Profile: The fabulous destiny of His Majesty Dr Raymond Tchakounté II. From being a remote rural bolthole to a truly ‘global’ village, the future is looking bright for the people of Fetba.
The British academic and development practitioner Robert Chambers, in his book Rural Development: Putting the Last First, wrote in 1983:
“Rural poverty deserves a higher priority than defence. Yet we found that over 50 per cent of the research scientists in the world engaged in defence work,) in 1980 although there was a stock pile, of nuclear weapons with one million times the destructive power of the Hiroshima bomb, the USA and USSR were spending well over $ 100 million per day on upgrading their nuclear arsenal, compared with a derisory $ 60 million per year devoted to research into tropical diseases research (Stuart 1980 p5 Walsh & Warren 1979).”
Chambers may have been an inspiration for His Majesty Dr Raymond Tchakounté II, the 13th traditional chief of the Fetba dynasty, who himself has a background in the economics of development and who decided to open up to The Bridge Magazine on February 10, 2012, while in Paris to ensure his duties as vice-president of the France- based international humanitarian NGO- “Fetba Planète du Rêve Rural” (in English, “ Fetba – planet of the rural dream).”
His aim is to develop internationally the village of Fetba, putting emphasis on:
• Education and training
• Agriculture and livestock
• Local economic revitalization of the circuit
• Management and use of resources and energies
• Water supply, renewable energy, sanitation to list a few.
The village of Fetba appears to be the NGO’s pilot project for experimentation, observation and incubation of similar projects with the aim to expand in the whole African sub-Saharan area.
Thus, the NGO, with the support of the Cameroonian government, Clermont-Ferrand Council and the Association of Visa Cooperation, has achieved the following:
• The acquisition of an industrial corn mill processer to improve the daily life of villagers in Fetba.
• A modern clinic
Villagers in need of primary clinical care, such as pregnant women who are due to give birth, will no longer have to walk seven-kilometres to their nearest doctor in Bazou or be forced to hitchhike on a motorbike or truck after waiting hours by the roadside for a lift.
The NGO has also introduced the following:
• Organized training sessions in health care and basics hygiene and childcare.
• The construction of a school library, with some 10,000 books, on a variety of topics related to education, training, hygiene, and other subjects.
• bus services to ensure the villagers can travel with ease from Fetba to neighbouring localities.
• Rural electrification
These achievements seem markedly in tune with Chambers’ vision of a “-participatory-” approach. The “participatory” approach aimed to incorporate the knowledge and opinions of rural people in the planning and management of development projects and programmes.
In person, His Majesty Raymond Tchakounté II comes across as refreshingly down-to-earth. As we share a hot drink in a garden, the freezing breeze whips up around. Staring at a nearby swimming pool , while readjusting awkwardly his scarf, His Majesty: “I can cope better with the weather now than back in 1983, when I first arrived at Clermont Ferrand for my Masters degree in economics sciences.”
Back in Cameroon, he would have to return several times to Clermont Ferrand between 2002 and -2005 for his PhD in the subject – , a thesis revolving around three villages in the west of the country, including Fetba. His resulting tome was entitled: “Saving, ROSCAs and informal credit in rural Africa.”
His Majesty stands up, walk to the swimming pool, bends and touches the water, before calmly returning to our table, readjusting his seated posture and yawn.
“I was shocked when I first came to France. This has enabled me to understand the reality of my Africa. Rather than dreaming of achieving a residency permit, I felt how urgent it was for me to return to my country. I knew I left people in a state of poverty, that I have to return there and fight for a better future with them.”
His Majesty confesses that back in 1983, and even at a younger age, while studying at Clermont Ferrand, he already felt a sense of spiritual loss and disconnection from his land and people, though he insists he remained focused.
“The notion of success for me has never been perceived at an individual level since: my success is linked to that of my people. This has become my leitmotiv. This is how I became haunted by the success and development of the whole community of Fetba, the success of my people.”
