Case Study Of Kom Cameroon History Essay
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Published: Mon, 5 Dec 2016
Kom is found in the North West region of Cameroon precisely in Boyo Division. It is one of the 250 indigenous ethnic groups of the tribes of Cameroon located approximately 50 miles from the North West provincial Capital Bamenda.The tiny enclave of 125,000 inhabitants who cover an area of about 3000 square miles. The inhabitants of Kom speak Itanghi Kom meaning the language of Kom. It has eight satellite states within it Mbesinaku, Baiso, Akei, Mejang, Baicham, Achain, Bueni, and Mbenkas.These group of villages practice a mix economy which is predominantly, which comprising mainly of farming. They practice mostly subsistence type of farming a hand to mouth type of farming, when there are excesses they are sold in to their local markets. The people also grow cash crops which are sold in international markets like Arabica coffee. Kom farmers are mostly women who are believed to make the soil more fruitful, they also responsible for the task of growing crops such as peanuts, maize beans, cocoyam, Irish, potatoes, yams, all types of vegetable and host of many other crops. They also raise some livestock including chickens and goats which play an important role in daily subsistence, they also do “petit trading” to provide the most necessary for their domestic consumption. To better understand this topic, it is good to first of all note what economic development is. Economic in social science is the study of the production, distribution and consumption of goods and services. While development is simply the development of livelihood and greater quality of life for humans. The traditional kom women have implemented these two concepts to better the living condition of their homes and the entire Kom community at large. In doing this they have formed development groups to foster the economic development of their society, these groups are the Anlu, Njangi groups, and Loving Sisters. The role play in economic development and the problems faced by these women will be discussed in the literature bellow.
A country’s population is determined by the number of children males and females living in that Country. When an area in a country is sparsely populated, that village or Town is said to be under populated. This is a case where the inhabitants in a particular area are fewer as compared to the size of the area. Under population is common today in many villages in Cameroon like ‘Kom’ where most of the working population are made up of youths who either leave the village to cities in search for jobs, higher education or better living, this is called the rural-Urban migration. Overpopulation in the other hand is a situation where the inhabitants living in a particular area appears to be more as compared to the size of the area in question. It is also common in Cameroon where big cities are densely populated because of the availability of jobs and higher educations like the University of Yaoundé and the University of Buea. This situation is also what is popularly known as the Rural-Urban migration. The Optimum population is the situation where the population appears to be equal to the size of a specified area. Population distribution will refer to the distribution of people over a defined area, this involve the age and sex distribution of population. The age distribution of population refers to the distribution of population according to the various age groups, the ages 16-45 make up the working population, this is usually the production age of every village or society, and they usually form the military arm of every village. In Kom most of this age group find themselves in big cities in search for jobs, men form the highest in number since most of them need to work and make their families. The ages between 46-100 are known as the old aging population, these are usually the pillars of the village as most of the landed properties are owned by them, decision making also revolves around them since most of them are title holders and notables of the village. These categories of people are many in the villages because of retirement and are usually known as the Urban-Rural migrations distribution of population which is referred to the pattern of distribution of people over a defined area according to sex’s population is made up of men because of the need to work. The few traditional women who migrate to cities is either because of academic reasons or to meet their partners.
A large number of the females remain in the village because of economic reasons since three-quarter of the food stuff consumed in cities are being cultivated in villages. The women stand behind the economic growth and development in most villages in Cameroon especially Kom. Women in developing countries especially in Kom work longer than men in house keeping, child care, fetching fuel wood and water and also in the farm work. The Kom traditional woman in economic development contribute up to three fourth of the labour required to produce the food consumed in this community. They also provide 90 percent of the labour for processing food crops and providing household. 70 percent of these traditional women work in food storage and transportation of their crops from the farms to the markets.100 percent of these traditional women work in hoeing the ridges, weeding, harvesting and marketing. A typical traditional kom woman works up to twelve hours per day. That she gets up at 5 am and at 6 am she is already at her farm and she leaves the farm at 6 pm to diverse and numerous responsibilities. In Kom, the poorer the household, higher the percentage contributions of women’s income to the family increase because they work extremely very hard to sustain their families lives.
