picturing local economic development opportunities

A couple weeks ago, I was lucky enough (alongside fellow-volunteer, Cornelia) to be able to facilitate a short photovoice project with IDF  – the same organization I have been doing coaching training with. It got me fired up in a big way!  The photovoice project was about economic development and the opportunities for greater work in that area by IDF and VSO Cameroon.  More precisely, we were working on answering the question:

“what are the opportunities to increase the economic success of myself, my family and my community?”

Just think for a moment … how you would answer that question in your own community?  Then read on below to see just a few of the opportunities these 6 people from Bamenda and Wum came up with – and these are only the few that I forced myself to narrow it down to!

Our IDF Photovoice team!

Having worked in this field in Canada and the US, I can tell you right now that few of us could gather the breadth of images and stories the small group of IDF volunteers and beneficiaries did in a week’s time.  And I say this because, once you tick all the boxes of challenges they have faced – being orphaned, disabled, unemployed, living in quarters without garbage collection, potholed dirt roads, thievery, you name it – they highlighted some great [read: achievable] ideas for future work.  They not only took pictures that showed the reality of their lives and their community, but they provided a long list of opportunities that have the true [read: credible and feasible] potential to make a difference – for themselves, their families, their community, IDF and VSO Cameroon.

The economic development part of my brain could see the possibilities.  Take any of those energetic people and let them be who they really are for IDF: role models.  Let them speak about what they did to reach where they are.  Let them teach others about what they do.  Let them be the marketing arm for sensitization about sanitation and waterways, building bridges and roads, building places where community can come together, and training orphans and vulnerable children (OVCs) to have the confidence and the skills to take care of themselves.

Let them be the faces and voices of dedication towards greater local economic success… Already in this one photovoice project, they have demonstrated that they already are.

I wish I could show you all the pictures and stories from the project, but alas, I’ve painstakingly reduced it to these so you can see for yourself just a few of the opportunities they presented…

Photo by IDF 1240

This woman is frying akra beans. You can see the woman is well protected from the fire. There is an opportunity to teach others how one can be self-employed.  That woman is self-employed. The opportunity is for others to learn. She works very well.  We can see the number of people that eat there.  You would not believe yourself.

When I leave my church in the morning and I pass and buy akra I will take for my breakfast. Even those with only 100 francs can eat there.  If the woman doesn’t sell, I don’t have my breakfast.  Her business is very important because it contributes to the local economy.  Because the day this woman doesn’t prepare this food, you will see those truck pushers who are rushing to come and eat, when they come and don’t see her, you will see them standing there like orphans.

Photo by IDF 1234

This picture shows typical northwest traditional dress regalia and culture. This is actually my handwork – what I do. When I left school I struggled to pick a job somewhere and decided to open small workshop since I grew up with this.

Economically it is what I am feeding my family and helping other people in the community.  Through this I have discovered that self-employment is easier. I have trained no less than 100 children.  The picture you see is one of my apprentices who is working there. Economically I can say that this has made me not to regret that I wasted my time in school because I use my academic knowledge on the designs that I put there.

I am proud with it because I trained many people who feed their family and train others and the thing keeps on going.  Now it is like a hot cake for us because the government itself is developing some interest now in the traditional northwest regalia because now we are using them for instance when we were going there for the World Cup, most of the Cameroonians were using this, when we went for the Nations Cup, most of the Cameroonians used but the NW regalia.  Any political figure in Cameroon who want to signify with this and the northwest people and the northwest.

Photo by IDF 1243

Photo by IDF 1243

This picture shows what I do for work as a shoe mender. This is my apprentice in the picture and he is disabled man.  I want to show that he can do more than one able can – he is my first apprentice. My mother was dead, my father was dead.  I am an orphan and IDF helped me enter into this work. They asked, “you want to go to school?” I said, “no – I have my brother and my sister and they are doing nothing. If you can really help me to have something to be doing or selling something.”  They said, “you can come and train for business”, I said “OK you can put me to any workshop that I need, I can do best in doing the work”.  Now I am patron (boss) by myself and I can train many people.

The picture is showing what a disabled man can do.  If you are disable you cannot stay in the house.  You can do something.  Even you can move your crutches like this one by his side.  Even people like this can work.

Photo by IDF 1238

Here you see a point where the inhabitants of my community they do dump refuse. On one side of the bridge you see it is very clean at present.  On the other side you see they are dumping refuse on that other side which is not my community.

