2020 has been a tough year for the world, but the communities BERUDA works with have dealt with the turmoil on top of a tough 3 years of local conflict, closed schools and displacement. However, we're optimistic about the future and as we make our way into 2021 we wanted to update you on some of the initiatives underway that will create a 2021 we can look back at as the catalyst for change.
In 2020, BERUDA created a number of initiatives designed to combat issues of poverty, youth disenfranchisement and health issues of local communities. Reaching out to donors, BERUDA has successfully received funding for projects that will bear fruit in 2021.
The Cayenne Pepper Project - an economic activity aimed at youth
Type Cayenne Pepper into google and it will predict the two words 'health benefits' - so well-known are its nutritional properties. Many people consider cayenne pepper to be the king of medicinal herbs, and BERUDA has decades of experience in training communities in medicinal herbs projects. In 2020 this has seen BERUDA working with 20 local women in the community to provide cayenne pepper seedlings to a soon-to-be constructed processing centre. A centre where a small group of previously unemployed youth are being trained to harvest, process, market and sell the peppers.
As of mid-December the project is well underway and it has proved attractive to the youth BERUDA were hoping to attract - young men who had taken to living in the surrounding bush areas and were vulnerable to recruitment by militia groups. The project is headed up by a young man just like them, which has helped the youth visualise themselves being a part of the project. One of the young men has even taken the initiative to invent a farm tool that will make cultivating the pepper a more efficient process.
BERUDA has realised that if it creates the right projects, they will prove useful as conflict resolution tools that can be replicated wider into other villages, seeking out influential youths involved in the conflict and encouraging them to learn, earn and gain a sense of purpose.
We look forward to updating you on progress from this and other ventures in the New Year.
Wishing you a very Merry Christmas wherever you are - may you be blessed with health and peace.
♥ From the team at BERUDA ♥
It has been a while, but we’re sure you'll understand. Unfortunately since our last post in 2018, things have not yet taken a turn for the better. Below we've put together a summary of the news from a recent newsletter put out by BERUDA's Sponsor an Orphan Project.
Life remains very challenging for all citizens of the English speaking North West and South West Regions of Cameroon. The conflict that broke out in November 2016 leading to the rupture and later on to complete close down of the educational sector in the semi-urban and rural areas of Cameroon has steadily degenerated our living conditions.
As most of you might already know, Belo and later on other towns such as Njinikom and Fundong have been the hotspots of the conflict between the government and non-state armed forces. The irrational gun exchanges, burning of houses and property, human casualties as collateral damage and intentional killings both by the non-state (separatists) and government armed forces displaced 95% of the populations. Belo, home to BERUDA HQ, has now been deserted for almost a year and presently looks like farmland. Before the exodus, staff would have to travel among rotting corpses and were subjected to the terrifying gunshots that continued day and night.
There have been developments that have made life easier for the staff to manage. Shortly before BERUDA left Belo to set up the office in nearby Bamenda City, BERUDA gained a contract with UNICEF to act as Third Party Monitors to the activities they are implementing in the North West Region in their emergency response efforts. UNICEF is implementing projects through other partners like PLAN International Cameroon, SHUMAS, Red Cross and more. UNICEF monitors the activities of all these partners for compliance, efficiency and to provide coaching where needed. Due to the volatile situation, UNICEF staff are not able to conduct the monitoring and BERUDA as one of the most deeply rooted and influential grassroots organizations in the North West has taken over the work on the ground. Staff travel into the field, collect sampling data and electronically submit the data via an app on mobile phones called “KOBO collect,” which can be extracted by the Data Manager, analysed and then reported to UNICEF. The contract is due to end shortly, but there are prospects that it shall be renewed for 3 more months.
Since the conflict began most of our Orphans from BERUDA’s Sponsor an Orphan Project stopped attending school and over two long years occasionally attempted to resume studies but their efforts were futile. The separatists used education as the main tool in the fight against the government of Cameroon and declared zero operation of schools in the Regions. So they kept brutally attacking and occasionally knifed students who attempted to go school, kidnapping teachers and burning schools. In early 2018, the educational system completely collapsed in 5 out of 7 Divisions of the North West region and in all of the South West.
The good news is that we have successfully located all the orphans in the program. We know their whereabouts and are able to follow up on their progress. We maintained our activities locating and visiting orphans in Bamenda, and occasionally in Belo incurring much trekking due to road blocks, monthly hospital visits and refill of ARVs for the HIV+ children and following up on emergency health issues. We took care of household needs and food for some of those children who moved to Bamenda. We intend to keep on assisting the orphans in the best way we can in these trying times of the conflict. It is important to know that after this conflict, the orphans will have double the needs like before; some may need serious psychological support, making of civil documents lost during the time of displacement, extra support in education to catch up on the lost time, etc.
