Bitter Kola Hunt In Lebialem: The Sweet-Bitter Tale Of A Czech

Bitter Kola Hunt In Lebialem: The Sweet-Bitter Tale Of A Czech

My name is Anna Manourova and I’m a Master’s student from Czech University of Life Sciences Prague. I came to Lebialem in search of bitter kola and luckily ERuDeF gave me a supportive hand!

Garcinia kola from the Clusiacea family is an agroforestry tree native to West Africa. It is being referred to as the “wonder tree” reflecting its medicinal potential.

 Many researchers are recently working on bioactive components contained in bitter kola seeds. It is proved that bitter kola has anti-inflammatory, anti-microbial, antioxidant, antigen toxic and hepato protective effects on human health.

What is more amazing is that in the laboratory trials, it was discovered that bitter kola can halt the deadly disease caused by Ebola virus in its tracks and remarkable activity was observed in cancer prevention. However, information on biodiversity as well as natural distribution of this species are generally lacking. It seems like no one is really taking care of the source of production as most of the recent studies were just performed in the laboratory.

Therefore, my thesis is on “the morphological and chemical diversity of different bitter kola population in the Southwest region of Cameroon”.

Before coming to Menji, I have already spent almost three weeks in the field. Lebialem gave me a lot of new and unexpected experiences! The goal was to sample 20 mature fruiting trees, in a distance of at least 100 metres, and to harvest 10 fruits and 5 leaves per tree.

With help from an ERuDeF Field Specialist, Ntungwa Elong, we hit the bush the second day after my arrival. We survived a couple of stiff, muddy or stony hills and then it started to rain. For the first time, I had an opportunity to use my raincoat. I enjoyed the hilly landscape, the forest covered with fog and scattered houses in the slopes.

For the first sampling, we stopped in Nkong Village and as the day was getting to an end, we spent the night in Bechati, our final stop. The next day, we managed to sample 13 trees in both Bechati and BantiVillages and decided to go back to Menji for the rest 7 trees. This was the point when the real adventure started…

The Bad Road Experience

We left Bechati around 2 pm with the hope of arriving Menji before nightfall. Little did we know it would not be fulfilled. In the middle of our way, it started raining so heavily that we had problems to stay on a path! Water was coming down through slopes. The slippery road affected our motorcycle (carrying my bag and 35 kg of bitter kola fruits) and it got stuck in the mud.

“Grab that stone!” Till today, I hear this statement re-echo live in my head. For the first time in my life, I learned how to put stones behind back wheels and how to push a motorbike out of mud. Most of the time, I was climbing the hills on foot to reduce pressure on our already overweight bike. We fell from the bike about five times. Lucky enough, I had no serious injury except a big bruise on my left calf.  Apart from the bruise, my phone, as well as camera, stopped working properly due to the rain.

It was getting darker and darker, the night was getting colder and we were running out of fuel. We still had at least 2 hours to reach our destination. We were literally exhausted but we survived.

Despite these conditions, we succeeded in our mission and collected enough bitter kola trees samples.

I will never forget my Lebialem experiences.

Now, if someone tells me the roads are bad, my answer is: “Have you been to Lebialem?” Thank you again for the opportunity and lessons learned! Hopefully I will find a chance to visit the place again but this would definitely be in the dry season.