Bamenda(Cameroon) suffocating under the weight of waste Population and authorities blame it on worsening socio-political stalemate.

IMG_20190310_180633Solid waste management in underdeveloped and developing countries represents a dangerous issue due to environmental impacts and human illnesses triggered by waste released into water bodies and by the practice of open burning which are usually underestimated by Governments. The lack of funding, public awareness, technological facilities and know how worsened the situation. In the crisis-hit North West and South West Regions of Cameroon the tense soci-political climate prevailing due to the Anglophone crisis has compounded situations the more.

A walk through the main streets of Bamenda is an eyesore of a dirt-feast the Ntarinkon market, to the Main market, Food market, Metta quarter and the famous “Fru Ndi” junction, heaps of garbage dumps compete against each other.IMG_20190310_180621

In most of these areas the dirt has been piling there for two months without being carried. Road and market uses are apparently helpless in spite of the discomfort they may be suffocating from: stench odor, breeding grounds for disease-transmitting organisms, air pollution…

A number of reasons have been advanced for this situation but the blame seems to reside on the degrading political climate due to a three year running crisis in this Region.  Anglophone separatists have instituted a no-work day (ghost towns) every Monday already cutting off some work hours for the dirt clearing company- HYSACAM. To make matters worse they have been threatening to send out this company from the Region. Some of their street cleaners have been attacked and their trucks burnt and roads leading to major dump sites have been blocked.IMG_20190310_180605

While the separatists argue that their actions are meant to put pressure on government seek a rapid solution to the crisis, a cross-section of the population thinks that hygiene and sanitation is one of those sectors that should be kept out a political struggle, because a health crisis will make no distinction between political actors.

Shu Tracy-Daisy Nchang

COMINSUD Volunteer

 

 

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Working with volunteers: Transforming people in distress to pools of knowledge

For the past years, Community Initiative for Sustainable Development (COMINUSUD) in its quest to promote community engagement, development and accountability has been building a strong network of community volunteers in the North West Region. Little did it even foresee that this network of volunteers may subsequently serve in a situation of crisis?

But it has come to pass with the outbreak of the now Anglophone crisis in November 2016. From a socio-political crisis it metamorphosed into a deadly armed conflict. This has resulted to thousands of displaced persons either moving out of their usual habitat, out of the Region and some to neighbouring countries especially Nigeria.

To adapt to this new dispensation, COMINSUD developed a project titled “TRANSFORMING PEOPLE IN DISTRESS TO POOLS OF KNOWLEDGE”.

OBJECTIVES:

  • To have a network of community volunteers to contribute in Community Engagement and accountability
  • Contribute to transforming those in distress to pools of knowledge.

REALISATIONS:

We now have a network of 50 trained volunteers (5 of them who are now permanent) from all 7 Divisions of the North West Region. 21 of this community based volunteers are internally displaced persons who were empowered during a workshop and later integrated into the transforming people in distress to pools of knowledge project.

APPROACHES/STRATEGIES:

Most of these volunteers have taken part in the following trainings aimed at re-enforcing their knowledge, skills and attitudes to enable then to be veritable community agents of change especially in a crisis situation.

  • Volunteering training organized by COMINSUD in August 2018 to enlighten the volunteers on what volunteering is and is not, the advantages of volunteering etc.
  • Workshop on Project Proposal Writing held at COMINSUD conference hall and organized by COMINSUD from the 8 – 10 August, 2018. This workshop was aimed giving more understanding to the volunteers on the various steps and aspects in project proposal writing.
  • Workshop on the provision of Psychological First Aid to Internally Displaced Persons – IDPs in North West Region, notably women, girls and boys on the 17 October 2018 at COMINSUD in Bamenda.
  • Workshop on Social Inclusion, Humanitarian Action and Peace Work in the Context of Conflict organized by COMINSUD and funded by UNFPA

CHANGES/IMPACT OF THE ACTIONS

  • Having a network of volunteers covering all the 7 Division of the North West Region has greatly increased our access to certain inaccessible communities.
  • Through the TRANSFORMING PEOPLE IN DISTRESS TO POOLS OF KNOWLEDGE initiative, we have been able to empower at least 21 IDPs giving them hope.

