Smallholder farmers, particularly women- headed households lack the profit or capital to invest in improved technologies that would increase their own agro-businesses output on their own. Learning coping strategies to tackle a new disease, late rains or a short harvesting period also happens in isolation. Pooling the collective knowledge and resources of farmers and enabling them to finance and purchase improved technology, such as tractors for ploughing, tilling and planting, as well as food/crop harvesting and processing equipment. Farming and herding co-ops can also play a critical role in strengthening farmers’ capacities in seed multiplication, storage and banking in order to improve grazing fodder fields and food crop quality and resilience, ensuring better food security following periods of environmental shock. They can also play a role maintaining current tree nurseries, tree planting and distribution, as well as together increasing market access through shared storage facilities (such as solar powered cooling facilities) and shared crop and product transportation.
While CAEPA has shown much success in developing farming cooperatives and plans to capitalise on this, the challenge of farmer-pastoralist conflict still persists. To encourage collaboration rather than conflict, CAEPA seeks to develop not only herder-to-herder cooperatives, but also farmer-to-herder asset-sharing cooperatives and market days where farmers and pastoralists can engage in and promote local trade. Additionally, CAEPA will support microcredit schemes, inclusive of continuing to promote and train farmers and pastoralists in beekeeping and introduce biogas production and distribution. Beekeeping is an important aspect of flowering crop plant pollination (bees can be rotated among farmers/crops to increase the pollination of food crops across multiple farms and improve the quality and taste of the honey as a food source), provide a source of energy, and a product that can be processed, packaged and sold, diversifying household income. Since CAEPA has successfully implemented bee keeping in the past, the goal now is to scale-up these efforts and integrate lessons learned in the re-design of these projects to increase the colonization rate; and to rotate the apiaries among farms to improve pollination.
Apiary rotation among farms can also generate income for bee-keepers additional to that made from the processing and sale of honey. Biogas production is a simple way to harvest a natural by-product of livestock rearing, and can provide a source of natural fertilization whereby the slurry from the digester could be shared or sold to farmers to improve crop yields. It can also provide a source of energy in a region that is largely outside of the electrical grid. CAEPA will also introduce goats into cattle-rearing transhumance/pastoralist communities to diversify their production and consumption, and increase their ability to cope with seasonal variability, poor grazing lands and the high water consumption required in raising cattle. Goats provide food security, a capital asset that can be sold in times of crisis; and a profitable agricultural investment capable of providing milk and meat; increasing the protein consumption of both pastoral and small-holder farming households.
he 2011 reforms announced at Cameroon’s agro-pastoral assembly highlight the issue of land tenure and women’s lack of access, ownership and control over land. While women have access to but no formal legal rights to land, through inheritance or otherwise, their ability to invest in their land in a sustainable way is fragile and wholly dependent on variables such as their marital status, whether they have children, the gender and age of their children, and customary law, etc.
CAEPA will form rural women’s access and ownership committees to promote women’s right to land, livestock and property ownership and development for farming and pastoral/transhumance communities within its catchment areas. Beyond this lie numerous other key areas in which the legal rights of women and girls ought to be strengthened, however CAEPA will build on its previous work to engage communities and the judiciary in better protecting the rights of women and girls in cases of forced marriage and domestic violence. CAEPA will raise community and judicial awareness about violence against women and girls; will build their capacity to respond to violence against Women, and will lobby the government to revise legal codes to include provisions related to violence against women.
CAEPA will engage pre-pubescent boys and girls in sexual and reproductive rights and empowerment workshops to raise awareness about consent, healthy notions about femininity and masculinity, and to inform children how to recognize and seek help in cases of child sexual abuse and exploitation. Women’s groups will also be engaged in discussions and shared-learning around basic family planning methods (moon beads, condoms, exclusive breastfeeding, ect), safe and consensual sex, VCT, and maternal and newborn nutrition and health. Men will be engaged in quarterly ‘soccer socials’ whereby key issues are discussed such as notions of masculinity and femininity; safe and consensual sex, VCT, communication and healthy intimate relationships in a relaxed social environment. Birth registration and school attendance of both boys and girls will be promoted in an effort to better protect the rights of every child.
