MoMo4C projects in Cameroon near investment-readiness

Posted on June, 30 2022

After nearly two years of restrictions, our MoMo4C team was finally able to visit Cameroon and see the five projects that we are helping to become investment-ready. Shephard Andrew Zonde, MoMo4C programme manager, shares his thoughts on the trip.
In May 2022, I had the pleasure to travel for two weeks to the Tri-National Dja-Odzala-Minkebe (TRIDOM) forest in Cameroon on a landscape familiarisation tour under the Mobilising More for Climate (MoMo4C) programme. Together with my colleague Arthur Muller, who was handing over the programme management role to me, it was our first ever visit to West Africa and we shared the same excitement for the trip.

Straddling the borders of Cameroon, Gabon and the Republic of Congo, the TRIDOM landscape is one of those where MoMo4C is actively supporting entrepreneurship. The programme identifies business ideas and supports setting up and attracting investment. Key criteria are that businesses make a positive impact on climate change and communities in the target landscape, with a commercially viable business model.

Agri-food projects

During our trip, the WWF Cameroon office team accompanied us to meet up with several communities, local authorities, cocoa farmers and NGOs in the Bertoua, Mintom and Yokoudama municipalities. At least three projects facilitated by MoMo4C are active in these areas. By working together with multiple stakeholders from both the public and private sector, we hope to create a landscape where there is a shared understanding of the risk of climate change and the desire across the various stakeholders to strengthen collaboration and to create a local environment that’s conducive for inclusive and sustainable economic development.

The five different projects that MoMo4C is supporting were identified through a call for proposals in November 2021. Over more than a hundred projects applied, which was a major achievement. It is no wonder that the five projects that were selected by a panel of independent local experts are all working in agri-food. The TRIDOM offers numerous opportunities around Non-Timber Forest Products (NTFP) such as mangos and cocoa, which is the predominantly grown crop.

Since last year, MoMo4C advisors have been providing non-financial technical assistance to the project owners, such as help to get the business plans on paper and making sure ideas turn into scalable climate solutions, with a monetary return for the investors. While it can be challenging at times, it is great to see that with time, effort and patience of all concerned it is beginning to bear fruit.

Opportunities in the TRIDOM landscape

Apart from meeting all these inspiring people, I was inspired to see the TRIDOM forest for the first time. A forested area spanning the three countries of Cameroon, Central African Republic, and Congo, and just a sheer force of nature. Officially the whole of TRIDOM forest covers 178,000 km², at least four times the size of the Netherlands of thick forest cover.

The forest is shared by so many species. From elephants and great apes to the small to middle sized villages of the indigenous Baaka communities dotted right next to the roads: everybody is living together.

But besides all the beauty that we saw, the real and increasing threats to the forest are also visible. Poaching and habitat degradation through human settlement, logging and agriculture are the biggest threats. Every now and again we found ourselves in degraded parts of the forest, and drove past several trucks loaded with logs and signs of slash and burn agriculture.

Challenges for viable commercial activities in TRIDOM include a combination of factors, such as small plot sizes and low yield, inconsistent quality of produce, and low road and human density. This makes the area less conducive for certain commercial activities compared to other parts of Cameroon.

But we like to think about opportunities rather than problems. With a program like MoMo4C, we aim to facilitate economic development which benefits people in harmony with nature. We bring a unique mix: on the one hand, we help local communities set up commercially viable initiatives to increase income, while on the other hand, appreciating and protecting their environment and nature.

During our trip, it was encouraging to note most farmers are organised in cooperatives for cocoa and forestry. For example, I had a chat with Mr Afrem Lambert, who is President of the Yokadouma cocoa coop. With about 700 farmers spread out across four councils, this is the biggest coop in TRIDOM Cameroon. By organising in cooperatives, it is easier to share knowledge, lobby for better prices for commodities and preserve nature together.

Sustainable agriculture

To address some of the issues mentioned above WWF Cameroon is providing training to farmers on sustainable agricultural practices. In the short-term aggregation offers a simple and practical solution to getting desired coca quantity. The long-term goal is to help improve cocoa yields and quality.

There is a huge interest worldwide of organically grown crops, chocolate makers are keen to explore opportunities to source such cocoa at premium prices. MoMo4C is looking for opportunities to facilitate such partnerships with local farmers. By giving workshops on sustainable farming, including regular extension support and setting up of demo fields, we try to incentivise farmers to use these practices that will increase their yield and income in harmony with nature.

New call for proposals coming soon

To ensure MoMo4C makes as much impact on the ground as possible there is need to identify even more potentially bankable business cases that could deliver impact in TRIDOM. A new business competition will be launched in Cameroon within the next two months. This will be open to a wider option of themes beyond the more traditional Cocoa and NTFPs, which hopefully helps establish a healthy and steady pipeline of projects.
Farmers market in Mintom, Cameroon - MoMo4C
Cocoa plants and farms, Cameroon - MoMo4C
Cocoa plants and farms, Cameroon - MoMo4C
Highly degraded forest and log truck, Cameroon - MoMo4C
Cocoa farm belonging to Mr Lembet, President of the Yokadouma Coop, Cameroon - MoMo4C