute you, Chris – and are looking forward to seeing you again next month!

With love
Walter & Colleen
Hout Bay, Tuesday 29 May 2012

Our man from Gabon – a man for the future

Born as the second-eldest of twelve in a small village surrounded by jungle, finding living quarters with the convent sisters while attending high school and later University in Franceville, Christian steps out of the rain forest in Gabon to do post-graduate work in South Africa and is now registered for his PhD in sustainable management of natural forests integrated with agriculture.

Christian is a man of many things, a universal man, a man of the future in Africa. And he is doing all of it in the face of seemingly insurmountable obstacles, has no illusion about his African environment, yet stays irrepressibly positive about his own plans:

… here I had put all the projects that Christian has lined up but he said to me:
The sapling must be protected until it is properly rooted before it can take the wind … so we will stay quiet until the time is right.

A man with clear ideas about the ecology of logging and integrated agriculture involving the people on the ground. He is, he admits, not a man of the sea or beach but a man of the forest. He has lead research missions into the depths of the rain forest, lived under the forest canopy for months, has encountered gorillas, forest elephants as well as snakes and crocs in what is called the last remaining paradise on earth where the search and the exploitation of oil, manganese and timber, led by ill concealed agents of the Chinese People’s Republic who with one single aim in mind will ravage this paradise until it is destroyed and who will like a swarm of locusts move on to other parts of Africa to join the Mugabes, the dos Santos’s and al-Bashirs of this part of the world to reap and rape in equal measure.

Christian knows only too well, what he is up against, yet he remains calm, goes on with his stuff and does what a man, single-handed, single-minded can do in this world.

Laying the foundations for his factory in Franceville, Gabon. To finish it he would need another 300.000 Rand. No mean amount. He will, he says, build it bit by bit, as he can afford it by working part-time on jobs related to his PhD-thesis. A long way but he will get there. Hat off to you, Chris!

We have known Christian ever since we met in his first post-graduate year in Stellenbosch where he grew close to our hearts. We have seen him grow stronger over the years into a man with vision and and a sustainable plan for the future – his very own to begin with, but one that eventually will effect many others around him, people awakening, people awake like him in Africa.
Our man in Gabon – a man for the future.

With love
from Colleen & Walter
Betty’s Bay, 1 May 2011