THE ROLE OF THE TRADITIONAL WOMAN IN ECONOMIC DEVELOPMENT OF KOM
These women are not just wives and mothers but food providers their primary concern is to provide for their husband and children. Since the responsibility of feeding their families is very incumbent on them, they had to indulge in farming; this explains why the Traditional Kom women have come to perform sixty to seventy percent of the agricultural work. They are responsible for at least half of the food produced yearly in this community. They cultivate maize, beans, cocoyam, yams, groundnuts, vegetable of all sorts and a variety of different food stuff. These women do the harvesting by themselves, some of these food is use to feed their families while excesses are sold in their local markets. The money generated from this sale is used to embark on some petit trading to support their farm work keeping them occupy on traditional Sundays where they are not to farm. These trades are usually provision store where they buy goods and retail them, most of these basic commodities are sugar, soap and other important goods locally consumed these people. These women also play a vital role in the education of their children the money gotten form the sales of farm products and from their petit trading is use to sponsor their children.
The exploitation of forest products by these women play a very vital role in economic development .Women who have access to trees products through their husbands or through inheritance invest time and labour in utilizing and establishing control over these forest resources. They produce coal in large amounts from burnt trees; a whole log of tree can produce ten to twenty bags of coal when burnt. This coal is use for duel purpose like cooking and commercial purpose like heating of houses, cooking and also for sales some of this coal is sold in big towns like Douala and Yaoundé. The Kom tradition anal women generate their income form this activity and in turn promote economic development. The money from the sales is use to purchase new farming tools like hoes, spades, planting machines, insecticides, and machines for spraying harmful destructive insects on their crops. There is a lot of progress in the agricultural sector the hours of work spend on the farms have changed because they now use modern equipments to farm on lesser time. Productivity has also improved because of the use of fertilizes and insecticides on their farm thus, yields have increase tremendously and in effect generating income in booming the Kom economic.
They also use forest fibres to make mats and baskets used for harvesting and transportation of their crops from their farms to homes and markets. These baskets are also used as storage facilities. People out of this culture buy the baskets for interior decoration. These women also exploit the forest to get herbs for health remedies, they produce traditional medicine and sell in their local markets to generate income just like;” Landless women of India who extensively involve in the production of beedi, small cigarettes rolled in leaves harvested from local forest” (Helen Kreider Henderson1995), Women who have access to land, farm ” Ndabah”,( tobacco ) in large quantity During harvesting and processing of this tobacco they employ jobless women who do not have farms for this job, in effect creating employment amongst the female traditional fold.
Kom traditional women have made major contributions in economic development to provide for their family’s financial needs and income .In order to meet up with these needs women form rotating local credit groups called “Njangi”, in which each member is expected to make contribution a fixed amount to general funds from which women take turns in drawing loans. For example a group like the ‘Anlu’ a woman is expected to contribute the sum of 25.000 francs CFA a month. This money is given to one member who happens to have won the draw for the day. This credit programmes have helped the traditional Kom woman to change and develop the economic situation of Kom. For example there is a factory which is owned by some group of women. They process cassava products in to flour and other by-products like cassava cakes. This factory has helped to curb unemployment in Kom and even generate income since their products are sold nationally and even internationally.
Architecture in Kom is also influenced by these women, they are porters, and most of them are engaged in producing solid bricks from clay soil which is used for building houses. These bricks produced from clay are very economical because it does not demand the use of paint after construction. They also produce clay pots and other interior decoration formed out of clay. They manufacture stoves and local ovens which serve multiple functions. It provides the women potters with a source of income; it reduces the amount of fuel wood needed by women to cook household meals. The introduction and manufacture of these products from day to day have been a catalyst for organising women groups for economic growth and income generating activities such as education of children, health care, adoption of new technology and input use in agriculture food security and nutrition both at the household as well as national level.
