Leigh and Pat at the airport

Just before Christmas, Pat and Leigh met Laurent, CamCat’s preferred contractor for building the wells and latrines in Cameroon, in the capital Yaoundé. Sandrine and Didier, Pat’s sister and brother-in-law, were also there, so it was quite a convivial occasion!

The discussions went much better than those in Bertoua in June. Laurent seemed particularly impressed that Pat and Leigh had come to Cameroon specially to see him and so was very amenable and co-operative over CamCat’s Health and Safety concerns in digging the wells and latrine pits.

Pat explained that CamCat wanted to collaborate more closely with Laurent, and put in place a framework agreement for the construction of future wells and latrines and other projects. The purpose would be to achieve cost savings on individual projects, improved quality and safer methods of working and, possibly, new innovative construction methods.

Laurent responded positively to the importance of implementing good Health and Safety procedures for the safety of the workers, and also to avoid the consequences of litigation and losing his own business.

He was happy to co-operate with CamCat’s objectives and recognised the importance of promoting himself as a safe Contractor to expand his business in the future. As far as safer methods of excavating hand-dug shafts were concerned, he said he would try to follow CamCat’s guidelines –it was clearly in his interests to do so, both for his own peace-of-mind and to avoid legal proceedings if anything untoward happened to his workers, visitors to the site, the public and the users of the facilities.

To this end, he would be happy to provide a detailed Works programme, regular progress photographs as the works were being carried out (more frequently for critical stages), and would especially welcome attendance by an experienced and competent supervising engineer for such critical stages.

A safe hand dug well in operation

Concerning snagging on previous projects and remedial works, it was agreed that these would be completed before the Team arrived in the summer this year. As a cost-saving for not constructing the soakaway pit and discharging the waste water to the existing drains, Laurent proposed £100 per well, but mentioned that the drain run could be longer and therefore cost more. Permission to discharge into public drain still required written confirmation from the local State Office, but PMb was reassured by the Regional Préfet and Maire that this would not be an issue. At the same time, he (Laurent) needed to be satisfied that the designs he was being asked to construct, if executed in accordance with the Specifications, were “fit-for purpose” (though he didn’t actually use that expression!). He was particularly concerned with the stability of the shallower circular masonry-lined pit of bottle-kiln form that was being considered for the latrines.

Regarding the site for the community latrine in Tongo, Pat met the village chief and elders in Tongo with Laurent and Sandrine. The site is now allocated not far from the village market, on the same side going towards the Medical Centre, less than 50 metres from the main road. The villagers suggested to run the latrines as a business, where the Manager will be voted in for a period and monitored by his performance.

Pat also met representatives of another NGO and visited the latrines financed by the EU. He was extremely disappointed with the quality and lack of engagement and consideration in the delivery.

Actions arising from the trip include:

  • Prepare scope of site investigation to be carried out prior to excavation
  • Detailed design and construction programme
  • Maintenance requirements for wells
  • Simple, easy-to-read, safe-working procedures, in the form of notes, sketches
  • Proposals for action in event of non-compliance
  • Proposals for experienced site-supervision during critical stage of the Works
  • Proposals for ensuring budget and funding cash-flow to be in place to meet programme

Chez Pat’s brother after the meeting

Last but not least, our thanks go to Pat’s family and friends in Cameroon for being so hospitable and friendly and making the trip so pleasant.