Making Water Flow: The Story of Mpaka Community in Cameroon

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Aaron Kaah Yancho
October 25, 2014

The Mpaka village is made up of five large families. With some 1500 subsistence farmers predominantly from the m bo-tribe, cash crops like coffee, and palm wine, as well as coco yam’s, cassava and corn are the major source of income for the locals.

Situated in the bare sub-division, the Mpaka village is located some 140KM from the Douala Metropolis, Capital of the Littoral Region of Cameroon. While the warm, humid climate is good for agriculture and livestock production, still more than 60% of the population lived on less than 3,000 FCFA (USD 6.6) a week.

Wanting to do better, the community got together in an “initiative commune kodio o christo” to help each other improve food self- sufficiency and family incomes through keeping on particular animal: pigs.

Some women of Mpaka community
Some women of Mpaka community

An important first step was getting help and training from Heifer Cameroon. They did not just want ideas on animal husbandry but they were also keen to learn how to successfully manage themselves as a group, next, the families got on with the building of pigsties ready to start their new pig businesses. In 2004 Heifer gave 22 pigs to 20 farm family farms.

The success of the pig project was remarkable and immediate. Within months of receiving the pigs, the farm families had reared the next generation of piglets and was able to “pass on the gift” by donating some of the piglets to the next group of families. The income earned from selling the other piglets helped the first group to expand their pig herds.

But pigs were not the only change in the community. Manure from pigsties was being taken into gardens and used on the crops and this led to a significant improvement in food crop production.

The achievements of the group send positive reverberations throughout their community that touch the lives of other women, men and children too. As recognition for leading the transformation in the Mpaka community, the group President NGO-MISPA received the international golden talent award of that year from HPI, for all the positive accomplishments.

“The women shared their thoughts and worries about a development project that could assist the entire Mpaka community with me,” recalls committee President Ewane, “and we jointly identified a water scheme as a major problem for us all.”

Water supply was definitely the next thing the community wanted to change. In 2008, the group decided to use part of the funds from the gold talent award to apply for a water project under the European Union program- national du development du basin Mougoukam.

In 2009 the water project was approved for some 13,000,000 Fcfa [28,888 USD] with the community to provide 10% of this total cost. The group members acting like a driving force behind the project made instant contributions (415,000fcfa) and led by example the digging of the water catchments some 4 km from the Mpaka village.

Involvement of all community members including women, youth and the men has been of critical importance in Mpaka Community Water project.
Involvement of all community members including women, youth and the men has been of critical importance in Mpaka Community Water project.

An effort which is the equivalent of an investment of 1050, 000fcfa. Sure enough, the clean drinking water was soon available to all. The group President – Ngo Mispa who won the golden talent in 2004 said at the time “Today is my happiest day in this village. At last I have a legacy. Potable water to all inhabitants of Mpaka village through my efforts is great pride for me and the community, though I was not blessed with children I’m sponsoring two of my step sisters children in high school with proceeds worth 426,000fcfa (946.6 US Dollars) from my personal pig project.”

Ndjode Noel, chief of infrastructure for “program national du developpement du basin MOUNGOUNKAM” appreciated the role of Heifer Cameroon in galvanizing development in this community.

He said, “we succeeded to realize this water project because of the highly dynamic sprit of the women of kodio O christo who led by example. They took the lead is all aspects and I was overwhelmed by their collective spirit of sharing. They lodged and fed our technicians free of charge. This motivated us to realize the water filters in record time.”

As the women persisted creatively in their work, and in time, others began copying them and this accelerated development in other areas.

With pride rejuvenated in the Mpaka village, the farm families are continuing to reap rewards from their effort and enthusiasm.

“Our triumph over poverty is inspirational” says HRH Essoh Jean Marc, head of the Mpaka community and father of 6 children. Who also proudly declares that “the partnership between Heifer and his community led to visible improvements in pig farming, and enthusiasm for community action. The fencing of animals shunned the animosity that once existed between farmers and has improved sanitation, health care and nutritional value of the families.”

Acknowledging that the group Kodio o christo ushered in a new era, with many ground breaking activities within a short time, the proud village head thanks members of the kodio O christo for motivating and spear – heading development.