Women of Kom had to bear the largest burden of the economic crisis in the 1980s just like the case in Zaire. The disastrous economic situation coupled with the very volatile political situation culminated in widespread looting and plundering of factors, shops and private homes in all major cities in the country were not functioning making a grinding halt to the economy” (David Shapiro Eric Tollens 1992 -44) which has much affected Africa and has become very acute in Cameroon not leaving out Kom for the past decades. It has been exacerbated by structural adjustment programs attempting to curtail the overspending and corruption of its government in a number of ways, one of which has been a fifty percent devaluation of the CFA a move which cause prices for most household essentials to triple within a few months. During this time Kom women’s who are not titled to particular rights and resources such as land, have been increasingly threatened o of a civil service job shut off for most men and with a drastic salary cuts within the civil service. Many men have taken over available farm land as commercial enterprises and many have been selling ancestral land to be able to maintain a middle class life style. The burden of women’s responsibilities to earn a cash income to pay school fees, medical bills and other obligations formerly paid by men who no longer have access to any kind of work essentially to fulfil what has always been women’s role to reproduce the household and rural standard of living.
The role played by these women on land as the main source for survival and generating of income is very important in economic growth of this tribe. The traditional women are very bitter when comes to matters of land. The problem of nomadic Fulani graziers in this tribe has become a threat to women and their productivity though they are expected to care for the household for its survival without taking into consideration the various impediments that face them. This study makes the point that for generations now women, have been at the forefront of food production for the sustenance of their families. They are at the same time heading the struggle for the protection of farmlands and crops against destruction from visible and invisible forces. For the men, they are the active destroyers of land through the Fulani’s grazers. Men most of the times are do not to aid to help women to protect their food crops against hazardous graziers. In this specific sphere, men constitute agents of underdevelopment while women are the sole occupants of the development .This study therefore examines the gendered dimension of food security that is closely associated to land use. The emphasis is on women’s concern on the protection of food crops as suppliers of food to their households against threats posed by nomadic graziers and the careless attitude of their men folk.
In 1978 and1979, there was demonstration in Kom by women who were crossed because their farm land and crops were being destroyed by cattle in the heart of farming season. The yields for those years were very low and there was hunger in the tribe because of this, women organized themselves and a crowd of over 500 women surrounded the palace of their traditional ruler to seek the immediate expulsion of the Fulani graziers from their land was the only solution to the problem of cattle trespass. These women appeared in white painted faces with clubs in their hands and some carrying babies on their backs. The traditional ruler managed to appease the women to no avail. The women accused the traditional ruler of complicity with the Fulani’s because of material gains; he became frightened and managed to escape. There, the women stripped themselves naked and rubbed themselves with wood ash and cam wood as a sign of mourning .They stayed at the premises of the Senior Divisional Officer for four days waiting for the government to address the issue of impending famine to which the Fulani graziers had subjected them. When they finally embarked on a seventy-kilometre trek to the North West provincial Headquarters of Bamenda these women received compensation from the government according to the established extent of damage they suffered as determined by a mix commission. The Government leader was in charged of monitoring the food needs of the women farmers so that appropriate measures could be taken to avert famine and shortage of seedlings so future famine. The demonstration was an all women affair because it concerned food and they were the primary concerned parties. These groups of women struggled to protect their farm land against the graziers who were predators to their economic growth of their community.
Though these Traditional women play a tremendous role in the economic growth of their tribe, they also have problems which hinder their economic growth for instance access to land, education, lack of capital, natural hazards, absents of capital, Fulani graziers, and poor communications network.
HINDRANCES OF THE TRADITIONAL WOMEN IN ECONOMIC DEVELOPMENT
. A fundamental problem in the economic system is that women traditional farmers lack control over the costs of inputs and over the prices received for their farm products. “A few large corporations exert substantial control over what is grown, how and where it is grown, the price paid for it, and who receives it. Centralization, which is largely a result of the consolidation of power among the corporations controlling food production and distribution, contributes to the decline of rural communities. This is particularly evident in the prairies as farming there becomes less economically sustainable for small units. The style of farming supported in the highly competitive climate created by the controlling corporate interests leads to environmental degradation, primarily as a result of the use of large equipment, intensive chemical applications, and mono cropping. Health problems result from stress and from the release of chemicals and other pollutants into the environment. As it becomes increasingly more difficult to earn a living from farming, the pressure to compete increases. Stress-related illnesses, heightened levels of violence, and increased suicide rates are the result. Farm and rural families feel the direct effects of these interconnected factors” (Krug 1995)
The problem facing women farmers in Kom is proving to be a great stumbling block to agricultural development than those faced by the male farmers. Cultural bias prevent women farmers in Kom from owning land thus, Women lack access to land for they beg for land rather than own it for themselves. This is a set back in this area of economic development since the whole community rely on these women for survival. What they own is their labour and at times the crops while the men own the land thereby women are faced with the problem of land of which they are the main actors of this field. Most of them lack capital to rent land to cultivate their crops thus, slowing down the rate of economic growth.
