Indigenous Women Opt for Sustainable Integrated Agriculture
Farmer-Grazer Conflict Mitigated in the The North West Region of Cameroon
“I am a pure indigenous Mbororo woman and I think we need to also engage in leading our communities towards sustainable development like the case of other non indigenous women groups”. Madam Wanshi Cusumin is leader of an indigenous women led Community Based Organization called Akeh Fulanis Mbororo Women Farmer/Grazer Common Initiative Group (AFMWFG-CIG). The group was founded on the 8th of August, 2001, in Akeh village. It has a current membership of at least 30 indigenous women. The CBO has as main objective “promotion of livestock production and farming activities amongst the indigenous Mbororo women”.
Akeh village is an enclave community of indigenous Fulani Mbororo whose main method of subsistence is livestock rearing. The population is about 1500 persons. Akeh is found in Belo Subdivision of the Bamenda highlands region of Cameroon and is more accessible through Oku in Bui Division of the North West Region of Cameroon. Vehicles cannot get to Akeh during most of the year especially the rainy season because the roads are not always maintained. The neighboring villagers are non pastoralists and have often been conflicting with the Fulani especially when animals graze on their farmland. Over the years the Mbororo groups have been settling in this village in an attempt to solve some of the problems associated to mobility especially those resulting from the Cameroon land tenure system.
They are mainly Muslims with a few animists and believe in community life. “We are united by very strong family, and cultural bonds. We are each other’s keeper and the keepers of our lands” says Wanshi. They also work as a team towards their subsistent lifestyle. “We often migrate to other villages for the purpose of grazing our animals and believe that our animals are part of our life and keeping animals is a tradition that has been handed over to us from one generation to another and we have to protect this culture” added Julie Oumaru, a prominent indigene from the community who equally works as a community radio broadcaster for the indigenous people. In reality the people now believe that they can be stronger if they make maximum sustainable use of the natural resources around to sustain their community and family life.
‘We believe that women involvement in the livelihood of the community will empower us since they are directly responsible for taking care of the households when the men are out grazing the animals in the fields” Mrs. Wanshi added. “We are usually in conflicts with non-indigenous groups because our animals often consume their crops. We have also been migrating from one location to another to get pasture and water for the animals and most often we are not accepted since we do not have direct access to land like the other tribes” she continued. “We also face problems of having other food supplies from farming activities since traditionally we are not a farming community”.
They always need to buy food crops from the neighboring communities. These are often sold at expensive rates and at times they need to also move to distant locations to have these commodities. Women are not usually involved in animal rearing and grazing but they can care for the families. They have also been facing challenges due to state laws regarding pasture management such as the forestry law against burning of grass for regeneration. These problems are further complicated because of the high illiteracy level in the group. Very few members gain formal education, and the females are often more victimized.
To solve these problems they have decided to settle down and involve in more beneficial ways of using the animals. “We have decided to practice improved and environmentally friendly agriculture to provide for our food needs” quoted Julie. “We think that women involvement in agriculture will help support the men who are involved in animal rearing. This will make us to further build stronger, healthier families and communities while preventing the conflicts we have been having with other communities and with environmentalists” he further reiterated. Since they started practicing a settled lifestyle they have also been in peace and harmony with the neigbours.
In a meeting with a volunteer from SOPISDEW NGO in the Oku community, they identified the different ways of solving these problems by themselves. This led to the development of a project. “Our project will engage Mbororo women in Akeh to practice integrated sustainable agriculture and livestock production” Wanshi explained. “We will construct night paddocks for the animals. We will also plant fodder grass within some of the paddocks to serve as food for the animals especially during the dry season. More women will be offered hands-on training to practice organic farming using animal dung. A demonstration plot will also be developed so that others will learn from it. This plot will also serve to multiply some improved seeds that will be used by many families in their individual plots” she further justified.
SOPISDEW NGO will provide free technical support for the project while they will manage it within their time and means. Their group will offer material contribution for the project and will also engage those who have experience in the community to volunteer for the project. They will also share the project ideas with other distant communities through their member who is a native broadcaster using for their dialect over the Oku Community Radio.
The paddocks will reduce farmer-grazer conflicts with the neighboring communities. They will also provide rich organic manure for farming of the crops. The fodder grass and crop wastes such as maize stalks will provide food for the animals (mostly cattle, goats and sheep). Since they will also be able to produce their own food crops, this will reduce community mobility and increase food supplies and income for the families. Multiplied seeds will increase access to quality farm inputs in the community. The project will benefit at least 30 Fulani Bororo women representing at least 30 families in the community.
“We are just hoping that the combined efforts of our partners like SOPISDEW NGO will boost our ideas. At this stage we have part of the resources required for the project and we need more support to realize this dream” Mrs. Wanshi concluded.
SOPISDEW is dedicated to working closely with this community over the next years to guide them towards their success. “We believe that the indigenous peoples have a right over their destiny. We can only accompany them towards the realization of their sustained cultures and traditions over the years as this is what makes the world so diverse that we feel so much excited about being part of it” added Mr. Tah Kennette Konsum, coordinator of the local support organization.
Climate change is one of the most challenging problems faced by this group. Grazing is becoming a nightmare as the environment becomes degraded by the same activity. In the next future, if improved drought tolerant pasture is introduced, this will help sustain the livelihood of this fragile population.
Written by SOPISDEW