According to the village head the women provided 800,000 Fcfa (2,000 USD) in labour and cash for the constructing of a primary school, benches and corrugated iron sheets worth 200,000Fcfa (440 USD) for the Eglise Evangelique du Cameroon and some (601,000) Fcfa (130 USD) to sustain the church activities.

He continued praising the women for generating 2, 045, 000 fcfa (4,544USD) for the electrification of the village while owing this success record to Heifer International Cameroon , HRH Essoh Jean Mare termed the pig project as revolutionary in the lives of the kodio o christo women.

One of Heifers International cornerstones emphasises that for any community project to succeed, it must have the full support and investment of all community members irrespective of gender and age. Adopting

With community members living their dreams, thirty nine year old Essoh Theodore whose mothers was in the first farm families to be assisted sounded convincing to the employment opportunities Heifer Cameroon training and assistance created in the village.

“after dropping out of school, I left for Douala in search of a job and painfully earned a monthly wages of 25000 fcfa (60usd) for many years. When Heifer retained my community for pig farming, I returned to the village for pig and crop farming, immediately I met my vision even with out any little knowledge on pig farming. With income generated, I diversified into the extraction of palm oil, earning 15000 Fcfa (33.5. USD) weekly. To enhance production I employed two youths on a wages of 10,000 Fcfa (222USD) to work on the oil mill,” he testified.

Essoh Theodore’s success, relocated to the village some youths who had gone for greener pastures in the cities, like Edingha Billa and Essoh Christian who were able to generate 375,000 Fcfa (8,333USD) in one year. A sum both boys had never dreamt of while working in the city.

According to another young man Ewane Jean whom Heifer trained on entrepreneurial skills “Mpaka youths who concentrate on agricultural and lives stock development are better than those in the city”. A youth group called “association des Jeunes de koki Mimbo de Mpaka” now holds and venerates this vision of encouraging youths into pig farming and agriculture.

Since a balance diet makes for a healthy population, 49 year old Mbilla Odette acknowledges that the trainings on hygiene and nutrition brought about awareness on diet and good health. “We have pass on the on knowledge to some 56 community members on nutrition, resulting to the slaughtering of 154 pigs for domestic consumption” one year old boy Essoh Raul is one of the thirty six kids whom after a balance diet restored his protein deficiency and is now running to school happily. Sounding proud and elated another mother Essoh Jeanette affirmed that she often took ill but with Heifer intervention, she became healthy as she eat vegetables an pork high sources of protein and fat.

Manure from the pigsties led a significant improvement on farm produce. “The community produced 60.3 tons of corn 200 tons of cassava, 130 ton of coco yams and 36 tons of assorted vegetables “Confirmed another farmer. Since 2008 some farm families offered 10,750 kg of organic manure to some 78 families within the community saving some 215,000 Fcfa (477.7 USD) that would have been spent on inorganic fertilizers.

A peace corp. volunteer Nicolas Valeria hailed Heifer International Cameroon for planting enthusiasm in the kodio o christo women with a pig project to catalyzed development initiatives aimed at impacting the community “I’m impressed with the inhabitants of the community for the pig project. As a good practiced, I will assist them transfer this knowledge to the next generation.”

Essoh Bertin 44, who now owns a compost heap from where he collects manure for his garden, reaped the rewards last year when he sold tomatoes and bought 3 piglets to start a personal piggery. With livestock and food crop production providing the life line to riches ,Community members are turning to sustainable and integrated agriculture with or with out support.

Starting with just two pigs each and with fears never to over come poverty and hunger, they are hopes and renewed life in the Mpaka community. No doubt the pig population has increased from 100-260 as of December 2013 and this has eventually improved the economic potentials of the community.

Members of “Grope d’initiatve commune kodio o christo have passed on 26 piglets to other families in mbarebeng and majibo neighbourhoods, as a sign of extending and making that long time dream of building a poverty free Mpaka.

Nonetheless for Mpaka locals Heifer Cameroon has helped their women to demonstrate their abilities in overcoming countless obstacles, the fresh energy and changes are now opening up opportunities for the people to “make the water flow”, and to live better lives.

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