Issues affecting women in their child-bearing years have a direct impact on the nutrition and food security of the entire household, and collecting baseline data will help inform CAEPA’s interventions in these areas.
CAEPA will monitor undernutrition through a gender-specific lens. Understanding dietary patterns, such as who eats what and when, is vital to uncovering differences between members of the household. Other issues that have a detrimental impact on the nutrition and health of women and their families are food and water-borne illnesses, and vitamin deficiencies during pregnancy and among children under the age of 5. CAEPA will support 50 women or more in establishing their own home gardens, supported with improved seeds; as well with workshops on integrating household waste management, including compost production to increase garden output; and repurposing materials such as tires in home gardens. CAEPA will also plant 6 school gardens in boarding schools and orphanage-run schools with nutrient-dense food crops to increase school-going children’s access to diverse food sources. Additionally, women will be trained not only on how to use improved clay stoves (dramatically reducing the amount of wood fuel required to cook), but also how to build, market, sell and distribute them at a household level. This is expected to reduce the fuel-collection burden of women and promote sustainable business development among women.
Building on CAEPA’s ecological profile, CAEPA will also Work with 2 or more community groups to salvage and recycle plastic, paper, glass and metals (aluminum and steel), to be further processed as local construction materials. This activity is expected to reduce the adverse environmental impact of non-renewables on the ecosystem. In July of 2013, CAEPA conducted a climate change survey in Mbelewa, Mbesi, and Menda. These communities identified many sustainable development challenges, one of which was water scarcity. CAEPA seeks to address water scarcity in these communities through increasing women and girl’s access to water. This is because the access that women and girls have to water has an impact on their daily life and the wellbeing of their families (owing to their water-gathering responsibilities; their engagement in domestic activities involving water, such as bathing children, washing clothes, and cooking and cleaning; their contributions to growing crops and taking care of livestock; as well as taking care of oneself during menstruation and the post-natal period). It is also a compounding factor to girl’s access to education. CAEPA will engage these communities in water and sanitation resource mapping to identify a total of five schools for borehole construction and sanitation improvement. This is expected to lessen the water-gathering burden of school-going girls.
Water management committees will be established to report to and work with local government ministries and to maintain and monitor the borehole construction. A network for water catchment protectors’ and local water governance committees in Balkumbat, Bali Gashu, and Bali Gansin will continue to engage in behavior change communication to improve the management of select catchments in the North-West and South-West regions. Moreover, CAEPA will support household rainwater harvesting in Mbelewa to supplement water provided by the “Mile 4” water catchment, which provides water to some residents and not others.
CAEPA’s has successfully engaged women in micro-credit schemes and will continue to engage women as well as girls in income generation activities through girl’s eco-innovator school clubs where girls will learn how to run their own eco-businesses. Each club will be paired with local mentors, and will be engaged in business development learning that contributes to eco-innovation, such as solar energy; bicycle repair; soap making; making and selling/ distributing sanitary napkins; used clothing sales, etc.
CAEPA as an organization knows its communities well, however, there is still much to be learned, with the collection of baseline data identified as a priority for CAEPA. This research will be carried out by trained male and female outreach workers, who will share information and on-going support on specific issues relevant to the north-west and south-west households. The CAEPA outreach team will also engage mobile populations (including the Mbororo, Montagnards, and Pygmie populations) within the north-west and south-west regions, including pastoral communities. Throughout the 5 year period of this strategic framework, the results of this research will inform continued behavior change communication and community collaboration more broadly, particularly multi-sectoral and farmer-pastoral cooperation to achieve sustainable development outcomes. CAEPA will also share its research publically with local governmental leaders and among other community-based agencies.