Baka women learn to process, sell non-timber forest products

Posted on
14 December 2018

Non timber forest products (NTFPs) constitute the main source of revenue for most women in the forest areas in eastern Cameroon as they provide sorely needed income that boost household earnings. Yet indigenous (Baka) women who entirely depend on the forest for their livelihood are yet to exploit this opportunity. Baka women have traditionally collected NTFPs like njansang (Ricinodendron heudelotti) and bush mango at small scale and use them just for household consumption. This is gradually changing as they have recently begun selling their njansang albeit with a lot of challenges.

In a bid to encourage the Baka women and enable them generate more revenue out of NTFPs, a group of women under the banner of Education for Nature (EFN) Cameroon supported by EFN USA, has trained over 50 Baka women of Dimpam and Djassa villages in the East Region of Cameroon on the processing and commercialisation of njansang. The training initially targeted about 40 Baka women in Dimpam but drew interest from men and youths as well as women of neighbouring Djassa village.

Working in collaboration with local NGO (AAFEBEN), the EFN Cameroon training focused on best practices related to the processing and commercialisation of njansang. EFN Cameroon also donated a pot to each of the trainees. The pot is a prized kitchen utensil in African homes and an essential tool in processing njansang.
“I am very happy today. You can see that all the women are celebrating. This is the first time we are receiving this kind of training and support. We have been using njansang just for our homes till recently when we were sensitised by AAFEBEN to collect njansang at large scale and commercialise it like others do,” says Jeanette Dojoh, Baka woman of Dimpam Village.

Lydie Adjele, local Baka animator, adds that the training is not only timely but also very important for the villages, particularly women who mostly collect, process and sell. Njansang is a highly valued nut collected in the tropical forest and used in cooking various kinds of soup in many Central and West African countries including Cameroon, Nigeria and Ghana. The huge demand for njansang makes it a product of high commercial value and a prime source of income for most.

Besides collecting NTFPs, Dimpam Baka women practice agriculture. They work in groups, taking turns to work on each other’s farms. They produce food crops like groundnuts, plantains and maize to feed their families. However, they face challenges carrying out farming as they lack basic farm tools and training to increase their yields. They also run into conflict with their Bantu neighbours over land as the Bantus claim the land belongs to them.

With an average of 10 people per household, the EFN gesture will have significant impact on some 800 people, including young girls, and the elderly, spread over two villages: Dimpam (30 households and Djassa (50 households).

“The training and donation we carried out enabled us to know some of the challenges and the needs of these Baka communities, particularly women,” states Anne Ntongho, EFN Cameroon Coordinator. “We saw the interest from other communities and we think we need to do more. We also need to address the issue of land ownership and the marginalisation the Baka suffer at the hands of their Bantu neighbours relating to this,” she adds.