Thursday, October 23, 2014

Role models in the fight against climate change in Cameroon.

                 AARON YANCHO KAAH

Nzissie Marie Chantal is a black beautiful woman whose story is one of the premiers at her remote Galim Community some 28KM from Bafoussam the capital of the Western Region of Cameroon. Marie puts on a broad smile and this is indicative of her family’s successful impact in managing the stultifying effects of climate changes in her community. Although Marie withdrew from college as a result of limited resources at the age of 16, to marry as a way of bailing herself out of poverty, the Heifer international Cameroon training on integrated livestock management, composting, agro forestry   and a donation of pigs provided her the stepping stone to break the social/economic barriers that faced her family and land for decades.

Marie’s unrelenting dedication is seen on her 2 hectares of land nuzzle in the foothills of her community. There! Marie has curved out a miraculous niche for her family of 6 children-5 girls and a boy. Their home is also surrounded by a landscape of green vegetables and tall long ears of corn and groundnut plants that grow endlessly on the long fertile ridges. “I have a deep connection with my land”. Marie Said. Marie had understood during their Heifer Cameroon supported training courses that when land is properly taken care of it can be generous in return. “I gave my best I received my reward instantly”. Marie said. Marie cultivates with compost manure and is doing her best to plant trees where necessary on her fields every farming season.

When Marie joined her Abielle Self help group in 1994 alongside some 25 farm families, their intentions were to work together in alleviating poverty in their lives and homes through supporting one another in the fields and doing some little craft work together. This vision according to the secretary general of this group Mefou Elise was slow because of lack of any kind of motivation and the worsening climate change that led to low food crop production in the area. “We couldn’t cope despite our unity”. Elise remarked. After several years of unfruitful toiling for these farmers- “The story of our group changed after we made an application to Heifer International Cameroon in 2012 under a pig production scheme. “ Marie said. The start of this working relationship with these group and Heifer Cameroon brought the members hands on training in Animal Care and management, Barn Construction, integrated livestock farming, composting and care for land.
 In June of 2013, Marie and some 24 farm families received 4 pigs each and some potatoes seeds as a Heifer Cameroon reward for them to put their skills at work. The boundless commitment of Marie and family to their farm work brought their family a positive and lasting change. Even before Marie and family received the animal, farming wasn’t their first priority after all because of the low food crop production and the hard needed to cultivate crops. “My husband was interested only in old jobs and I was trying to learn a trade in dress making”. Marie said. However and whatever his struggle, her husband (Fidel) efforts did not yield any sufficient income for his family.  “I got very small pay from my clients”. Fidel recalled. In their farms the food crops harvest was minimal for them to source an income. “We only had enough to eat” He said. Out of curiosity they went in to animal farming like almost everyone in that village.  We kept three stray small pigs just like the rest in our community and the animals were feeding themselves” Fidel recalls remorsefully. Next- the coming of more children made life unbearable for Marie and Fidel but once Marie received her pigs from Heifer  Cameroon training-things changed for the best in their family. The income sourced through the marketing of the first two pigs for a considerable high income of 100.000fcfa was not the only reason that gave the couple reasons to strive harder but the dung provided their farms rich fertilizer. “Manure from the pigs and household waste gave my family reasons not only a means to start a gardening project next to their family house, but hopes to rent 2hectares of farm land for the cultivation of maize and groundnut.” Marie said.
Today it is easy to tell by the smiles in Marie face that she is a happy and accomplished woman. Her new garden of vegetables, spices and groundnuts, supplies her kitchen with enough vitamin A every morning. By not being able to manage the land well these farmers suffered in ignorance. “By eating vegetables we complemented our diets seriously with vitamins”. Marie said. On a ½ hectare of land where she harvested 5 small bags of corn, production had long changed to 66 bags thanks to her application of compost manure. “With more hopes we rented 2hectares of land on which we harvested 6tons of maize, 60 tins of beans,80 bags of Irish potatoes and 40 bags of yams as just against nothing in the past“ Marie recounted her story in joy. This couple was leaving their dreams for the first after more 18years in marriage.

Marie gives more credit to her husband Fidel for being his strategist in this activity and a helpful critique in times of planning.  “We worked like friends in our farms”. Marie said of Fidel. Their children too are credited for showing support in the work as they clean the piggery, collect the waste and keep home clean. “Our whole family has become an enterprise in the project” Marie said.
After feeding three square meals daily this couple and  took the surplus to the market in  exchange for an income and sold  4tons of corn at 1.500.000fcfa, 30bags of beans at 320.000, yams at 90.000fcfa and plantains at 200.000fcfa against almost nothing in the past. The family income now stands at 4.50000fcfa as oppose to just 510.000fcfa annually.

After saving close to 150.000FCfa and some 900.00Fcfa in a local bank in her community and group, this couple views their progress as constant. “Our children have all what they need in school, we buy meat and fish to complement our diets when we deem necessary” --- Marie said. Marie Chantal wishes had long being to afford a good sleeping bed for herself-. “I got it with a finger at 45000fcfa” she says laughing aloud.
Today in the Galim neighborhood Marie is not only a farmer who fits well in today’s changing times, but her social responsibilities too have shattered the ceiling. “I was voted by acclamation to the post of treasurer in my self help group” Marie said. She is also the president of the Galim women’s development organization, an organization whose mission is to champion the fight on violence against women and the girl child. Marie also leads an association aimed at promoting the cultivation of suckers and tubers in her community.
These responsibilities provide a charming look in to the successes of Marie life as a farmer and to portray her dreams for a better Galim tomorrow. “If I can pass on the training received through this Heifer International Cameroon supported project, I will feel accomplished in my life” Marie exclaims. With this simple wishes Marie exalts HPI Cameroon to heaven for having made her family and group to realize their short coming and to put their abilities to test. “Experiences give new ideas for change” she concluded.

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