Women leading the charge against poverty and diseases in Southeast Cameroon | WWF South Africa

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Women leading the charge against poverty and diseases in Southeast Cameroon

Driving some 700 km from Cameroon’s capital city Yaounde to the East Region and you are greeted by Mambele Village, a hamlet that ushers you to Lobeke National Park. If you are chanced to be in Mambele on a Friday, you will come across a group of women belonging to an organisation called Women Health and Conservation Society (WHCS). They hold their weekly meeting at the headquarters of the Conservation Service of Lobeke National Park. In other days, they would be seen ploughing their collective cassava, plantain or pineapple farms hard by. They sell the produce from these farms in Moloundou, a neighbouring town, or to commuters to and from the Republic of Congo. They also engage in seasonal shrimps business that provide revenue for them.

Driving some 700 km from Cameroon’s capital city Yaounde to the East Region and you are greeted by Mambele Village, a hamlet that ushers you to Lobeke National Park. If you are chanced to be in Mambele on a Friday, you will come across a group of women belonging to an organisation called Women Health and Conservation Society (WHCS). They hold their weekly meeting at the headquarters of the Conservation Service of Lobeke National Park. In other days, they would be seen ploughing their collective cassava, plantain or pineapple farms hard by.
They sell the produce from these farms in Moloundou, a neighbouring town, or to commuters to and from the Republic of Congo. They also engage in seasonal crevette business that provide revenue for them.

Meeting every Friday is now a routine for this dynamic cluster of women that is leading the charge in the war against poverty and diseases prevalent in the remote village. The women are not alone in this fight; they are supported by WWF that helped midwife this group some 10 years ago through a volunteer.
WHCS today has 30 members working in collaboration with WWF and the Conservation Service of Lobeke to alleviate poverty, promote hygiene and sanitation and sustainable agriculture.

Adoula Bibiane, a widow and mother of seven, leads the group. An average member has between six and seven children. They are both bread winners and heads of their families. Their struggle mirrors that of most women in the 23 villages around Lobeke.

WWF has been providing support to WHCS including training, finance and material. Thanks to this support, the women group runs a collective mixed cassava-plantain as well as a pineapple farm near the village. They have also produced soap and weaved mats. WHCS championed health and hygiene campaigns in schools and colleges by donating hundreds of tablets of soap and training pupils on handwashing as a means to curb the spread of diseases.

They however face the daily task of putting food on the table for their households and sending their children to school. “These are some of the many challenges we face. Some of our activities are seasonal and funds to sustain them are not always available or long term. This limits our capacity to be autonomous,” states Abdoula Bibiane.

“We appreciate what WWF is doing for us. They have gone an extra mile to provide us with temporary jobs to enable us make more money. They are really encouraging us,” notes Nadouma Clarisse, the Group’s Secretary.
Poverty rate is high in Mambele and neighbouring villages with the dearth of job opportunities. However, the resilience and tenacity of the women group portend hope. During their Friday meetings, they discuss and plan projects with the technical support of a dedicated WWF personnel.

The women have also put in place a thrift and loans scheme that enables them support members in difficulties such as handling cases of serious illnesses. “WHCS is one of the most dynamic groups around Lobeke and we are encouraged to support their micro-projects. They are an example for the local inhabitants to emulate,” states Djibrila Hessana, WWF Jengi TNS Programme Manager.
 
The women are engaged in sustainable agriculture to support their households.

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