Since December 2018, BERUDA had planned a general distribution of food and non-food Items (in addition to the individual supplies given out) but constant road blocks in the area by the separatist fighters and frequent gun fighting presented a very insecure and risky environment for that activity. The supplies were stored until February 2019 when we journeyed to Belo to supply all the families still living within Boyo Division. Supplies included cooking oil, salt, rice, groundnuts, soy beans, maggi, onions, and other non-food items such as laundry soaps, sanitary pads for teenage girls, body lotions and more.
And so life carries on, with hope for a brighter future in coming days. Thank you immensely for your steadfast support to BERUDA and their service to humanity.
Until next time, take care.
National Day is a holiday in Cameroon celebrated on 20 May, a day whose events this year unfortunately made international news because of the violence that flared up in our region of the Northwest during these celebrations.
Beginning as an anglophone demand for more say in the government of President Paul Biya at the end of 2016, the movement has evolved into strikes, demonstrations and an uprising which is beginning to claim lives and whole villages.
Despite this worrying situation BERUDA is hopeful that a peaceful solution to this uprising can be found and that once again children will be back in school and villagers can return home.
In the meantime BERUDA has moved its headquarters from Belo, which has become a centre for the conflict, to Fundong, where it has always had a branch office, and staff are now working safely out of the Bamenda and Fundong offices, and our projects continue. Community organisations responding to the needs of local people become invaluable in times of crisis because needs can change so quickly.
Those of you involved in sponsoring our Orphan program will be aware of the impact the crisis has had on our children through the closing of schools in the area. BERUDA maintains contact with all the orphans, many of whom have moved out of the area to stay with relatives in other parts of Cameroon. Older children who have remained in the area are enrolled in apprentice programs wherever possible. Despite the problems facing education in the region, looking after the well being of the children in the program remains a priority.
And we are working on exciting new developments too.
For the last 6 months we have been surveying the Ijim Forest and have created a project to reclaim the forest. There has been conservation projects focused on this forest in the past but it has been many years since they have been active and villagers and graziers have begun encroaching on the forest again and it is gradually being destroyed. Following the surveying we are now seeking funds to embark on a reclamation program which will involve:
A computer Project in the Far North:
Micro-finance projects in Nwa Subdivision:
So we are excited about the work on the horizon, and we are hopeful that the political situation will stabilise and peace will return to the Northwest.
As always, but especially at times like these, we appreciate your support and your kind words. We'd love you to get in touch and to share your thoughts with us.
During the summer of 2017, a biogas unit was constructed with the help of a team of young engineers from the Engineers without Borders (EWB) society of Nottingham University. They spent three weeks with BERUDA and a video story of their experiences is shown below. As a result of a great team effort between BERUDA and EWB, gas is now being produced and several families have access to clean cooking facilities.
This project is a result of a very generous grant from the Ramboll Foundation to install a biogas unit and a Pig Farm stocked with 100 pigs. The project is substantially complete with the installation of the biogas unit and 80 pigs now in the farm.
Along with the health and environmental benefits of the biogas unit for local families, the future will bring an increased number of pigs, income for BERUDA from sales of piglets and other agricultural initiatives such as small scale farming and raising goats and chickens.
"I believe that people can lift themselves out of poverty……if they are given a little push." Cristina Clopatofsky
As a volunteer with BERUDA this summer I launched a project to support single mothers, who are often stigmatized in the community and left alone to raise their children. I had the opportunity to meet 10 young women who have an aspiration to lift themselves and their families out of poverty, but lack the resources to do so. They are very hard working and have tried to earn an income by working in someone else’s farm, selling food, or by relying on their families. However, this is not enough to provide for their children’s basic needs such as food and school fees.
By supporting this project, you can empower them by enabling them to start their own business in tailoring, cosmetics, and hairdressing. This will give them a stable source of income which will empower them financially so they can provide for their families. With your contribution, you will be improving the situation of these 10 single mothers, their children, and even improving the situation of the community by creating more jobs for people who face similar circumstances.
This is an open invitation to make a direct impact on their lives and improve their situation for the better, let’s help them help themselves!
For more information about where the funds will go to, their individual stories, and how to get involved, please follow the following link:
Happy New Year to you all, from all of us here at BERUDA!
We are really looking forward to 2018, with work moving on well and setting us up to achieve great things for the community this year.
We are really proud to have finished building our own guesthouse reserved for our volunteers that can accommodate up to 6 volunteers at a time. BERUDA has used a variety of accommodations over our long history of welcoming volunteers into our community but we are excited to be able to guarantee a higher standard of hospitality with the creation of our own new and comfortable guesthouse.
