By NDIMUH B. SHANCHO
A Buea-based Cameroonian non-profit organization known as Ecological Balance, has empowered some 36 youths and rural women within the Buea Municipality to combat poverty and reduce dependence on natural resources. The youths and women, predominantly from the Apostolic Church of Cameroon Bomaka, for four days (August 14-17, 2019) received training on graphics design and T-shirts production and the transformation of agricultural products like cassava into cassava flower or powder & biogas; Cocoa into chocolate, mambo and ovaltine, plantain & potatoes into flower, flowers into spaghetti and others.They were also schooled on the production of mayonnaise, soap, omo, cocoa oil, hair oil and shoes polish production.
Organised within the framework of the Irvingia project, the training, according to the Executive Director of Ecological Balance, Limbi Blessing Tata, is in consonance with the goal of the organization to reconcile conservation with livelihoods. “We believe that conservation must have a social face. We are conserving as humans, that is why we did a power mapping of the causes of the unsustainable use of natural resources and found out that one of them is livelihoods. The people do not have sustainable sources of livelihoods and we are saying that as long as the youths are unemployed, as long as poverty remains a major threat in the community, conservation is still a façade,” she elucidated.
Limbi explained that she intends to reduce the number of youths and women going into the forest or destroying nature in the name of making a living by raising the next generation of green entrepreneurs. “Our aim is to produce 15 green entrepreneurs per year such that in the next 5 years, we should have groomed 75 green entrepreneurs in Cameroon,” she said.
The four-day workshop imparted youths and women in Bomaka, as many attested at the end: “I have learnt a lot; I have learnt how to produce mayonnaise, spaghetti, medicated soap and many others. This will help me save the money I used to use in buying these things and use on other stuff. This is because I will produce them myself instead of going to buy. I will also teach my sisters and neighbours, who are basically doing nothing, the things I have learnt here,” one of the women at the training, Abu Mary Jane, testified.
Another participant, Timah Jude, took interest in T-shirt production and promised to take up a profession in that domain.
On his part, the Irvingia Project Coordinator, Enama Albert, said the organization intends to go beyond just the training to mentoring those interested in each of the training areas. “We intend to help those of them who are interested in taking a profession from any of the areas of training like the T-shirt products & graphics design and transformation trainings to another level. We intend to link the trainees to the trainers to mentor them in their respective areas of interest between six months and one year,” he stated. He added that the organization will not leave the trainees at the level of training and production but will make sure that they get a market for them so that they don’t only produce, but can produce and market