Agriculture is the backbone of Cameroon, Cameroon as a country is the bread basket of the Central African Sub Region thanks to its ability to produce a variety of crops and in great quantities. However lately there has been a drop in the agricultural output of the country and this has been partly as a result of poor climatic conditions which has led to many farmers especially small-scale farmers whom most often are the underprivileged rural women incurring losses that have brought their downfall and thus causing them to go out of business. With very little or no financial aid coming from the government to assist these small-scale rural women farmers especially the single mothers/widows who depend solely on their small-scale subsistence farming as a source of livelihood; they are struggling to cater for the basic needs of their families; send their children to school or access health care; leading to malnutrition; school dropouts and even untimely deaths due to lack of means to access appropriate medical care.
Also, manmade disasters such as bushfires are a problem to poor small scale rural women farmers. Bushfire has been an issue within farming communities in Cameroon for ages; perpetrators set bushes ablaze randomly often times for hunting purposes or to prepare the land for farming during the dry season. Unfortunately, they who set the fire later on have no control over it and the wild bushfires burn as far as it can go uncontrollably to ravage the farms of poor rural farmers. Sometimes small-scale farmers as a result of wild bushfires loss everything they have worked for, for a full year and thus, become frustrated and result to begging to survive that season and finds it even more difficult to recover from such loss and replant their farms in the subsequent planting seasons.
The Bridgers Farms in early 2021 suffered great loss to wild bushfire within the Ntui community where their farm is located; we lost a good part of the farm containing young plantains; bananas and pineapple plants to this bushfire despite protective measures put in place. Lack of knowledge on the part of the perpetrators and the complete absence of stringent measures or policies put in place in these communities to punish or deter perpetrators has been the major reason behind the persistence of the practice of bushfire over the years in the country at large.
Bushfires do not only cause crop damages but equally lead to the destruction of very important wildlife as such a big blow to biodiversity conservation due to ecosystem obstruction. Some wildlife and medicinal plants species have been completely extinct as a result of unregulated hunting activities within communities and an even bigger number is extinct thanks to wild bushfires that are done systematically every dry season of each year as a routine.
- To revitalize rural economic empowerment of women/girls through climate smart agriculture.
- To fund/support services involving women Agripreneurs to ensure that their agribusinesses are sustainable and that they, their businesses and their communities do not just survive, but thrive.
- To curb manmade disasters such as bushfires to save poor small-scale farmers from crop loss and equally protect wildlife and medicinal plant species.
We are operating a Social Enterprise that has to do with Agribusiness as our model of Organizational sustainability to cover core costs and other programs; This farm dobbed The Bridgers Farms is multidimensional as it equally serves as a training ground for vulnerable women and a seed bank for these women upon completion of their training to assist them start up their individual farms. Part of the proceeds realized from this farm goes for the provision of scholarships for underprivileged children within the farm community
This farm is located in Ntui; in the Mbam and Kim Division Center Region of Cameroon. The pull factors for us to this location has been the availability of vast and fertile lands; the presence of a large number of poor single mothers- widows and Internally Displaced Women within these community which serves as a safe haven for Internally Displaced People from across Cameroon as a result of ongoing arm conflicts in the two Anglophone Regions; the Three Northern Regions and Rebel attacks in the East Region.
We grow a variety of crops in our Organizational farm, our innovation lies in optimizing permaculture in order to revitalize agricultural ecosystems that are sustainable and self-sufficient. On the same farm we have a blend of both food and cash crops/economic trees such as cocoa; avocado; mangoes; plums; guavas; oranges and tangerines; sour sop and pineapples; plantains; bananas; corn; cassava; yams; cocoyam; sweet potato; tomatoes; water melons and cucumbers etc.
With such a model; we are training our beneficiaries to establish farms that are self-sufficient mimicking the natural forests with other crops assisting the others in one way or the other through natural capital enhanced by ecology and biodiversity. With such a method, at no point in time will a farmer be plunged in total lack since they can always rely on other crops in case others fail or while other crops are still growing, they are harvesting and selling others.