This is how, by frequently switching from his traditional duties as the tribal chief of a farming community to studying for a PhD and adopting a European student life style in Clermont Ferrand (with access to electricity and modern conveniences), His Majesty somehow managed, on April 12, 2008, to achieve a very honourable grade for his thesis.
While studying, he successively changed location – returning to his village to put into practice what he has been theoretically taught at the university research CERDI, then back again to Clermont Ferrand.
His thesis would later be rewritten and become an online sensation – and one of the fastest-selling books of its kind
Now used as a reference work in universities around the world, earning worldwide adulation from high- profile members of African and western governments in the process, has already been translated into English and German
Asked his opinion on His Majesty Dr Raymond Tchakounté II, a University of CERDI spokesperson says only this:
“He is loyal, reliable person, laid- back, patient and focused.”
His Majesty stands up again, glances at his watch The Bridge Magazine has been warned about His Majesty’s busy schedule: he is flying back to Cameroon in the next couple of days.
However, we are hoping he will first have enough time to talk about not only the France- based NGO but also about the real- life TV documentary entitled:
“Fetba, renaissance d’un village” (in English, “Fetba, the rebirth of a village)..”
The successful TV documentary, in which His Majesty ‘stars’ has already been watched by millions worldwide , though mostly in Francophone countries, with broadcasts on Cameroon Radio Television ( CRTV) , The French channel Canal 2 , TV5 Monde and many other s worldwide.
The ‘storyline’ could be that of a (slightly offbeat) Hollywood movie: tells of an unstoppable and ruthless traditional chief engaged in rural development work who can effortlessly switch from his traditional duties to the rigours of modern life, without being affected by any apparent clash of culture, giving a direct worldwide exposure to Fetba villagers, by putting the rural idyll in contact with academics, researchers, aid agencies, bankers, businessmen, politicians, training institutes and, doctors around the world.
Physically, His Majesty Tchakounté II is tall and, robust. He speaks with a masculine, deep- throated voice, and constantly stares at things with a ‘distant’ look as if he is connecting with his ancestors (or, perhaps, his village) while talking to other people. He appears to be the sort of person who can effortlessly switch from tradition to modernism, and would be equally at home wearing ‘city chic’ as a casual farmer- style smock. His Majesty looks positively radiant when wrapped in his traditional costume.
He is the loving father of three children.
His eldest son, Tchakounté Yves Jordan, is a promising footballer. At 1., 84m, and weighing 70 kg :, Tchakounté Yves was born on August 3, 1989, in Yaoundé, Cameroon– and between 2004 and 2007 was trained at the same football academy, Kadji Sports, as Samuel Eto’’o, the world’s richest footballer learnt the ropes.
In September 2008, he flew to a Taulhac football club in France for a two- weeks test and was shortlisted for the Beijing Olympics in 2008.
He later returned to Cameroon and has since been playing for several football clubs there.
He is currently, looking for a club across the Atlantic where he can showcase his talents as a striker.
His Majesty Tchakounté II takes to talking about his story from the beginning: born on November 23, 1955, in Balmayo, Central Cameroon, when his father died, in 1991, he stayed away from his village, – hiding for a year before being tracked down and arrested in Yaoundé by the tribal elders as their traditional rite required in the village where he was urgently expected to inherit his father’s duties.
Making French newspapers headlines, on May 20, 2008, he first admitted to the Journalist Marion Chavot, from the newspaper La Montagne :
“I was terrified by the idea of becoming a traditional chief, it sounded nebulous I felt too young, was not ready as I was expecting my dad to live longer and give me the time to mature. I ran away from anything likely to remind me of my traditional duty, arguing that my father had never trained me before to take over that type of heavy, complex and ambiguous traditional responsibility.”
His Majesty Tchakounté II went on to work as a banker at FONADER (, now Credit Agricole): a bank that provided funding for rural development.
It looked as thought even his CV, for some strange reason, was preparing him not only to inherit his father’s traditional duties, but most importantly to do his best to develop his village at an international level.