LESSONS 

  • Community development is valuable to the targeted communities when Community Engagement and Accountability is promoted.
  • Internally Displaced Persons shouldn’t be only seen as needy people but persons with pools of knowledge that can be transformed into agents of change.

CHALLENGES

  • The difficult and insecure working environments across the region.
  • Most of the transformed IDPs cannot give the optimal best due to lack or insufficient financial means.

In spite of the challenges COMINSUD is striving to ensure that community engagement and accountability should be promoted through the engagement of Community Volunteers and members of the concerned communities.

Nfon Peter

Vounteer and Youth Coordinator

Working in Syngery with Human Rights Service Providers

“We are equal in rights and dignity” – a summary of human rights and what social inclusion is out to promote.

To ensure this, COMINSUD in its Democracy and Empowerment of Women (DEW) Phase V project is holding series of meetings in 15 council areas to give an opportunity for the community to understand the services of individuals, organisations and institutions assigned to address issues of human rights.

With a goal to contribute to a socially-inclusive, non-discriminatory and gender sensitive society, the DEW V project at the beginning conducted, a baseline survey on the perception of human rights and the demand and protection of human rights by COMINSUD Part analysis showed that 72% of persons belonging to vulnerable segments do not know the structures that are responsible to render services to them. This baseline report thus paved the way for meetings that brought about service providers like the Divisional Officer, Lord Mayor and some Council staff, Forces of Law and Order, Inspectorate of Basic Education, Delegates of Social Services, Chairpersons of Traditional Councils, Doctors and Religious authorities. Also present were duty bearers especially vulnerable persons like; women, widows, youths, persons living with disabilities, persons belonging to a cultural minority group and orphans. Interesting questions that came up included:

  • Does the traditional council have the right to exile one from a community?
  • Where can one report a case of land dispute?
  • How much is set for bail from a police / gendarme post?
  • Do parents have the rights to corporal punishment over their children?

So far, 10 out of 15 meetings have taken place in 10 Municipal Councils bringing over 230 participants. At the end of the meetings, participants expressed heartfelt thanks for creating a forum wherein people could freely express themselves in issues concerning their rights. This is the second time that these meetings are taken place the first being in May 2016 and the second on going. All meetings were coordinated by DEW staff and other consultants of COMINSUD.

Written by Ijang Sandong

Ecokids – Learning by doing

Ecokids is here again! … to bring a clean and hygienic learning environment to schools and also to ensure pupils have access to drinking water.

Our volunteer Zita carried out several visits to Government School (GS) Alamatsom reaching out to 503 pupils of the primary section of the school sensitizing them on how to use their toilets and urinary.
The school is well constructed with good toilet facilities and urinary. Unfortunately they are not well managed by the users. Zita went there to throw more light on proper toilet use by simply guiding the children. The visits were carried out towards break in order to have more children to sensitize and also not to disrupt the classes in anyway.

Before this sensitization campaign, about half of the children used to urinate outside since other pupils mess the toilets and make it not usable. But now almost all of them use the toilets because they have been told and even illustrated what to do once there.

Unfortunately there is no adult person assigned to clean – hence the kids do the cleaning by themselves every Friday and within the week as punishment.

The absence of water on campus has led to pupils bringing drinking water from home in plastics and also carrying water from home and preserving to clean the classrooms on Friday. Friday is a general cleaning day hence pupils are assigned to different tasks and duties to keep their campus clean.

“Together let’s give our children a healthy environment for learning”

written by Zee Zita NKIMBENG

Read more about our Ecokids project!

My work in Potsdam

Being one of COMINSUD’s volunteers since October 2016, I am currently serving a volunteer year in Potsdam, Germany under the Weltwärts programme through Bread for the World, a German based organization.

