Communities in the Far North region of Cameroon open their doors to those fleeing conflict
30 September 2022
Bamadi, affectionately called Barma by people in his community, has opened his doors to more than 200 families since 2014 when the crisis in the Far North region of Cameroon began. Thousands of internally displaced people (IDPs) have fled violence perpetrated by armed groups in the department of Logone-et-Chari, and host communities, like Barma’s in the Dor district of Makary, have given them shelter. Recent inter-ethnic conflicts have aggravated the situation that has been raging on for years, particularly in the Lake Chad Basin, affecting hundreds of thousands of families.
Host communities are sharing their limited food, natural resources and basic social services, which has gradually weakened their resilience, leading to the disruption of production systems, livelihoods and social cohesion in the region.
Barma, for example, a father of 13 children, was already struggling to support his family as a seasonal farmer. At the same time, he knew he had to help in whatever way he could.
“We could not remain insensitive to the situation. These people have lost everything and have nothing to eat. Me and others in the neighbourhood welcomed them,” says Barma. “I had to do something.”
Like him, other members of the host community have sheltered more than 30, 000 IDPs to date.
Stabilization and recovery
With financial support from the United Nations Secretary-General’s Peacebuilding Fund (PBF), the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO) implemented the "Stabilization and recovery of communities affected by the security crisis in Far North, Cameroon" project. In collaboration with the International Organization for Migration (IOM) and the United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA), the project is improving the resilience of IDPs, returnees and host communities who face food insecurity in the Logone-et-Chari department.
“FAO gave me three goats: two females and one male for breeding. I also received training on the management of small ruminant farming,” says Barma. “I knew absolutely nothing about this activity because before I lived only from agriculture.”
The initiative provided 245 households with support for rearing small ruminants in the localities of Makary and Kousseri in the Far North. A total of 735 goats were distributed, in addition to sacks of feed, lick blocks, vaccines and treatments for small ruminants. FAO also provided training and monitoring in animal care and health in partnership with local technical services.
Through this project, several families are not only improving their nutritional status by eating goat meat, which is rich in protein, but also generating an income to cover basic daily needs.
“Today, thanks to support from FAO, my small farm has 15 goats, and it is one of the six model farms in the department of Logone-et-Chari. It’s a source of pride for me because people from elsewhere come to train with me and learn from my experience and the organization of my farm,” he continues.
Building resilience through market gardening
As part of the project, 134 IDPs and members of their host communities were provided with 10 hectares of land to grow their own fruits and vegetables. The communities are now producing onions, carrots, black nightshade, tomato, cabbage, peppers and okra. The fields are watered daily through a solar-powered borehole built specifically for this use. Being a new activity for some, FAO has supervised the training in farmer field schools on this solar-powered technology.
Crops from these fields are directly consumed by the families or sold in local markets. The income generated from these sales allows them to acquire food that they do not grow, helping them to diversify and balance their meals.
“Since the cultivation of these fields, households have been able to feed themselves in a healthy and varied way. Crops for sale are transported to the local market. This allows beneficiaries to meet their basic needs through the profits from sales,” says Djingui Souga Leonard, FAO project officer.
Another community member now participating in the FAO project, Ali Mahamat, used to cut wood for heating and sell it to households. At 62 years of age, Ali was taking enormous risks carrying out this activity, but he did it to feed his family.
Now growing crops, the heavy physical labour required has reduced.
“FAO has freed me from this hard work by supporting me in agriculture. Thanks to the profits made on the sale of my onions, I can feed my family well, clothe and care for my children when they are sick,” he explains.
Violence and insecurity lead to the displacement of people, putting them, as well as host communities, in vulnerable situations. FAO, UNFPA, IOM and other UN partners work together to support conflict-affected people and their host communities to increase their self-reliance and strengthen their resilience.