The engineer and the plants
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CTA. 1999. The engineer and the plants. Spore 84. CTA, Wageningen, The Netherlands.
Permanent link to this item: http://hdl.handle.net/10568/46551
Internet URL: http://spore.cta.int/images/stories/pdf/old/spore84.pdf
Stephan Tongo was trained as an engineer in the national training college at Vierzon in France. In the early 1960s, he took up a post in the national railway company of Cameroon, as the manager of rolling-stock maintenance. At home, in the villa...
The engineer and the plants Stephan Tongo was trained as an engineer in the national training college at Vierzon in France. In the early 1960s, he took up a post in the national railway company of Cameroon, as the manager of rolling-stock maintenance. At home, in the villa garden, he started raising chickens, setting out a chicken run with fences among his mango and guava trees. He made his own incubators, feeding troughs and watering troughs. It all started as a hobby, but gradually it became a means of seeing his way to the end of the month and feeding his family. His talent as an engineer provided a good foundation for setting up a real farm. With help from his sons and his mother, by 1982 he had a battery farm of 1,000 laying hens, and 500 meat chickens, and a growing clientele. Then one sad day a supplier gives him some bad feed, and it killed his chickens. At the same time, he was promoted to a job that took all his time, leaving him with none for looking after his poultry. So Stephan Tongo sold out, sold everything. A few years later, after retiring from the railway company, he started playing around, out of interest, with medicinal plants. He visited old healers and he joined in a research project to make the National Herbarium of Cameroon. Learning to treat stomach upsets and other illnesses, he launched a research centre called 'Besoka ba Miele', which means 'the secret of plants' in the Duala language. He carried on healing, started to grow medicinal plants, and continued to innovate: he invented a process for pasteurising his potions, and discovered that some of the plants can be administered to the sick in the form of infusions which he now makes himself. The greenhouse that he built on the corner of his house serves as a pharmacy where he directly picks the plants he uses to treat his patients. He has become involved in surveying the major herbs and barks which treat malaria and asthma. His ambition is as strong as ever: now he wants to expand his plant crops and have a huge reserve of medicinal plants, producing them on a large scale.