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America Investing in Cameroon

GeoAid Partnerships in Cameroon

GeoAid Intl’s first Executive Director Bill Mitchell with Cameroon country staff. [GeoAid Photo]

GeoAid International is an American community development NGO committed to the people of Cameroon which believes building local capacity is the key to sustainable development.  The organization specializes in designing and implementing community development programs for companies in the extractive minerals industry with operations in developing countries.  GeoAid programs are built “to strengthen the relationships between these companies and their local communities by offering a hand up rather than a hand out.”

GeoAid staff works to build programs “from the ground up” that will be adopted and carried on by local community members and continue to benefit the life resources and livelihoods of the host community after the mining project has been completed.  Programs are designed to create opportunity, improve food security, promote community health, alleviate poverty and reduce poaching of protected species. Today, as a result  of GeoAid’s work in the communities of Lomié, Messok, and Ngoyla, people are learning new skills, starting their own businesses, and engaging in their own development.

Helena Nsosungnine is GeoAid’s Country Director for Cameroon  and has been with the organization since 2008.  She worked closely with GeoAid Intl’s first Executive Director Bill Mitchell to establish partnerships for GeoAid Cameroon at the community, regional, and national levels.  GeoAid Cameroon’s partners include local community groups and small business co-operatives, the Chantal Biya Foundation, the Cameroon Ministry of Health, the Peace Corps, U.S.-based Medical Teams International, Netherlands-based IMRES, other international NGOs, and several private corporations.  With support from these partners, GeoAid Cameroon’s Lomié-based field team carries out activities to improve community health, strengthen local agriculture, support education, and foster the growth of small and medium enterprise.

The Chantal Biya Foundation and GeoAid have coordinated the distribution of donated medical supplies, equipment, and medicines to supplement local healthcare resources in a number of rural Cameroon communities.  GeoAid has collaborated with the Ministry of Health and international and local NGOs (Yaoundé-based CareHelp and others) to provide community health events offering voluntary HIV/AIDS testing and counseling to the communities of Lomié, Messok, and Ngoyla.  GeoAid has also supported community HIV/AIDS education events on Women’s Day and Labor Day.  Last November a timely shipment of Doxycycline and oral rehydration salts from GeoAid’s Yaoundé office helped to avert a potential Cholera epidemic in the Lomié community.

Approximately 35% of the population in the Lomié area belongs to the Baka minority group and GeoAid Cameroon’s agricultural program staff have worked closely with the Baka community.  In 2009, they began assisting two groups of Baka create market gardens  to improve food security for the area and in 2011 more than 10,000 plants were harvested from local Baka gardens. More than half of the vegetables were for home consumption, providing new sources of nutrition for a marginalized people whose diet has been wild plants, forest fruits and bush meat. Thanks to the Baka gardeners, once scarce vegetables like cabbage, lettuce, tomatoes, green beans, and celery are now commonly available in the Lomié market.

GeoAid also trained 185 community farmers in 22 groups (including five Baka groups) in the Lomié, Messok, Ngoyla, and Mindourou communities on rapid multiplication techniques for plantain. Within 6 months, 5,500 improved species of plantain seedlings from 35 nurseries in 13 villages were transplanted to local farms. After acquiring these skills, many of the farmers have trained others and approximately 80% of plantain growers in these areas are now employing this new practice.  GeoAid staff members also assisted these farmers with association-based marketing.

In 2010 GeoAid Cameroon initiated a training program in the raising and marketing of broiler chickens as an alternative to bush meat and to generate local income.  After the training, GeoAid supported two groups of poultry farmers  by “loaning” them chicks to raise and sell.  They then “passed on the gift” by reimbursing GeoAid the cost of the chicks from their profits which was then passed on to other interested farmers so they could buy chicks.  For 2011, GeoAid organized a  workshop by experts from the Agriculture Institute of Obala on techniques of chicken raising and feed production.  Thirty people (including several women and Bakas) participated to help those already trained improve their productivity. In the words of a participant in the program:

The breeding of broilers is a good activity. It is very exciting when you master the techniques… You just have to put in…time and you will succeed. The profits generated permitted me to take care of family health and reduce other everyday problems.  The droppings not only allow us to have higher incomes but are also often used to fertilize our farms.  I thank GeoAid for all the support we have received so far, starting with the training…support of inputs and…through technical monitoring.

--Julie Eyenga (member of broiler producers group, Madouma poultry farm, Lomié)

Interest in poultry production is growing in the Lomié area.  A training program on the raising of laying hens for egg production is in the planning stages.  New agro-business projects planned for 2012 in the Lomie’ area include training landholders to grow moringa trees and other medicinal and edible trees and plants.  A project to increase the yield of corn growers in the region through use of high quality seeds started  in 2011 will be expanded in 2012.

To improve access to education in the Lomie’ area, GeoAid Cameroon has facilitated curriculum enrichment in local schools, supported improvements to facilities, provided supplies and equipment, and conducted  training to improve teaching methodologies. It has also supported efforts focused on improving the access to  education for  young Baka orphans in the Abong-Mbang, Lomié, Messok, and Ngoyla communities.  GeoAid support has provided school supplies for orphans living in the dormitories and  equipment for teachers at the orphanages.

GeoAid Cameroon received their first Peace Corps volunteer last August. Here is Small Enterprise Development volunteer Andy Knipe in his own words:

I’ve been working with GeoAid for almost 5 months and we’ve established a great partnership.  I feel lucky to be hosted by such a reputable organization with great staff and great ideas who are doing great things. Besides tagging along for many of their activities, including client development meetings, public health fairs, trainings on effective crop growing and care, and building plantain nurseries, I’ve been writing a needs assessment plan for how to identify the greatest development needs in the communities that GeoAid works.  I’ve also been continuing Mr. Bill Mitchell’s work on a financial literacy board game that I hope to introduce into schools here.

Most recently, I’ve been exploring the potential for establishing a network or fair trade growers in the Lomié region. A couple of weeks ago, Octave Ondoua (GeoAid’s agriculture program coordinator) and I traveled to Buea to meet with another Peace Corps volunteer and a farmers’ coop in the Southwest who recently received fair trade certification.  Just today we met with the local delegate of the Ministry of Agriculture and have identified some well-organized cooperatives to present the concept to.

Besides my work with GeoAid, I’ve helped a few GICs with their paperwork, collaborated with a local VSO volunteer on bringing new schoolbooks to Lomié, and, with the help of a tontine I meet with regularly, am starting a Village Savings and Loan Association.  I’m in the beginning stages of just about everything though, so I’m excited to start seeing them through.  I’m very happy and feel incredibly lucky to have discovered GeoAid and the people of Lomié.

GeoAid International is a U.S. based non-profit community development organization with offices in Yaoundé and field operations in the East Province of Cameroon.  GeoAid International’s Executive Director, Bryce Mitchell lives in Bend, Oregon.  Originally founded by Colorado residents Bill and Dawn Bukovic as a part of Geovic Mining Corporation, GeoAid became an independent 501(C)3 organization in 2008.