The Mangoes of Bambouti, Central African Republic

The Mango season in Bambouti, Central African Republic spans from April to August. This coincided with the arrival of almost 4,000 South Sudandese refugees in Bambouti. They face many challenges, amongst which, hunger in the horizon with the end of the mango season. The abundance of the mangoes have played down the effect of hunger.

In November 2015, about 4,050 men, women and children fleeing violence in the South Sudanese towns of Source Yubu and Ezo abandoned their livelihoods to find safe haven in Bambouti, a sub prefecture in a very remote south eastern part of the Central African Republic. Even though the arrival of the refugees has put much strain on natural resources in the area, nature has a way of answering this call.
One of the first things that catches the attention of a visitor to Bambouti is the abundance of mangoes and mango trees. The visitor actually may have the impression that every family owns a tree. The mangoes are everywhere. On the trees, under the trees, in homes and in very limited quantities in the local market. The abundance of fresh mangoes could greatly generate income for both the inhabitants and the newly arrived refugees in Bambouti. However this is sadly not the case.  The access roads linking Bambouti with the rest of the country are almost impossible to use during the mango season, which also coincides with the rainy season. The availability of the mangoes has provided a ready answer to the nutrition challenges facing both the locals and the refugees.

The inhabitants of Bambouti have developed a method to ferment the ripe mangoes to produce a liquor for local consumption called “bodamango". In other parts of CAR, the same process is used to transform honey into a liquor locally called "Angara" or “Douma”.

As the refugees continue to satisfy their hunger with the mangoes of Bambouti, there remains an urgent need for humanitarian actors to assist them with basic necessities. They have erected make shift shelters with palm tree branches and sticks, and these provide them with little protection from rain, rodents and reptiles. 

Ask and you shall receive.

I changed my MTN mobile phone subscription from pre-paid to post-paid recently. The technical change from pre-paid to post-paid became effective while I was abroad. A month later I was slammed with an sms informing me of a bill of 225,000 CFA. I didn’t believe my eyes as I counted the zeros in the bill to be sure it was really what it was.
I called a couple of friends in the MTN VIP service in Bastos to complain in vain. I requested a detailed bill and yes, those figures were correct.
I looked in detail and tried to check out the supposed dialed numbers. Everything seemed to fall in place. After all, machines don’t lie right? 

I decided to pay the bill to avoid suspension of my line: act and complain later. One fateful day I received a call from an MTN post-paid customer service agent. After the usual courtesies, he said he would like to know my appreciation of their post-paid services. I took a deep breath and then fired on with my story about the inflated bill etc etc. He was wise in letting talk non-stop because I would not have entertained any interruptions. At the end of my polite ranting he gave me an email address to channel my complaint to.

You bet I sent a very self-explanatory and strongly-worded email contesting the bill. The following day I received an acknowledgement receipt of my complaint. Two days later I was pleasantly informed, with apologies, that they have refunded 213,000 CFA into my account. I am planning to request a cheque because I don’t trust machines anymore. They could just deduct that money without my knowledge. What do you think?

Lesson learnt:
-          Machines are not always right. Maybe they smell the ability of customers and bill accordingly.
-          Do not bill to kill. Some customers know their rights more than you think.

The artificial scarcity of cooking gas

This is how they create artificial scarcity. My cooking gas is finished. I went to buy it this morning and the seller says he doesn't have it. I am about to leave and he tells me there is another guy who has it in limited numbers just around the corner, but I have to pay 7.000frs rather than the official 6.500frs. 

I thought about it and decided to leave. It is true I am desperate to get the gas but why should I pay more? I called one lady from whom I always buy gas. She said I should call her back in two hours to know if she already has it. I just called now and yaaaay! She has just received a huge consignment of gas. It is really about time I bought a second bottle. 

Now tell me, should I report the previous guy to the authorities? Dont forget to put your first name. Thanks!

A misinterpretation of the Law.

One fine Sunday morning, I took the kids for a walk around the big Bastos round about.  Beautiful flowers and trees grace the area.  As I approached the roundabout, I saw the big sign board with the following inscription in French: Yaoundé Urban Council Area. "Sports and leisure activities forbidden. Offenders will be punished".
I thought to myself, sports and leisure activities probably refer to physical exercises and picnics. So I confidently stepped on the lawn and approached the concrete chairs.  One police officer in the nearby police van beckoned to me to come over. I crossed the road to where he was and after introducing himself, he said in French: “Have you read the sign board?”

I said sure I have.  I added that those concrete chairs were put for a reason. I am going over there to have a walk and enjoy the flowers with the kids.  He said no no no, you can’t do that. I just stood there, blankly looking at him in disbelief.  Tell me honestly, if it was you will you go ahead and do your walk or just go home? I went home. I had no intention of spoiling my Sunday.