Bernard Njonga

Service d'Appui aux Initiatives Locales de Développement (SAILD)
Year founded: 

SAILD works with farmers in Cameroon to help them develop a strong, independent movement and to help them build capacities for sustainable, competitive agriculture.

Focus: Agriculture, Civic Participation, Communications/Media, Consumer Awareness, Education, Enterprise Development, Rural Development, Civil Society
Geographic Area of Impact: Cameroon, Chad, Democratic Republic of Congo, Gabon
Model: Hybrid Non-Profit
Number of Direct Beneficiaries: 7 million (2009)
Annual Budget: US$ 1 million (2009) (SAILD/ACDIC)
Percentage Earned Revenue: 40% (SAILD/ACDIC)
Recognition: Social Entrepreneur of the Year, Cameroon, 2005

Today, 60-70% of Cameroon’s population relies on agriculture as their main source of income; about 90% depend on domestic crops to meet their nutritional needs. In 1984, an initiative was taken by the agricultural sector to organize meetings for farmers in the country’s four main regions. The intention was to take inventory of the problems constraining agricultural development and to propose grassroots solutions. The problems were identified as: lack of investment, information, technical guidance and know-how, as well as social problems, including jealousy and witchcraft. A pilot project coordinated by SAILD was undertaken from 1985-87 by a small group of farmers to implement solutions to the issues identified. The success of the pilot project demonstrated that farmers' organization were key to rural development. Since then, SAILD has become an important channel for reaching farmers and affecting positive development.

Innovation and Activities
Before SAILD began operating in Cameroon, farmer organizations, including cooperatives, were non-existent. In part this was due to the country's lack of legislation regarding civil society organizations. SAILD initiated a new model of practice for Cameroon, supporting the creation of organizations allowing farmers to express themselves, exchange information, help each other, take responsibility and negotiate. As a result of SAILD’S work, strong, well-structured farmers' cooperatives exist today at both the regional and national levels, positively transforming the lives of thousands of farmers.

SAILD introduced and popularized various agricultural products in Cameroon, including papaya, watermelon and soybeans, and helped build a market for these products throughout the country. In various regions of Cameroon, SAILD introduced maize, coffee and cocoa, enabling farmers to diversify their crop choices. Additionally, SAILD developed seedbeds from which 10,000 plants are grafted annually. As a result of these initiatives, thousands of farmers have created viable rural enterprises.

SAILD builds the economic and organizational capacity of farmer associations through several strategies: it helps farmers conduct their own analysis of available resources, supports them in identifying challenges, and guides them in addressing these challenges. SAILD Support, which is active in Cameroon, Chad, Gabon and the Democratic Republic of Congo, helps farmer organizations innovate and assign appropriate prices to their products, while also providing training and microfinance programmes.

One of SAILD’s initiatives, ACDIC (Association Citoyenne de Défence des Intérêts Collectifs), is a non-profit, apolitical and non-tribal organization whose mission is to improve citizen awareness and participation in public affairs.

The Entrepreneur
Bernard Njonga is convinced that Africa does not need external help to develop. He firmly believes that Africa’s needs can be met by its own people. An agronomist, he left his job at Cameroon’s Institute for Agricultural Research to dedicate himself to facilitating the capacity of his countrymen and women to improve their future. Njonga’s most recent creation is Eclat d’Afrique, a magazine for rural people which aims to break the negative image of Africa by highlighting the beauty of life in rural communities.