THE FULANI GRAZIERS
Despite the women’s appeal to their traditional authorities to own land they show less concern as if the food crops cultivated does not enter their belies. A clear land problem in the North West province of Cameroon is in Kom. Some of the farmland was given out to the colonialist during the colonisation of Cameroon rendering the traditional farm women landless this therefore cause a decline in food production.
When the Fulani approached North West in early decades they occupied most the tribes of the province. Their presence was welcome by all both men and women for several reasons. The ruling elite often benefited from the Fulani herders who paid taxes in cash and in kind to them and the colonial administration. As for native female farmers of Kom, they benefited from cow droppings which constituted manure for their crops. The cattle Fulani were therefore an asset to both men and women of Kom and they co-existed peacefully with the indigenous people. As time went by there was a significant increase in the cattle population brought the Fulani entente to an end because the animals tended to feed on the women crops and their farmland was being destroyed. The cattle of this area have increase tremendously. As a result of this, the demand for more grazing land became proportionately increase and they had to trespass to the women’s farmland. This was like hell to these women whose natives depended on their farms crops for their livelihood, the destruction of their crops were tantamount to genocide and could not be tolerated any longer by the kom traditional women.
In this domain, women are marginalised by traditional values of Kom which gives the women unequal access to assets, like technology and education. The female children are kept at home for domestic activities, ‘informal farming’ that is working without a salary. The traditional Kom woman because of lack of education can hardly negotiate any business contract out of the city, it is important to note that with the local technology the traditional Kom woman would have done much to export their local talents, but she finds it difficult to interpret any paper work, to have that knowledge to know what is wanted what is needed from her within and out of the country, for example it will be a good market strategy if a woman cultivating beans in Kom happens to know that beans is not cultivated in Kumba and hence target the zone in order to sell her product at a more reasonable prices and raise more income than to depend only on local markets in Kom. Since the Kom traditional woman is not educated they know little or nothing about the new farming techniques not leaving aside the use of modern machines to increase yield and reduce fatigue. Because of soil infertility the traditional Kom woman would have had that advantage if educated to realise that modern fertilizers are needed in order to increase production, lack of the use of fertilizers reduces production and hence acts as a set back to the traditional Kom woman in economic development.
It goes without saying that capital is the catalyst that always stabilizes the economy. The lack of capital serves as a hindrance to the traditional Kom woman in the sense that more money is needed for the transportation of harvests from the farm not only to the house but to various markets where the products are needed. If there was capital the traditional Kom woman would have had the access to storage facilities cool houses to preserve food like vegetables which are perishable goods Thus, because of far distances much of these perishable food products get bad because of lack of storage facilities and capital. Access to credit is difficult for small business and the self-employed. Credit is necessary to expand production and distribution, to obtain new agricultural technology and often just to maintain a business at a reasonable level of efficiency. Kom women are active economically, particularly in their roles as informal sector workers. Traders and agriculturalist, yet their access to credit are extremely limited. The poor desperate women are not given the opportunity to get loans because of cultural bias that restrict them. Also as a hindrance to the traditional Kom women, lack of requirements for collateral security is also a major obstacle for these women who are interested to in obtaining formal credit especially in Kom where women do not own land. “Land in Kenya is generally owned by men and banks require a Title deed and land as collaterals for (Reno1981). Because women business tend to be in the informal sector (such a raiding or marketing agricultural produce) (quote 43 1995) their small operations generally cannot be used as collaterals (Christina H.Gladwin1991).
