Fieldwork in Cameroon

We just returned from an interesting fieldwork trip in Cameroon. At the invitation of CML Leiden, NL and CEDC Maroua, CAM we participated in the workshop “ People and Pixels” on February 8 in Maroua, Cameroon.

In addition to our presentation we also did a short collaborative project with Bororo (Fulani) nomads in the Waza Logone floodplain, in close collaboration with Haman Unusa who had recorded eight months of GPS data of two Bororo families for his ecological research.

The GPS tracks had been recorded by collaring one of the cows in the herds. So the tracks show both the overall migration pattern of the two families, as well as the daily herding patterns of the cows.

Our first robot drawings in the Waza Logone Floodplain

We brought the prototype of the robot to Cameroon: finally we could try out our concept of drawing GPS tracks on the ground, and thus create an outdoors -intimate setting to discuss the routes with the families. Would it work as expected? Back in Amsterdam we had been going over the data, trying out the routes in the studio, and selected the first four month of the track: the one way route from the north, to the south. From our experience this was the best selection for a clear representation. We uploaded the tracks to the robot and planned to show them to the families concerned.

This was a great opportunity to test what it would mean to these families to actually see their own route, and how the visualization relates to their own memories.

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We traveled to the camp, cleared a small field and on the exiting start moment we launched the robot, in the midst of a group of Fulani that looked at its movements. Haman explained to the families that they were looking at their own collar data: and we waited to see how the reaction of the family members would be.

Haman explains

To our surprise they immediately recognized the route, and named the different locations. Based on the sand track they explained the differences between the rainy season and dry season locations, pointed out places were cows were stolen, calf’s had been eaten by the hyena’s and one of the men’s wife’s, in despair of all the set backs, had run of to her fathers, only to return after a couple of month.

The Famely head of the first group comments on the route

We asked him to draw the route of the wife, and he made a clear drawing of his wife’s route, from her father’s camp, located more eastward, back to his.

robot drawing with the women

We also did the same robot presentation for the women, and they turned out to see the route from a slightly differed perspective.

Haman explaines

They distinguished the different locations based on the possibilities of milk sale, and could explain to us the differences in milk prices, during the changes of seasons and locations.

The Women explain to us the differences in milk prices, during the changes of seasons and location’<p>s.

On our way back to the city Haman Unusa remarked: Esther do you know: this is great. These families collaborated with us, by letting us collar their cows….. But only now we are able to give them really feedback on what we were doing…. so they also now have a clue of what this collar was all about! If we in future want to have ecological positive results, we should be able to explain what we are doing to the people. We will have to collaborate! This is a great tool…


During our fieldwork we recorded a lot of beautiful film footage that we did not manage to edit yet: soon we expect to publish some fragments here!

The fieldwork was executed by Esther Polak, Haman Unusa, (guiding and interpretation) Ab Drent (Camera and interpretation) and Ounuso Kari (field guide)

Thanks to CML and CEDC; Ralph Buij, Hans de Iongh and Haman Unusa for the use of Zebu GPS Data.

One Response to “Fieldwork in Cameroon”

  1. Tilia says:

    This is great, please continue informing on this website!
    I have done my fieldwork in jan-may 2005 with the camp of El Hadj Eli. I am startled and happy to read and see how they are doing.
    Please Haman, send them my warm regards when you visit their camp again. My memories of the time spent with them remains alive and precious.

    All the best with your research project!


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