Members are encouraged to save and manage their groups and co-operatives
for the benefit of all their members. Members meet regularly and exchange
ideas within and between groups and co-operatives in the Network.
Groups and co-operatives
are encouraged to develop projects and strategies to help the whole
network. Each co-operative has a store and these are linked to a shop.
This facilitates buying in bulk and selling at reasonable prices to
members and the general community.
The Cameroon has
many different ecological regions each with its own climate, crops and
resources. The FIOH Network would like to extend to other parts of the
country and capitalise on this by exchanging goods and produce from
the different regions but is handicapped by not having its own vehicle
Each group meets weekly to deal with individual savings. Part of the
savings go to the co-operative. The amount collected after four weeks
is taken to the co-operative meeting and saved under the group name
in the co-operative account. These monthly meetings are rotated from
one village to another thus enhancing the sharing of ideas and group
experiences. There is no particular meeting house for any co-operative.
Some groups are separated by more than 7 km, and yet women still walk
to meetings every month. The hosting group is responsible for feeding
the other group's representatives in attendance.
The main Co-operative Network meetings take place quarterly. Many women
have been amazed by the amounts they have been able to save and are
very encouraged by this. All the co-operatives have collectively saved
more than 5 million francs (£5,000) to date (September 2002) and
are investing this in the name of the Co-operative Network and the co-operatives.
Income-generating activities such as dances are organised to provide
some small money to manage the affairs of the co-operative.
Primary health care programmes such as sensitisation against HIV/AIDS,
hygiene and sanitation have been organised using the book "Where
There is No Doctor".
Adult literacy classes have been arranged so that women can, at the
very least, count from 1 to 10 and sign their own name. This is to help
them check and certify their saved amounts entered into cash books.
Care has been given for the mentally and physically handicapped and
their children by providing clothes, feeding and housing.
The Co-operative Shop
All the co-operatives are affiliated to the co-operative shop which
was established in September 2001. Each co-operative contributed 300,000
francs (£300) as share capital. All the co-operatives unanimously
accepted that a donation of £1000 from the Future in Our Hands
Education and Development Fund UK be added to the shares.
The purchase of items is done democratically and rationally. That is
to say, the women take stock of existing prices in all the villages
and in the country as a whole.
They then purchase the various items cheaper for the benefit of all
the co-operatives, groups and members.
Loans are accorded to member groups for the purchase of farming inputs.
The loan scheme is operated in a very flexible and easygoing manner,
This scheme helps many women to pay school fees for their children and
to meet family hospital bills. This flexibility has been a resounding
success because farming methods and needs vary from one area to another
and loans are needed at different times of the year in different areas.
The women have organised many workshops and seminars and invited many
'elite' people and given talks about their work, like the Eucalyptus
Replacement programme, afforestation and organic farming. This has given
the women more confidence and status in their communities.
Notwithstanding the hard work of the women they have been facing a number
of difficulties - long distances separating groups; lack of liquidity
to reinforce the saving and loan schemes; distribution of food from
farms to the co-operative stores is difficult because of the long distances
and difficult topography and poor roads and pathways;lack of labour
saving facilities; lack of post harvest facilities. The women are also
in need of more training to meet up with their plans of work.
Networking and sharing of experience with women from other countries
is impossible because of the lack of communications facilities (fax,
Co-operative Network is grateful to the following:
- Lizzie Jeans from England
- Katharina Scheba from Austria
- Connor Farrell from Australia
- Severine Henney from Switzerland
- Lise Bentley from England
a partnership with AidCamps
International in 2002 to build
a primary school in the remote village of Bangwe in the North West
Province towards the end of 2003. Volunteers helped with the financing
and finishing of the building, plastering the walls and the fitting
of the windows and doors. They also visited several sites of special
interest and some of the other SHUMAS projects. Visit the AidCamps web
site for details of the project and an account of the volunteer's experiences.