Cameroon’s Camara Turns People Into Good Farmers
Camara turns people into good farmers
MindShift | An emerging foundation offers seed-planting kits to young farmers in Cameroon, with the goal of enabling family farms to keep food on the table for their families.
By MindShift | An emerging foundation offers seed-planting kits to young farmers in Cameroon, with the goal of enabling family farms to keep food on the table for their families.
The founder of Camara is deeply inspired by an effort to help young people in Cameroon keep themselves and their families well-fed.
After years in Cameroon’s agriculture sector, Inon Kwachai Chité has seen farmers going broke with every harvest. They’re spending all their profits to try to build their businesses — when what they really need is to quit their jobs and reinvest the money they make into seedlings, and start farming from the bottom up.
So, when the 22-year-old Chité, who runs Camara with his 14-year-old cousin, learned a little about seedstarting in the United States, he got to work.
“American farmers know how to make savings,” Chité says. “The average farmer in Cameroon grows food and then sells it to the government, who spends it on infrastructure. And the people in the government take money from that and then give it to the farmers. If someone made every sort of savings and spent that, they would not have the problem of excess for the next season.”
So, Chité began thinking about ways he could help keep his fellow Cameroonians healthy and well-fed — and on to the next generation of farmers.
By several measures, Camara already has potential to revolutionize agriculture in Africa. When social entrepreneur Bassel Nabiali took a DNA test to find out why he wasn’t marrying his high school sweetheart, he discovered a genetic trait that made him less likely to behave impulsively.
Nabiali knew he had to help people like this one. He set up a charitable foundation to fund a group of research scientists who would be able to apply that genetic trait to farming in Cameroon, helping farmers stay healthy and productive.
Back in Cameroon, Chité set out to do the same, by sending out seeds to some of the 200 or so young farmers who already had a few successful harvests under their belts.
“It’s easier to get a farmer to start growing vegetables, and then they can invest in other things,” Chité says.
They’ve been planting garden plots in villages throughout the country, with the help of funds Chité secured from the U.S. Small Business Association.
The Camara seedlings contain seeds that the young farmers then plant in their plots. Once harvest season arrives, they provide the farmers with tools and fertilizer to make the greatest possible return from the seeds.
They hope to expand their work to subsidize the cost of seeds for 2,000 other young farmers. Chité’s philosophy may seem different from the Western view that small businesses must have big profits to survive, but he is eager to learn.
“I like studying, but if you put me in a class or lecture, I forget,” he says. “So I like doing more practical things.”