RCESD in Cameroon – for community empowerment

By Denise Nanni and Milena Rampoldi, ProMosaik. In the following our interview with Francis of the organisation RCESD in Cameroon, working for community empowerment. 


What are the main issues related to sustainability and environment in Cameroon?
The main issues related to sustainability and environment in Cameroon involve weak institutional structure put in place for policy implementation, poor monitoring and evaluation strategies for policies implementation, poor financial and accountability mechanisms for project and program support, insufficient capacity and expertise to enable effectiveness in project management, illegal logging, forest encroachment for agriculture, poaching and insufficient awareness among others issues.  
What are the events that brought to the foundation of RCESD?
RCESD is a registered non-profit organization (Reg. No. 358/G37/D14/VOL II/SAAJP) located at chief street, Bomaka, Buea-Cameroon. It was founded in October 2008 by 8 graduates determined to contribute to the local development agenda under the former name “Rural Alliance for Youth Development- RAYD”. In 2013, there was a need to engulf wider perspectives and to broaden the scope of the organization to better deal with the dynamic and complex challenges of sustainable development. This brought in new ideas and expertise into the management team of the organization. The name was modified from RAYD to RCESD to meet this new agenda. However, RCESD still lay strong emphasis on youth capacity building, which was the initial goal of the organization. RCESD is a membership organization. RCESD is run by a board of experts and early career scientists who are motivated to lead development initiatives in their local communities and the world at large. Membership is open to anyone who shares the views of the organization.
What are the projects that you currently carry on? 
Building local capacity for Cross River gorilla Conservation in Cameroon: This project is aimed at contributing to research output and expertise needed to sustain conservation policies in the Cross River Water Heads and Takamanda National Park with focus on poaching policies. The project will train two graduates through a 6 months fellowship to engage in action research that informs wildlife policy development and implementation against poaching.  At the end of the project, the two fellows will be fully equipped to contribute substantially towards the fight against wildlife poaching in particular and wildlife management in general.
Promoting Environmental Best Practices in Cameroon through Music: The aim of this project is to promote music that has the potentials to promote conscious behaviours and sustainable lifestyles toward the environment.  The project engages youth between the age of 15 and 35 to engage in contest leading to an award dubbed “CAMER GREEN Award (CGA)” by developing music content about the environment that could influence the society behaviour. For more information visit the project website (www.camergreen.org).
Stop Malnutrition and Infant Mortality in Cameroon: Launched in 2016, the project aim is to empower women on strategies that could promote nutrition intake. The project will support about 1500 children in Manyu division, Cameroon suffering from malnutrition by training and supporting 500 women on how to ensure nutritive diets for children well-being.
Integrated community model for sustainable development: Integrative and action-oriented development goes beyond technical fixes to recognition of the social construction of sustainable development and enable them to play key role in developmental policies.
Climate smart Agriculture for rural communities in Buea: This project promotes resilience agriculture practices. This includes the development Nurseries and seed banks to supply and train some farmers on improved farming techniques have been set up.
What are according to your experience the most effective ways to ensure community empowerment?
I have noticed that participatory approaches are the most effective way to ensure community empowerment. However, the participation process must engage the local people from the project conceptualisation phase through the planning and implementation phase. Most participatory models have fail people the focus mainly or the implementation phase. Secondly, capacity building is also very effective in empowering the local community provided the capacity building process takes into consideration and respect local knowledge and ethics. This makes the local people to have the sense and feelings of ownership. 
In what ways do you get in touch with youngsters that could benefit from your programs? And how civil society has been responsive so far?
One of RCESD main focus is to build capacity of early career professional and this is accomplished through project actions and professional placements. We offer internship opportunities to both national and internationals youngsters, who are mainly university students and graduates. They are opportunities at RCESD to pick up an internship placement for a period of one to 6 months depending on the need of the individuals. We also have volunteering opportunities available for youngsters who are willing to have some field experience or to engage in new project within our organisation scope. Most of our projects are design to engage youngsters that might not be privilege to benefit from our professional placement program. We regular run workshops on career development programs including fundraising, scientific writing, leadership and research design.
Do you cooperate with local authorities and institutions? If yes, how?
We work in collaboration in local authorities and institutions. As a registered non-profit organisation, we are authorised to operate legally nationwide. In program development, we current work in partnership with the Ministry of Environment, culture, Women and Development, Youth Empowerment, Forestry, Agriculture and Scientific Research. We also work in collaboration with all local authorities in our project area.  in project implementation, we work in synergies with other local non-governmental organisation.
Daily updates of our activities can be found by following our Facebook page https://www.facebook.com/rcesd/
Our website also cover detail of our project and program –www.rcesdcam.org (currently under maintenance but it should go live soon)