His Majesty swiftly abandoned his dream of working for a worldwide development bank to follow the villagers who finally got hold of him one morning at dawn in 1992.
“I grew up and studied in Yaoundé the capital of Cameroon. I was graduated with an A plus BA Hons in Economics Sciences. When I randomly met and sympathise at the French Cultural Centre in Yaoundé, with a Master degree student from the University of Clermont Ferrand 1 in Economy of Development Ms Anne Marie Jaubert, an hour before a conference in Economy held by a guest lecturer Professor Peter Ury, who himself was a current lecturer from The University or Sorbonne in Paris.
“That was back in February 1983. I was at the time a third year degree student in Economics and Sciences from the University of Yaoundé. Anne-Marie was temporarily in Cameroon for a two months academic internship from February to March that year.
“Around end of March 1983, Anne Marie returned to France. In October of the same year, after achieving a good grade in BA Hons, Anne-Marie then helped me to enrol for a Master in Economics and Development at the University of Clermont-Ferrand.
“I was 28 at the time, and she was five years younger than me. After more than 25 years on, I still have a good relationship not only with Anne Marie Jaubert, but also with the whole family Jaubert who are still enthusiastic to offer their help and advise at any step of my project.
“Anne Marie- Jaubert is originally from the Martres-de-Veyre in Clermont Ferrand -France- she helped me with some administration routine to pursue my Master degree in Clermont Ferrand. She did further studies in Political Sciences;we remained good friends and are still in touch”.”
He is reported to have been widely mocked at by ‘bad tongues’ in Yaoundé and Douala – economic capital of Cameroon – when he was spotted at Bafoussam market, also in Western Cameroon in 2004 , selling behind a large van, tomatoes and fresh cabbage to retailers. What very few people could have suspected was that, he was experimenting with the farmer’s life – by putting into practice, the agricultural and pastoral aspects of the coming project.
Quoted again by the journalist Marion Chavot from the newspaper La Montagne, he once said:
“Every thing I learn here is for my people. I only move on in accordance to that logic in mind.”
Fetba – Planet of the Rural Dream,” an international humanitarian NGO under French law:
was founded in 2004 in Feta, Western Cameroon, by a group of three students from Clermont-Ferrand, Angers and Roanne, who initially travelled to Fetba for their academic internships, accompanied by two young Cameroonian engineers -, statisticians living in Yaoundé.
Their action was strongly encouraged and supported by His Majesty of the NGO he says:
“Our association aims to support and sustain endogenous development projects initiated by the rural population of southern countries in distress or misery, by providing emergency assistance on basic needs of people.”
When asked whether he consider himself as a film star after the release of the documentary,
He stands up again, mistakenly dropped his copy of Le Monde, picks it up again, walks away and smiles.
“A star? I don’t know about that one. I will say a visionary who has what it takes dedication, patience, and endurance to bring to his village thus his country a glimmer of hope.”
He offers a sample of the DVD “Fetba, the rebirth of a village.” to The Bridge Magazine staff explaining his concern to see the film translated into many other languages, including English , Italian, Spanish, and German.
This time he grabs his trench coat: the door- bell has just rung, as a taxi driver is waiting for him outside. After a quick hand shake he explains how important the next meeting is for him as talks are advanced over the second instalment of his documentary
“A star for sure, His Majesty Tchakounté Raymond II is too humble to admit this himself.
He is majesterial in his own way, – not only in tune with Chambers approach of rural development, but also a visionary on track to reach the United Nation Millennium Development Goals which aim to eradicate poverty by 2015.
From Fetba to Clermont Ferrand, the incredible destiny of , His Majesty Tchakounté is revealed in his performance of his very own ‘reality show’:
Unthinkable and sometimes even unrealisable, Dr Tchakounté’s novel approach to rural development will doubtless, in time, inspire many traditional chiefs across the world.
Feel free to follow the link below to learn more about His Majesty’s fastest-selling books of its kind.