Also in 2017 we put time and effort into increasing our capacity to successfully seek international donors and as a result we're currently writing projects about forestry, beekeeping and vetiver. Keep an eye out for projects like these in our news in 2018.
We've started selling the pigs we've successfully bred and raised for the main purpose of generating income for all the great projects we can't wait to get started on. In recent years through an injection of funds from the Ramboll Foundation, BERUDA invested in 100 pigs and pens so that the breeding and raising of these livestock would serve as additional income generation for BERUDA projects in the region. This has been a successful strategy and we are now breeding and raising a wider range of livestock and poultry. You will see the fishpond here in the photos, an initative that provides income from the sale of Tilapia fish, great nutrition for the community and also has spin off benefits for the environment in collecting and storing rainwater and increasing the local water table.
So, how about visiting us in 2018 and being a part of all we have going on? We'd love to have you!
Most of us want to make the world a better place, but we often ask ourselves where to start.
Meet Cristina Clopatofsky, a recent volunteer and inspiring changemaker. Watch her video and support this great project working with entrepreneurial women in the BERUDA community.
Since July 2016, BERUDA has reached out to just short of 100 women in Nwa area DONGA MANTUNG DIVISION through a micro finance project named PROMIC. Through funds provided by SWISSHAND, women are being empowered with entrepreneurial and managerial skills and provided with startup capital (50,000 FCFA/90 USD per individual) at a very minimal interest rate. The plan is that in three years, the funds are repaid by the individuals and handed back to women’s groups. These women’s groups will have autonomy over the funds and maintain the sustainability of this revolving credit scheme.
In this way, the main money pool of each group will grow to the level where they will be able to empower other suitable groups in the same way. Nine groups of 12 members each are benefiting from the project in Nwa already. BERUDA plays a supervisory role to ensure sustainability. Currently seven more groups are awaiting disbursement of funds while many others are still to be categorized. One of the objectives of this project is to build capacities through trainings and follow-up evaluation.
Alleviation of poverty through sustainable income generating activities remains the mission that propels BERUDA to undertake these life changing projects. That is why despite many constraints, BERUDA has penetrated to the most enclave peripheries of North West Region. Projects similar to these have existed in Boyo, Mezam and Ngohketunjia Divisions since 2012 and have benefited over 300 women.
Building resilience in the community is BERUDA’s specialty. This is crucial for communities suffering from the effects of poverty, but even more important when communities suffer from disturbances like the crisis in the Anglophone regions of Cameroon that placed students in a blockade. Students have not been in school since November 2016 and for students that didn’t have relatives in the South to travel to, they stay on in the school zone and are vulnerable to unhealthy lifestyles and risky behaviors that can impact students' long term outlook for success.
In order for the BERUDA orphans as well as other vulnerable children to emerge stronger and more resourceful from this crisis, BERUDA came out with the initiative to organise a computer training program. Restricted by the number of computers available at BERUDA, eight students was the maximum we were able to enrol and these were staggered in two intakes.
The first four graduated on the 14th of August 2017 after going through almost 9 months training on Computer software like Microsoft applications, Outlook and other contemporary applications. They underwent a one month internship program and were finally evaluated to deserve diplomas. Hoping that schools resume in September, we believe that these students will go back to school richer in experience than they would have been if schools were ongoing.
At this point, we will continue with the last set of four but hope to continue the classes even after schools resume. In this way, the single mothers and other non-students in our target population will benefit from the training. Our only problem is the Computers on which they students can practise. We have just two computers and we can therefore carry just a small number of students. If we were able to afford additional computers, we could meet a wider number of beneficiaries.
In April 2016, BERUDA’S partners from the UK, Afri-Link, received funding from the Ramboll Foundation to construct a new agricultural centre in Fundong. BERUDA already owned a plot of land and the idea was to build a pig farm, biogas unit and fish farm there.
Part of the scope was to provide 100 pigs and pens. By fattening and breeding them, BERUDA will get a sustainable income to support its other work in the region. The pig dung is going to be put into a new biogas unit, from which the gas will be piped to local homes for cooking purposes; this will mean that families will not have to cook on open smoky fires. As a result we hope that many of the eye and chest ailments suffered, especially by local ladies, will disappear.
The solid waste output from the biogas unit can be used as fertiliser and also as feed for plants in a new fish pond, that will provide further income from the sale of Tilapia fish. As we have a good area for other activities, we are planting a garden and keeping other livestock such as goats and turkeys.
This is a great project and we thank the Ramboll Foundation for their help.