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Businesswoman from Cameroon rises above poverty and food insecurity

On global hunger, the advocacy agency 'Bread for the World' stated "the world is facing a hunger crisis unlike anything seen in more than 50 years." There are 925 million hungry people around the world for 16,000 deceased children from hunger-related causes; this is one child every five second. In 2005, 1.4 billion people in developing countries lived in extreme poverty, with less than $1.25 a day.

Businesswoman Jacqueline Kamsu Souba (Photo: Ventures Africa)
Located in Central Africa, the  Republic of Cameroon is home to over 200 different linguistic groups and enjoys a relatively stable political environment. This nation has distinguished itself from other West African countries through the diversity of its economy, geography and cultures. Moreover, some significant socio-economic disparities, such as the persistent rural poverty, remain.



For the past 31 years, 80-year old Paul Biya is the Head of the State of Cameroon. In an online article, BBC News Africa gives a recent overview the country's current political state. The article reports that several Cameroonian high-profile political figures and one of his doctors have been imprisoned with sentences going as far as 25 years. In addition, the army, well-paid and loyal, has successfully extinguished protests such as the 2008 food riots. In 2008, the constitution was changed to remove presidential term limits.  

The International Fund for Agricultural Development (IFAD) is a specialized agency of the United Nations that enables poor rural people to overcome poverty; the latter posts up-to-date information online about various countries. According to IFAD, Cameroon's most recent household survey (ECAM III), undertaken in 2007, revealed that poverty affected an estimated 39.9 percent of the population, compared with 40.2 per cent in 2001, and that 55 percent of the country's poor people live in rural areas. 

Other international agencies refer similar facts on their respective website. The World Food Program (WFP), the food assistance branch for the United Nations, reports Cameroon as one of the eight countries whose populations are threatened by food insecurity throughout the Sahel region. The other countries include Niger, Mauritania, Chad, Mali, Burkina Faso, Senegal and Gambia. Also, WFP states that 40.2 percent of Cameroonians live below the poverty line of one U.S. dollar per day, for 52.1 percent in rural areas. Over the last three decades, the North and the Far North regions of Cameroon, located between the Republic of Nigeria and Chad, have been affected by the Sahel drought. 

Natural and man-made disasters paired by a growing impoverishment of the rural population have contributed to food insecurity and poverty in the North and Far North regions of Cameroon. In an online report on Cameroon, the World Bank reports that poverty have virtually stagnated between 2001 and 2007 at close to 40 percent, with 55 percent of rural households living poverty against twelve percent of urban households. IFAD also stated that women are children are particularly hit by poverty in Cameroon: 52 percent of people of poor households are women and half of them are under 15 years of age. 


Farmers from Cameroon (Photo: WorldFishCenter.org)

Disparity in access to education is another major issue. The 2007 ECAM III report states that 83.3 percent of boys aged between 5 and 14 attend school against 77.6 percent of girls; 18 percent of rural women have secondary-level education, and women in the north and far-north regions are the least educated (12 percent and 14 percent respectively). The strong religious influence of Islam is possibly one of the reasons behind the low level of education among Cameroonian women living in the north and far-north regions. Nevertheless, the government is not passing laws which prevents access to education for girls and women, but the Cameroonian society has not quite embraced the concept of female education. 

SOS Children's Village International confirms that the most affect groups by poverty are women and children living in Cameroonian rural areas. As a result, the organization reports that nearly one in four children is either moderately or several underweight; young children often become the breadwinners for an entire family, especially in families that are affected by HIV/AIDS. 

Several international organizations, present on the Cameroon territory, have implemented their programs for numerous disadvantaged groups. WFP claims to have provided food assistance to malnourished children, pregnant women and mothers of young children. SOS Children's Village International reports to have two SOS children, two SOS kindergartens, one SOS youth facility, two SOS Herman Gmeiner schools, two SOS medical centres and one SOS social centre. 

The Cooperative for Assistance and Relief Everywhere (CARE) is an international humanitarian agency whose goals are to help the world's poorest people find routes out of poverty. CARE asserts to have helped families in the northern part of Cameroon by providing them access to savings and loans. The money provided helps families to make investments. The organization has also assisted local farmers of the same region in increasing their crop yields through through the construction and the improvement of irrigation systems. 

Cameroon is located in Central or West Africa (Photo: Geography/How Stuff Works)

Despite the socio-economical challenges, Cameroonian women manage to be successful contributors of their society. This is the case of Jacqueline Kamsu Souba who went from bead making to global acclaim. In a country where young people and women are frustrated by the acute lack of opportunities, the work accomplished by Souba is a true success story. She is the founder and CEO of 'Beads Space', a small nonprofit business based in the northwestern Cameroonian city of Bamenda. 

According to VOA news, her break came through after she attended a skills building seminar for women in 2011. Souba, who originally started an activity to help alleviate the hardship of single motherhood. When she could not find a job, she decided to create her business without a single dollar. After collecting different items such as used plastic bags, old newspapers, outdated calendars and cardboard boxes, Souba recycles them in fashionable and colorful handbags. Earrings, necklaces. 

Her company won the first prize at a national exhibition in Cameroon and she was a participant at the 2012 Innovation Summit and Mentoring Partnership with Young African Leaders presided by the U.S. President Barack Obama. Even though she now runs a separate fashion design business, she chose to keep Beads Space as a non-profit to train other single mothers. 

Editor's note: This article was originally written and published by Seeds of Hope Publishers

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