Positive social and ecological change requires connections: Connections between the past and the future, connections between humans and their environment, and connections between vulnerable members of society and the tools they need to improve their lives and make positive change.
Better World Cameroon is making connections –the African way. This organization aims to bring permaculture practices to rural Cameroon to build the capacity of local people to make positive change and be empowered to be stewards of their environment and leaders in their communities.
Permaculture refers to the general concept of cultivation and design in ways that are low-input and in harmony with the surrounding environment. In an African context, this involves connecting new ideas about global drivers and sustainable design to old practices of building and cultivation that have been passed on through generations.
Better World Cameroon uses a small village as demonstration site called Bafut Permaculture Ecovillage. This village is used a place for local people to come together, share, experiment and learn. One of the main focuses is small-scale organic agriculture using indigenous knowledge systems. The village experiments with mixed cropping methods, composting methods, erosion control, windbreaks, tree nurseries and natural building.
Better World Cameroon also emphasizes engagement with young people. Every year, the ecovillage hosts an international summer camp for teenagers to learn about permaculture techniques. Better World Cameroon also hosts the Better World Student’s Nature Club which is an environmental club for young people to cultivate an African perspective on climate change and global sustainability. The organization sees these educational events as a way to empower young people to envision a positive sustainable future in Cameroon. The ecovillage offers one concrete vision of what sustainability can look like in an African context.
The ecovillage also acts as a headquarters for stove building workshops –referred to as the African Kitchen Revolution. These workshops teach women to build smoke-free earthen kitchens using local materials. These stoves are co-designed to suit the needs of local women, and they require less firewood than the typical models. One stove building workshop can teach 12-15 women to build stoves in one day, and then these women can become facilitators of new workshops and become part of a trainer’s network. Learning a new skill is exciting, and teaching it to others is empowering.
The positive transformation of society requires building bridges between the past and the present, with an eye on the future. Better World Cameroon is building bridges towards a positive future for rural Africa. Their vision is sustainable, fruitful, compassionate, joyful, and whole-heartedly African.
All photos provided by Better World Cameroon