Harmful insects and animals are also a plague to the economic development of Kom; insects like crickets, locust, and caterpillars destroy the crops. The mostly affect the leaves of the crops and this stops the process of photosynthesis which is very vital for the growth of plants. Rat mule is very destructive animal they can eat the whole a cassava farm in one night. All these natural deserters prevent the women of Kom from obtaining high yields causing a decline in economic development.
Lack of means of transportation is also identified as a key constraint to agricultural crops from leaving the farms to the markets; since Kom so hilly there are difficulties for some vehicles to penetrate into the interior of the slopes to transport the crops to the markets. The availability of transport provides the poor with better physical access to markets and other social amenities such as education and health services. There is certainty that the lack of available means of transport cannot enhance agricultural productivity. Lack of adequate means of transport particularly for the rural poor areas like Kom, made them to use their most common and cheaper means of transportation which is walking and head loading. Many people that is, mostly women by virtue of their dual responsibility for social reproduction and economic production, can carry on average up to 30kg which is equivalent to 50-60% of the average weight of a women .They suffer a lot before their crops can leave the farms to their homes and markets. The distance from the farm to homes or markets can be 10 kilometres away these women “trek to and from each plot is arduous, and women complain that they are constantly ascending and descending when travelling back and forth between the compound and the farms” (Mariam Goheen 1996/78). Thus, because of far distances most their food crops get bad in the farm because of lack of transportation.
During the period of colonisation of Africa there was a changed in agricultural domain. The colonialists introduced cash crops to Africans like cocoa, rubber and coffee, the North West region of Cameroon benefited from coffee. With the introduction of these cash crops the Kom traditional women lost their farmlands. More productive land was dedicated to men for their cash crops products like coffee and banana, women were left with less land and with increase marginal land. These women did not receive any land for their own crops and were left only with a kitchen garden which most of the time were destroyed by domestic animals around like goats and others domestic animals. In situation where these women even own land, their choice of what to cultivate became a problem since the decision makers on agriculture in the society is handled by men.
The government of Cameroon has created a budget annually to support rural women involved in agriculture. These women are provided with modern agricultural tools and fertilizers to increase the out put, the incentives given to them are used to rent land and other farming facilities. For example in Cameroon, in achieving rapid growth of food and export crops production, the government gave small farms access to land, paid the international prices for their major crops, and provided them necessary public services, thereby facilitating food production growth Christina H.Gladwin 1991.The government has of introduced a compulsory subject in all primary school where girl children are taught domestic science thus from primary a child who wants to become a farm in future learns already farming methods and farming technique in effect alleviating the standards of the female child in agricultural field.
There are also NGOs like the HEVERTAS who offer training programmes for women farmers in the North West Province of Cameroon. Seminars are organised where the women are trained on farming methods, how to compose natural manure from kitchen waste, how to maximise land for several uses like hulti-cultism where animal dung can be used also as fertilizers on their farms. These women are trained to use modern machines like tractors which facilitate the working on the farms for lesser periods and to ensure efficiency of labour. These women also benefited from new specie of seedlings like potatoes seedlings; they are also given subsidies like processing machines to process their crops to consumer’s products. They are also taught how to preserve their crops from perishing.
This work shows that the traditional women are influential factors in economic development despite their marginalization as the weaker sex. If she is given the opportunity to be educated she will excel in many domains to enhance the development of her country. Neither roles nor sex alone are sufficient to explain the extent of the differential values between sexes and the functions that are specific to a woman. Roles and status refer back in each socio-cultural milieu to a world of representations, which in itself is inherent to a conception and vision of the world. One should therefore consider the games of vision, symbolism, ideology, and power that ensure society’s equilibrium and reproduction. The social status of women and the relationships between them and men cannot be thought of outside the question of power that determines the social dynamics.” Women” must both be naturalised and sociologies. To be a woman is both a biological being and a social actor’s International aid and international programs aimed at women must take into consideration their real needs and not the pursuit of a western inspired feminist agenda. Helping the rural woman to improve her agricultural yields, protect her farmland from cattle trespass and degradation are more meaningful than attempting to catapult her to the same pedestal with men. Most importantly, the involvement of men in the vital area of food security is essential if a solid base for development must be created. Therefore women should be given the same impetus like men too at least to ease her burden as the economic promoter.
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