If you look closely, the other side is another quarter where there is no garbage beside the stream after a sensitization campaign. Under IDF, we went out and sensitized the quarter about the poor disposal of raw sewage and refuse. I took a small portion of our community to do my study. I went around to every household.  I collected the refuse from the household.  I came to some land I had left, I selected the metallic substances, like I grouped copper, iron, tins, plastic container.  What is remaining like this in the picture, I made a pit for compost manure.  After that, I realised the amount of refuse being dumped on our own site had dropped.  So I went on and then I saw that from the copper a kilo sold for 1700 francs so the bits of copper I received I could use to raise small income.  Then also from the market women I made contacts and I collected from the ones who sell huckleberry, their own refuse I had another use not for compost.  Aluminium a kilo is 600 francs.  Then the compost manure, at times, in the season when the farmer do cultivation, you can have a quart of compost manure for 1000 francs.  That is how we can recycle sewage from our own homes.

If another person was doing what I am doing on the other side of the river, that’s enough indication that this other side could be clean.

Photo by IDF 1240

I am owner of this small place and this is where I try to earn a living. You have some shoes, curtains, and a few dresses plus those machines.  The opportunity I have in this business because I came to Bamenda after working for a company that for two years did not pay us. I was in Yaoundé, I was forced to come back, being harassed by the landlord everywhere I was going and I came back home.

God so blessed, I have a father that man who is very pushful.  He went on retirement in the days of the Western Cameroon and his pension is 6000 francs.  6000.  Not 60,000, not 16,000.  6,000.  So my father is a hard worker that he is like that, he goes to the farm.  He works like a woman.  He told me “my child, let’s not stay like this.  You are from Yaoundé, you are back home, you are not paying rent, let’s be going to the farm and working.”  And it is from that farm that after we sold some of our items from the farm, I had small money that I could start this small business like this.  Though small as it is, I am happy with it because the opportunities that comes out of this is that I pass my time here.  Where you have a place to pass your time, you avoid many problems like gossiping all those types of things in the quarter.  It helps me to generate income.  At least I can sell an item there that will buy books for my children.

I took this picture to show that one must not have a very big capital before starting a business.  You can even start with the least you have.  And while this is going on your knowledge is developing, you can sell one things, and buy two or you still buy just one. It helps at least, there are days that I come there that I will have 500 francs to go and manage and buy food for me and my children.  Not the suffering we used to suffer in Yaoundé when they were harassing us up and down.  So it is very important to me in that way.

Photo by IDF 1239

This is the main road in my quarter. You can see how clean it is, you can see small business persons a motor taxi on the road, a salon and wood being sold by the roadside.  This is an opportunity to show how my quarter is booming economically.

When someone looks at this picture they can see how the sanitation situation in the quarter is very stable by keeping the roads clean.  Like after selling her wood, the woman will have to sweep her portion to keep it clean so she can use it next time.  Why is this important?  Because this road is something we have been crying for so many years and finally got accepted by providing us this road.  Now you can see small business by the roadside.  This proves that the quarter is growing economically.  Up here is a new building being constructed for more stores.  It means it is inviting more investors into the quarter.  And on my own part, it is very important because the more inhabitants come, the more I will have registrations for my association. 

The secret is you must know how to talk to people.  Be friendly, don’t be arrogant, don’t be rude.  Try to make them your friend.  Make some jokes with them.  It’s been long about 8 years with IDF.  She (IDF’s coordinator) taught me how to associate with people, she taught us how to talk to people, how to talk to community.  And they will all gain what you gain as if it’s magic.  That is it, that is my secret.  It comes from IDF.  Because she taught me all that before I was even became the manager which I now have to manage all the services.  It’s because of IDF, the knowledge I get it from here.  To know how to talk to people that’s all.  Because to bring people together and let them understand is very difficult.  So if you can do that, then I think you don’t have any trouble.


~ by Caroline Spira on October 5, 2011.

4 Responses to “picturing local economic development opportunities”

  1. It’s official – I love this blog. Added to my blogroll so others can love it too!

  2. I’ve been following yours and Greg’s use of photovoice for a number of years, and this one is one of the best results with the method that I’ve seen. It combines photos and meaningful texts in a powerful way and shows the potential for using photovoice to enhance community development.

  3. These blogs are so well written and photographed. I am so very happy with the quality of PE you are doing. Thanks you two.

    • Thanks Umeeda. Coming from you it means a lot. We have more stories to publish in the months to come, so we are not entirely done with this chapter in our lives. Just needed more time to write!

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