Dear Donors, sorry about the delay. You will be happy to know that, Giovani, from last report, has a microproject about him, and that already has 180$ in donations! If you want to support him to start his business follow the link, he needs as much help as he can get! We thank you for your support so far and we know we have not have had much success fundraising for this project, but you should know that we are also trying other avenues such as proposal writing. As of now, we are focusing on preparing the next Innovation Challenge in Tole, 2018, since the most important thing is to repeat the challenge in the first community where it held, to perpetuate the culture of innovation.
Today we want to present you with a different kind of innovator, she is not as young as Giovanni, she never went to secondary school, but she has seen a lot and knows what is needed to change her community for good. Madam Justina.
1963 “My mother brought me here. [to Tole] We lived at the tea plantation and I completed Primary Education here too.
When I completed school I started working for CDC [Cameroon Development Corporation, the state company that owned the plantation, one of the major companies in the country]. They had this policy. My parents planted this Tea, and the children of the workers were given opportunities, since we were more educated, many came as clerks.
That was my life until 2003. The place was good, we had many services, like medical. We lived in the camp. In 2003 they bought the tea plantation. They fired us. Until now I have not been paid compensation, neither the other 736. [Her compensation is estimated to be 10,000$].
I built my house in 1993, it was supposed to be temporary, I thought I would come to retire in the village with my pension. It´s not the house I planned.
Then we were working on contract for the new owners. In 2011 it looked like we were going to get our compensation. From September 9 to March 8, 2012, we sat in the Labor Office in Buea. They promised us they will give in 9 months. Up until now we are still waiting.
After this I did not want to work for them on contract anymore, so I started my own business.
It was not my first. In 1988 I was displaced to Saxenhof [nearby plantation camp]. The area was far, it´s not a village like Wotutu or Tole. It was difficult to get some basic things.
I went to a bakery and asked what would take for them to bring bread to Saxenhof. They said 5000. So that was my first business. I started because I wanted to eat bread myself. In one year my 5000 capital had turned into 100,000 and I was buying also ground-nut, soap and milk. It was going very well but when they transferred me to Tole I stopped.”
[Back to 2012] I had spent all my savings in Buea, living for 6 months in the Labour office, protesting. I had two small girls in the house (her grand-children) and we needed money fast. Food is quick cash, people will quickly eat it all. I still do this Water-Fufu the same way I started it 5 years back. Now I also have earrings, and other things we do as a group [savings, poultry, chairs rental]. The other things are to save money, this is to eat every day.
[To this day, Justina supports herself and her children with dignity, she never failed to pay their school fees, they never fail to eat and have their basic necessities covered. She seems to attract small children from distant relatives and right now takes care of three girls: 2 teenagers and 1 child. Note: Water-fufu it´s a Cameroonian product made of cassava)
Her role as a mentor in the community
[Justina also helps us in another project, the Keep a Girl Alive, she gives advice to young single mothers starting businesses, and also help us identify possible girls to help.]
“I feel pity, I was also a struggling child, still am. It´s not good to stay like that. To see a girl holding a baby and still depending on her mother to buy soap and food for that baby… Is not good. She should have something doing, something of her own. Those are the girls I pick”
“I have been a farmer since I was small. I used to farm some land that CDC had left unused. It gave me very good cassava. I think if farmers would work together they would not suffer this much. 10 years ago I saw a cooperative in Clerks Quarters [Buea]. I saw how there were so many things there. So fresh. The way pepper [chili] looks when it´s just fresh from the farm. It was so good, that woman was good, very organized. Farmers would just come and drop their things and at the end of the day get paid.”
I was thinking that if we had a Farmer´s House, a place that will help farmers store and transform their products, and would sell to big clients for them, things would be so much easier. They will get better profit, suffer less. I know buyers interested, but they can´t buy from one or two persons, they need quantity. I also know enough farmers and I can coordinate them to harvest at the right time and prepare the products. I just need a fridge, stable electricity a scale and some basic items. So that´s what I wrote.”
And that´s what we like. Storing, preserving and mediating between farmers and traders is so necessary in the economic climate of Cameroon and most developing countries. We love that such ideas come from humble members of the community themselves, not only from government and NGOs. Would it not be great to help her carry on? She estimates she can work with 30 farmers in the first year, 90 by the second. We have known her for more than ten years, and we think she is being modest.
Thank you again for reading, if you enjoy knowing about real innovators and real entrepreneurs from Cameroon. Please, let us know!
Very soon you will have a microproject to support Justina, but now let´s focus on the next Innovation Challenge, Tole, 2018!
Justinar giving out advice during a training
Working in her group farm
During Innovation Challenge prize ceremony