Women from villages around the Tofala Hill Wildlife Sanctuary (THWS) have unanimously accepted to create a single cooperative society dubbed the Tofala Women Farmers’ Cooperative Society. They took the decision, Friday May 26, 2017 in Bechati, Lebialem Division of Southwest Cameroon. Coming from seven villages around THWS, the women acclaimed the move, indicating the various women groups who all have a common interest, will work in synergy to develop the cooperative. “I am very excited with this idea the Environment and Rural Development Foundation (ERuDeF) has brought to us. On behalf of the women present here and those yet to come, I want to promise ERuDeF that we will do our best to make sure that we take this cooperative to greater heights. We also promise to collaborate with other stake holders to facilitate the growth of this cooperative,” Voluntary Akwanga, the cooperative President said. The conservation enterprise component of this cooperative is focused on soap production and commercialisation. The women are already producing soap and making money from its sales thanks to the technical expertise that was given to the women by ERuDeF. Furthermore, each share was moderated at Xaf5000 ($10) while registration fee of Xaf1000 ($2) per member was instituted for the sustainable management of the enterprise.
As at now 35 women have paid their registration while 30 members have subscribed and bought their shares. According to the Conservation Finance officer at ERuDeF, Quddus Njang, the idea of this cooperative is to enable the Tofala women develop and implement projects that will better their living conditions. “ERuDeF will effectively assist the women of this area through project development, technical assistant and livelihood support that will enhance their living standards. More so, through this cooperative, they will be able to effectively participate in the management of their biodiversity through the Community Conservation Social Enterprise Development (CoCoSED) Initiative,” Quddus added. The creation of a cooperative to cater for the production of soap, is one of ERuDeF’s efforts in providing alternative livelihoods to communities adjacent to the THWS. This is to reduce pressure on protected areas. It is also a means of indulging community members especially women to play active and participatory roles in conservation efforts while also improving their livelihoods. By Njang Quddus