NTFPs: The New Gold for Local Women

Posted on
02 October 2023

For Touama Suzane, like most local Bantu and Baka women in Mambele (a small locality at the edge of Lobeke National Park in the East Region of Cameroon), non-timber forest products (NTFPs) like bush mango (Irvingia gabonensis) and njansang (Ricinodendron Heudelotti) once served mainly for cooking and earning money enough to buy soap and salt. Each household displayed their little quantity in front of their house and waited for potential buyers.

Thanks to support by WWF and the Lobeke Park Management, the local women’s perception of NTFPs has changed. They now know that by working together and transforming njansang and bush mango into other products, they can generate revenue to fund the education of their children and run their homes. 

Today, Touama coordinates an all-women cooperative (Coopérative OR VERT) comprising based in Mambele, comprising some 50 women engaged in the collection and transformation of NTFPs. OR VERT is one of three cooperatives in the East Region of Cameroon that receive support from WWF through local partner NGO, AAFEBEN, to empower local women and promote NTFPs value chains.

With financial, material and technical support provided by WWF, the women collect and stockpile njansang and bush mango and sell to buyers at a good price. A three-litre bowl of njansang sells at FCFA 5000, with a bag of 100 kg containing about 60 bowls, thereby providing significant revenue for the group. From njansang and bush mango, the women produce therapeutic oils and lotions that are sold in big cities in Cameroon, with an exhibition shop in Bertoua, managed by AAFEBEN.

“We did not know that these forest products could be transformed. But thanks to sensitization, training and exchange visits organized by AAFEBEN, WWF and the Park, we have learned how others are doing it,” says Touama.

To enable the women to preserve their NTFPs, WWF and the TNS Foundation built a storehouse in Mambele. “This storehouse enables us to preserve our NTFPs throughout the year. This year for instance, we collected more than 150 bags of njansang,” Touama explains.
“NTFPs have become our own gold, as they enable us to live well in the village where income-generating activities are rare,” says Nathalie Mabepana, a member of the group.

Harmonious relationship with the park
The Lobeke National Park management, besides providing support to the women for the NTFPs value chain, also eases access to the community zone of the park where they gather them. On their part, the women say they contribute to the preservation of the natural resources from where comes their revenue and livelihood.

“Following sensitization meetings and training we have received on our rights and responsibilities we understand our role around the park; we know we have to denounce illegal activities like poaching,” Nathalie explains.
The Mambele women cooperative is one of several community-based groups the Park and WWF are working with to promote the participation of local communities in natural resources management.