Food granaries loan program provides vital lifeline in Cameroon

PC(USA) program helps families feed themselves during lean harvest

September 9, 2015

:  RELUFA coordinator Jeff Bamenjo (far left) with communities of Gozemey, North Cameroon, in front of their granary.

: RELUFA coordinator Jeff Bamenjo (far left) with communities of Gozemey, North Cameroon, in front of their granary. —Valery Nodem

LOUISVILLE

In a time of turmoil, hunger and poverty, a Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) program is working with people in Cameroon to sustain their food supply even in a less than stellar harvest season. The Presbyterian Hunger Program and Presbyterian Disaster Assistance have been working with RELUFA in Cameroon to improve economic opportunities, help villages become self-sustainable and assist with food sovereignty projects. 

RELUFA is a national network of Cameroon churches, ecumenical and secular non-profit organizations working against hunger, poverty, socio-economic and environmental injustice.

One of the more successful projects has been the establishment of food granaries, designed to help support families in need during lean seasons, generally between May and August. The program provides bags of millet as a loan to local communities and families who replenish what they took during the next harvest.

“Some agencies distribute food that may last a few days, but this program is designed to make food last as long as possible,” said Valery Nodem, an associate with the Hunger Program, who recently visited Cameroon to see how the program is working. “Now other communities want to do the same thing. It was really good to see how the participants have taken ownership of the granaries to make sure they grow and last.”

Thanks to the granary project, children enjoy better nutrition when food is scarce in their villages.

Thanks to the granary project, children enjoy better nutrition when food is scarce in their villages. —Valery Nodem

The decade-old program is currently running in 42 Cameroonian villages. On average, each village has approximately 2,000 people and each granary generally houses 60 to 80 bags of millet. Villagers harvest their crops between September and January so they have enough food to get through the rest of the year.

RELUFA in Cameroon is concerned about the Islamic extremist group Boko Haram from Nigeria that has been terrorizing people in both countries the last few years. The group has pushed many Nigerian communities to flee to Cameroon for their safety.  RELUFA worries the increase in Nigerian refugees might have an impact on the granaries, leaving many villages in short supply.

“We thought that with the extent of the crisis, people would just eat the food in the granaries,” said Nodem. “We saw that even in the middle of a crisis, the community approach of the program had prepared people to manage, maintain and grow their granaries.”

Boko Haram is based in northeastern Nigeria. The refugee population has been moving into Cameroon’s far north region. The United Nations estimates as many as 40,000 Nigerian refugees are currently living in Cameroon.

“With all of the refugees coming in from Nigeria, there is a lot of pressure on communities to meet their needs as it relates to food,” said Nodem. “We want to make sure people have enough to feed themselves during the tough times.”

The PC(USA) has had a mission presence in Cameroon for nearly 150 years through mission personnel and partner church relationships including RELUFA, the Joining Hands network of churches and ecumenical organizations. The Cameroon Mission Network connects Presbyterians who share a common mission interest.

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You can learn more about RELUFA’s grain banks at the RELUFA website. To join in strengthening and expanding the grain banks, please donate here. To find out more about PC(USA)’s work and partnerships in Cameroon, visit the Presbyterian Hunger Program web page.