This model ensures stability and sustainability in our agribusiness and equally prevents soil degradation; mitigate global warming as well as enhances biodiversity conservation. We strive to fight hunger and poverty through a positive traditional strategy that could be well applicable in all parts of Cameroon and Africa at large. Our drive is the fact that sustainable agriculture would only be achievable if agricultural engineering traces back to the classical pattern of farming. Malnutrition and related health hazards are a direct consequence of breakage in sustainable food systems.
Aside training vulnerable women through the Bridgers Farms; we train women in other communities by setting up smaller resource farms for the beneficiaries which we later on make them own these farms and control it for the common benefit of all those working in this farm. We further teach these beneficiaries basic accounting and bookkeeping so they can track progress of their agribusinesses and be able to ascertain progress or regression.
These approaches are therefore our baseline tool to catalyze the fight against extreme poverty; hunger; malnutrition and rebuild food security for current and future generations.
Our crops are suffering the damaging effects of prolonged droughts. These droughts could be as severe as horrific nightmares as they would sometimes last between two weeks to two months continuously. We therefore need financial aid to assist us to install an irrigation system in this farm to curb the huge number of crops lost to droughts each year and so boost our productivity in a mind-blowing manner.
Also, we need financial assistance to help provide us with the right equipment to engage in the transformation of some of our crops to prevent post-harvest loss and maximize our profits. Some of these equipment would include Solar Dryers and Solar Powered Cassava Flour making Machines; Gari making Machines; industrial Chips Cutter/fryer as well as industrial Juicers.
Equally we have the need to increase the size of our farm and open up more farms in other strategic rural communities in Cameroon to scale our impact.
We need resources to address bushfire in Cameroon as a whole; for now, we have carried out sensitization within our farm community to tackle bushfire and taken further precautions to avoid the farm from being invaded by fire next time. However, this is not enough as we need to get stakeholders involved to push policy enactment in this direction within many other communities and Cameroon at large.
We also require resources to empower the youth and men engaged in bushfire practices for hunting purposes to engage in other gainful economic activities so they can deviate from hunting as a main source of their livelihood.
More importantly, Our farm community : Ntui belt located in the Mbam and Kim Division – Center Region of Cameroon currently serves as a safe haven for thousands Internally Displaced People (IDPs) who are fleeing away from the conflict stricken Anglophone Regions of Cameroon. The wellbeing of these IDPs especially Internally Displaced Single Mothers/girls have been our primary concern. We have been supporting them in the area of menstruation management and WASH in general. However we wish to assist these most vulnerable victims of war in a more sustainable manner by engaging them into large scale climate smart agriculture; including the cultivation of cassava which is a climate resistant and a multipurpose crop that could be transformed in to many different varieties of food stuffs widely consumed across Cameroon thus, putting it on high demand, and especially for the fact that the shortage of flour in Cameroonian markets recently have highlighted cassava as an alternative source for the production of all purpose baking flour. In this respect we have the Bridgers farm as a ready training ground; the technical knowhow is available, unfortunately, financial resources remain our grave obstacle in accomplishing this goal.
So far since inception in 2019, we have impacted the lives of over 350 vulnerable women/girls and provided permanent employment to some 05 youth; with over 37 other youth working on a temporal basis. In addition, we have successfully trained over 100 volunteers and interns in the Bridgers Farms including both nationals and international youth of varied ages and backgrounds.
It is our greatest wish to not only practice mixed cropping but equally engage in mixed farming so we can rear animals such as pigs and chicks; while providing women with piglets and chicks to start their own animal farms, The Bridgers farms shall benefit greatly from the animal waste as manure for our crops to avoid the use of synthetic fertilizer which degrades the soil. It is a future plan that could be accomplished in the nearest future with the help of someone somewhere who shares our passion and vision.
Join us on this exciting journey to enhance climate smart agriculture while fighting hunger and making efforts to eradicate malnutrition and extreme poverty amongst the most vulnerable populations at the same time.