Claudette Kinyuy: “Solidarity and Professionalism are what we need… And the means too.”

Passionate secondary school teacher and part time farmer before the crisis began, Claudette Kinyuy is using her skills in an effort to give Internally Displaced Persons back a measure of their dignity. She seeks to use her business knowledge and agricultural experience to provide a means of livelihood to these IDPs through vegetable farming.

 Who is Claudette Kinyuy?

Claudette currently resides in Yaounde with her 6 year old son and a number of close family members. The apartment is humble and tightly crowded, jobs hard to come by and cost of living is at least three times as much as it is back home in Kumbo. She used to teach at a local public technical secondary school as a contract recruit to make ends almost meet. Contract teachers’ plight had already been worrisome before the crisis that has shutdown many a school.

Worried about her son’s future and the psychologically unhealthy atmosphere, she opted to move to Yaounde. There she put her functional array of ICT skills to use as a data clerk online. It helps contribute to pay the bills and put food on the table. It would be easier to just think of herself and her son, but Claudette has a big heart and is not a quitter. That does not even cross her mind.

In Yaounde, most IDPs do not have the kind of skills Claudette does. They came to the metropolis hoping to do menial jobs to buy food, soap and tooth paste. But such opportunities are few and far between. They depend a lot on the little charity that the locals can hardly spare themselves or government assistance that is often delayed by red tape. Disturbed by the hardship and especially the self-debasement so many vulnerable young women find themselves compelled to endure, Claudette decided she would not just sit and watch.

How is Claudette helping?

Claudette has currently enlisted the services of ____ IDPs to cultivate Garden Huckleberry (African Nightshade) on hectare of land on lease.. It is a highly prized vegetable among the people of the Anglophone regions. The farm is located at Nkol-Founou, about 200 metres of the main road., The demand from the Anglophone community is quite high. The cultivation is quite labour intensive. Because she cannot yet afford to pay the labour, only a few who trust her have decided to take the risk for later remuneration. This means together, they are only able to cultivate a quarter of the area. With the first sales coming in just a few months, Claudette plans to enlist more labour, progressively covering the entire hectare.

What are her biggest Challenges?

Access to credit facilities is quite hard in Cameroon in general for ordinary citizens starting up a new business. Local legislature is a tad more favourable to organised groups such as cooperative unions. This is just as well for Claudette. She wants to secure the rights to the workers legally. However, getting the legal status takes time and money. The IDPs cannot afford to wait.

In Cameroon periods of rainfall alternate with periods of relative draught during which there is a relative scarcity of vegetables in the local markets. Prices shoot up. This is why Claudette took the precaution of choosing a parcel of land close to a water source. She knows that if she can just get a water pump and set up an irrigation system, she will be able to better guarantee a source of revenue for the IDPs whose plight is ever present in her heart and mind. But she must still take care of her kid and help out with the family.

What is her way forward?

Despite the unfavourable odds, she has unflappable confidence that she will find partners or benefactors willing to join her vision. She believe she just has to keep going and something good is bound to happen. She knows her cooperative will eventually expand to more land to help even more people, not just IDPs. The need for vegetables will not go away. What’s more? She’s talking with the Hope Farms Initiative team about setting up a system that will be able to work for the IDPs from Bui once they feel confident enough to return home.

Will you help or partner with her to realise this dream?