Women represent 51% of the Cameroonian population, constitute 56.3% of its agricultural labour force, and contribute to 60% of national food production.
Despite those numbers, as a result of traditional forms of society, women in Cameroon sometimes struggle to access jobs outside of the home. Yet while they also lack access to the same facilities as men with regard to land and capital, many Cameroonian women take on a particularly heavy workload that contributes to the welfare of their households.
Women in Cameroon often play an important role in managing family needs and collecting forest products in order to improve their household’s well-being. If local resources become scarce due to changes in climate rhythms, such as the disruption of seasons, local communities and primarily women and indigenous groups would be impacted the most. In Cameroon, over 80% of local communities depend on natural and forest resources for their farming activities and for the collection of wood to be used as an energy source. Such a strong dependence on earth’s resources is paramount for women, as they are highly dependent on the state or quality of local natural resources.
Women living in Cameroon’s community forests can grow supplementary crops and also engage in the harvesting and processing of non-timber forest products (NTFP’s) such as nuts, seeds, honey and leaves, to name just a few. Although men tend to manage earned income from the sale of cash crops in many communities, local women typically focus on harvesting agricultural products, to which they add a variety of their own NTFP’s. This type of activity can enable women to earn supplementary incomes, which in turn can help their families. To also reduce pressure on natural forest resources brought on by clearing and collecting NTFP’s as well as to reduce walking distances, many of these resourceful women cultivate wild fruits and other forest species in their fields or near their homes.
Here are three ways our work is helping women in Cameroonian communities adapt to a changing world by providing diversified income sources.
1. Locally managed community forestry enterprises are maintained or established as a way of helping community members sustainably manage their forests’ economic opportunities. The woman shown here is selling Ndo’o nuts from Cameroon to generate income from the local market. Nuts are a common non-timber forest product that can provide women with supplementary incomes.
The Ndo’o nut is derived from wild mangoes, and is processed into edible pastes. Irvingia gabonensis, its scientific name, comes from a species of African trees, and are sometimes known as wild mango, African mango, or bush mango. These are edible, mango-like fruits, and are especially valued for their fat- and protein-rich nuts.
2. In the photo below, women from a Cameroonian forest community are shown processing Djansang nuts, which can be found growing naturally in the forest. This is a wild, hard-shelled nut that is processed into oil and body soap.
3. Women traditionally dedicate themselves to subsistence agriculture and the collection of NTFP. However, while cocoa cultivation is more commonly associated with men and associated with cash crops that are cultivated to generate income, women are involved throughout various cultivation and processing steps.
These cocoa beans are being dried by the sun in a community forest enterprise in Cameroon. After drying, the next step is roasting, which sterilises the beans. Following that, next is winnowing, or the removal of the shells. Their insides are then ground into a mass called cocoa liquor, which needs to be continuously mixed at a certain temperature for hours or even days. Once that finishes, the product will undergo ‘tempering’ which allows it to stabilise into the product we all know as chocolate.
This interactive map will allow you to further explore the Rainforest Alliance’s work in community forestry: http://www.rainforest-alliance.org/work/forestry/community-forestry/regions