The Rural Women Development Council (RWDC) chooses solidarity to fight against adversity
(Des femmes luttent contre la pauvreté dans la zone rurale de Buea, au Sud-Ouest du Cameroun)
05 / 2002
The rural women in Buea and in other rural areas of Cameroon finally wrote down their problems: lack of capital, lack of social amenities, lack of water, electricity, health, poor education, poor infrastructures and marginalisation due to tradition and culture. Thus, they started to combine their efforts to support themselves and their communities. The idea of working in solidarity was stated by the coordinator which led to the creation of a Rural Training school in Buea. With about seven willing participants, they came up with the idea of creating the non-governemental organisation called Rural Women Development Council (RWDC). To begin with, the association focused on the training of head women, who would be in charge of the initiation of women in the villages on socio-agricultural topics and means to improve their living standards. The council was founded in 1993 and was the very first non-governemental organisation in the South-West province of Cameroon. It’s headquarter is settled in Buea, where 25 member groups of a population of 500 members have been identified, along with an executive organ and a monthly general assembly. Their one and only goal is to work and raise the standard of living of the rural population of South-West Cameroon. To do so, workshops are organised on socio-agricultural topics. In front of a feminine audience, mostly illeterate, the educational team combines the teaching of traditional know-how with scientific knowledge, in order that all was quickly understood and put into practice. During these workshops, a certain amount of agricultural practices - like stock rearing (pigs and chickens), food growing (vegetable, spices, cassava, yam, cocoa) are tackled. These workshops aim to ease the acquisition of material and human resources, to increase productivity and reach a quick access to the market through better transportation and protection of the goods. Lastly, since women are commonly exposed to health dramas (HIV/AIDS, malaria, typhoid, cholera, river blindness etc. ), the council organises forums on the subject and sends delegates to various international conferences, so that a quick awareness of the treatments and of prevention reaches the villages.
Today, the RWDC still deals with various difficulties :
- lack of funds to acquire simple equipments like farm tools, pesticides or chemicals (especially on cocoa farming),
- lack of partnership with other NGOs and enterprises in the field of educational co-operation and advertisement,
- bad preservation of the goods, which means that excess goods (like vegetable) are not sold and abandoned to perish in the absence of preservatives and markets,
- bad transportation of the farm products because of the poor state of the roads and of the high cost of transportation.
Let’s now point out the successes of th RWDC :
- the opening of an adult school known as The Adult Bilingual Literacy Education (ABLE), dedicated to rural women,
- the practice of collective agriculture by every Buea woman and the diversification of their activities (from pig and chicken rearing to gardening, etc. ),
-the opening of a rural women’s bank that has now been developped in association with the FOCAOB (Fonds commun d’appui aux organisations de base or "Root Organisations Support Fund"), which headquarter is in Yaounde,
- the improvement of healthcare for rural women,
- the better level of education. Most women in Buea now send their children to school.
The co-ordinator is appealing on other NGOs in Cameroon to join FOCAOB and CNOP-CAM so that they can be able to realise their common problems through in different localities. There is also the risk that foreign NGO continue this kind of contacts all over the world in order that rural population can develop.
To conclude, there is a general awareness on the needs of the rural women in Buea. RWDC’s initiative gives the whole world hope that there shall be continuous support to rural development.
This file was written during the World Peasant Meeting in Yaounde, Cameroon, from the 6th to the 11th of May 2002.
Contact : FOCHAP, Rebecca, Rural Women Development Council, PO Box 160, Buea, South-West Province, Cameroon - Tel: 9984365
Interview with FOCHAP, Rebecca, co-ordinator of the Rural Women D