This success story written by Wouedjie Alice-Norra, a lawyer who works at the Cameroon youth Initiative for Rural Development, CAMYIRD, is part of the "Young women and Youth's Gender Perspectives in Agricultural Development" series that spotlight young professionals' experiences for women's empowerment in agricultural development. From research to private sector, mass media to civil society work, YPARD 2015 Gender series features, every month, young "gender champions" from different regions of the world. This series is part of YPARD work as special youth catalyst in the GAP : Gender in Agriculture Partnership.
Since my young age, I had a strong propensity for Law jobs, as well as for the practice of agriculture. The latter not only outweighs my capacity as a lawyer but has also managed to make me today a perfect consulting and agricultural extension agent.
A very special beginning
When I was only 8 years old, I participated in growing corn and peanuts, as well as in harvesting coffee, in a sort of family farming. Furthermore, I did some market gardening and, more specifically, black nightshade growing with my parents in an ocean bank of Mungo, in the coast of Cameroon. We used to sell our harvest products to passengers driving towards the Cameroonian city of Douala.
When I turned 10, I managed to get a piece of land in our large family field where I produced maize and cocoyam. At home, I was simultaneously the goose bumps raiser, following my mother’s example as "village chickens" raiser.
Public Law studies coloured by my passion for agriculture!
Due to my mind confusion between justice and law, I chose Law as my passion right after finishing high school. Soon my interest in agriculture led me to familiarize myself with the natives of the town of Dschang in western Cameroon where I enrolled at the University of Dschang.
This relationship allowed me to go with them to the plantations where they cultivated potatoes, watermelons and tomatoes in a kind of subsistence agriculture.
Practicing urban agriculture
It was in 2012, after two years of theory that everything changed. I joined an urban agriculture program called PROTEGEQV in Yaoundé. This program included a "training" component and a "knowledge dissemination." The goal was, according to ALTERNATIVE CANADA PROTEGEQV (NGO partner in this program) to train three young women who in turn would frame an exclusively female target practice of urban agriculture.
In view of the many benefits of urban agriculture in a context of food insecurity as defined in sub-regional common policies to achieve MDG No. 1, my passion for agriculture brought me to change my thesis and my professional guidance and interested public policies for agricultural development: The title of my new thesis was: "The Comprehensive Programme for the Development of African Agriculture (CAADP) and the formation of sub-regional international company in Central Africa".
My training in Agriculture
During the training period, we learned the techniques of urban agriculture and its importance. We were formed in soil and its enrichment, as well as in hydroponics. Besides, we were led to share our experience with volunteers from Canada where such farming is mainly soilless cultivation.
Supporting urban farmers
During the practical phase we supported and followed 150 women in this area. We also encouraged and participated in the development of nearly 150 gardens in the homes of women beneficiaries. Indeed, it was a program that targeted exclusively female farmers as they are the basis of production and food security. Likewise, we organized several training seminars, for instance on corn, mushroom culture, vegetative propagation techniques, etc.
Over 30 women attended each session and about 300 women were trained directly by us in 9 months. The most overwhelming experience was training them in the cultivation of edible mushrooms. With over 50 women present that day, an average of 5 men insisted to be present, among which a Rwandan couple, a pastor and his wife who had been practicing urban agriculture in Cameroon for several years.
Furthermore, the information tool installed Protects QV was another thing designed and implemented for agriculture awareness. Men and women came here every day to get information, solicit expertise or service in this or that specific area. Thus we created a number of schools and urban gardens, trained more than 500 people (students, housewives and some men), collectively wrote a textbook on urban agriculture and I personally supported the creation of several fields and agricultural production cooperatives.
Women, the cornerstone for food security
Currently I am pursuing my research and work in ICT Agriculture and Development program - Agrotic-dev - in a youth association called Cameroon youth Initiative for Rural Development, CAMYIRD. I have created the blog named “Norra Urban Agriculture” as well as a Facebook page “Alice urban agriculture”.
As we had to request every time the husband’s consent for his wife to attend the training sessions, or to exploit the area or wall the house for a green wall, the practice of urban agriculture with women has proved to be difficult. Muslim women particularly were always accompanied by their husbands, while they were simply not showing up.
However, women are the cornerstone for productivity and food security and thus, they must above all engage in the practice of agriculture.
Clik here to read:
- Shaping my future in Gender, Agriculture and Global Development, by Moses Owiny, Project Officer with the Women of Uganda Network (WOUGNET);
- Empowering Women in Agriculture through Mentoring, by Michelle Jambui, Fulbright scholar graduate student;
- "While frustrating at times, challenges do make me far more passionate and determined", by Afrina Choudhury, Gender Specialist at the WorldFish;
- AltroPaesaggio - Empowering Gypsy Women through Urban Agriculture, by Luisa Cartesio, coordinator of the project "Orticulturom" within the association AltroPaesaggio;
- Supporting Sinai Bedouin Women through Agriculture and Handicrafts, by Yasmeen Atta, founder of the Youth Sinai Foundation for Development and Human Rights and the Youth Sinai Development Company.