Della in her office in Potsdam

Della in her office in Potsdam

I live and work in Potsdam which is about 27 kilometres from Berlin, Germany’s capital city. I work with ‘Stiftung für Engagement und Bildung’ which is a non profit making organisation founded in 2009. Over the years they have carried out projects involving African partners.

I started my work with this organization on the 4th of September 2017 which will last until August 2018.

Interestingly enough, I am assisting the project staff in one of the ongoing projects ‘Fair Smartphones’ which is aimed at implementing 10 workshops mainly with pupils between 14-15 years old on the topic ‘Living with Smartphones’.

In these workshops, the production, final sale and disposal of smartphones along side related environmental consequences are talked about. The aim is to discuss approaches to how their own actions as young people can help improve the situations on a regional and global scale.

There are other ongoing projects covering other topics like the refugee crisis with the target group of mostly young people aged between 12 & 25 years old. Every staff is encouraged to work on new project ideas which are developed into project proposals used to seek funding for execution as previously done with older and ongoing projects.

The language barrier and some differences in the working style are some of the challenges I am coping with. Also in the upcoming months as my German gets better, I will be involved in more project outdoor activities which I will love to share with you as they unfold.

With 9-10 more months to go, I am positive and looking forward to more challenging and exciting experiences together with my colleagues here at ‘Stiftung für Engagement und Bildung’. This is a one in a lifetime experience.

Written by Bii-Mai Della Kuma (26 years old)

Consider the consequences – peace journalism and election reporting

On Friday, the 21st of July, COMINSUD was invited to participate in a workshop lead by Professor Steven Youngblood from the Center for Global Peace Journalism at Park University (United States) in the Presbytarian Church Centre Bamenda.

During the workshop media representatives from the region were introduced to principles of peace journalism. Past experiences of Professor Youngblood were connected to election reporting from countries like India, Kenya and Uganda. Through these examples the importance of media coverage was proven and debates on current situation were initiated.

Comparison with journalists from Yaoundé proved that the risks of election provoked violence is seen as much more likely in the Anglophone part of Cameroon. Even more importantly, the workshop served as a platform for bringing together journalists and civil society representatives in order to work together on upcoming 2018 election reporting strategies. This will become a crucial cooperation next year for mitigating the possible risks of violence and lack of transparency all through the election process.

More information on the series of workshops held by Professor Youngblood in Cameroon (Yaounde, Bafoussam, Bamenda, Limbe, Buea etc.) and his impressions can be found here:

written by Krišjānis Liepa

All animals are equal, but …

… some are more equal than the others.” 15 Children listen anxiously to Akumbu Jones, an artist from “La Liberté Arts Group” Bamenda. He is telling them part of the “Animal Farm” story from George Orwell.

“Weak or strong, clever or simple, we are all brothers.”

Mr Akumbu is the leader of our latest initiative “Theater for Children”.

Cameroon provides very little opportunities for children to be creative, use their imagination and be allowed to try things and make errors without the fear to be punished. Most schools including nursery schools provide only a very formal learning program, mostly focusing on reading, writing, repeating. All this goes along with high competition/ranking systems inside the classes, strict hierarchy, humiliation, exams after every year and still – although officially banned – corporal punishment.

Many Children have difficulties to express themselves, their opinions/feelings or to discuss their points of view. But all this are skills that the next generation needs to work towards change in the society, towards good governance and democracy. With our initiative we want to contribute to build up these skills. And for sure, the children should have a lot of fun in a relaxed atmosphere!

Enough fun for everybody!

Parents appreciate the program very much. “My daughter was so happy after the theater; she was singing new songs and dancing the whole evening.” – one mother stated.

Another parent said: “My son explained to me the new game ‘Mami Njanga’, I was surprised how exited he was about this little thing.”

Stay with us – we will keep you informed about the next exiting news from the theater group.

written by Maja Mueller