Tell us about the social impact of your innovation. Please include both numbers and stories as evidence of this impact
To date, Breaking Ground has worked with 6 communities and positively impacted the lives of over 40,000 Cameroonians.
Breaking Ground funded the completion of the Doumbou Elementary School and the Public Library of Bafou-Sud, which checked out 7000 volumes in it’s first year. In 2008 we partnered with the Peace Corps, The US Embassy and The British High Commission to fund the construction of the Menouet River Bridge. This project gives 34,000 villagers increased access to the local city and thus the local hospital, university and market. Our most recent construction project is the construction of a primary school and community center in the village of Keuleng.
Through our Small Enterprise Development Program we have impacted the lives of approximately 400 individuals.
The Women’s Entrepreneurial Program has provided basic business skills training to over 200 women. In addition, it has provided start-up grants to twenty-two female-run business in Ngaoundéré, ranging from raising poultry to selling books. One participant in the 2007 session of the WEP, received funding from Breaking Ground, to build the first Bi-Lingual Primary School in the region.
In 2008 we worked with West Cameroon coffee farmers to provide them with the knowledge and equipment to produce consistently high quality beans without the use of chemicals and fertilizers. In the first year, the farmers’ revenue increased by 30%.
Equally important in showing Breaking Ground's success are the stories of individuals from the communities we serve.
Yvette was one of the teachers at Doumbouo Elementary School, Breaking Ground’s first project. After the end of that school year and the completion of construction, Yvette quit her minimally paid, parent-supported teaching job to go to University and earn her teaching certification. She accredits this decision to the inspiration of Breaking Ground and seeing that what she had previously thought impossible, didn’t have to be. Now Yvette, who is also raising three young boys, is top of her class and looks well on her way to securing a government supported teaching job.
Married at the age of fourteen and with no formal education, Miriamou had no ambitions beyond feeding her family and making sure her daughters had the education she had missed out on. As a friend of women in the WEP course however, her ideas began to change. She started selling ices out of her kitchen and asked her husband permission to take the WEP course. He initially refused. Then the Lamido (the traditional leader of the Fulani in N'gaoundere) proclaimed that women should be allowed to take the WEP course. Now Miriamou's husband has granted her permission to take the class and she hopes to one day open a restaurant adjacent to his store.
Problem: Describe the primary problem(s) that your innovation is addressing
Basic needs are the building blocks of a healthy society. In Cameroon, however, whole communities are deprived of necessities such as clean water, education, and health care because of the inadequacy of public services: only 41% of rural populations have access to “improved water sources” (WHO), only 63% of births are attended by a skilled medical professional, and only 64% of primary school entrants succeed in reaching 5th grade (UNICEF).
Breaking Ground addresses these needs by providing access to funding that would otherwise be inaccessible in Cameroon’s corrupt and impoverished state. The citizens of Cameroon face often-insurmountable obstacles to addressing the needs of their communities. Because more than 50% of Cameroonians live on less than $2 per day (UNDP), funding projects to address local needs can take years – even decades. When communities turn to lending organizations or other sources of funding for assistance, they are thwarted by corruption: 52% of small enterprises report paying bribes to conduct business, and 19% report paying bribes to obtain a bank loan (Transparency International). Major lenders and donors are reluctant to engage with communities in a country as corrupt as Cameroon, which was rated by Transparency International as the most corrupt country in the world in 2007.
Despite this, the Cameroonian landscape is brimming with communities who are mobilized to address the basic needs of their populations (e.g. clean water, education, and healthcare), but whose solutions are hindered by a lack of financial capital.
Actions: Describe the steps that you are taking to make your innovation a success. What might prevent that success?
One of the problems facing Cameroonians is that systematic corruption has eroded their trust in their institutions and leaders. Breaking Ground faces this problem by only funding projects that have been conceived and planned by the entire community, including women, youth, the elderly and other marginalized groups. To ensure this we have partnered with The Research Institute for Development (RIDEV). RIDEV conducts thorough evaluations of all our projects before we commit to working with a community, once the project is underway and after project completion. These evaluations ensure that the project has the support of the whole community and is being transparently managed.
Our partnership with the Peace Corps gives us access to a greater number of communities than we previously had. This ensures that we will be able to select those communities that are truly mobilized and ready to break ground.
One of the possible obstacles for the Women’s Entrepreneurial Program is that Cameroonians have asked us to expand it to other cities but we lack the funding to support more grants. We are considering partnering with a Microfinance Institution who would provide loans to our students. However our students would be high risk candidates for loans and lack the funding to even open a bank account, and many are Islamic and are thus forbidden to accept a loan with interest. We fear that those who did approach the bank would be denied or taken advantage of. At this time we are researching possible microfinance partners whilst also searching out funding for expanding the grant program.
We are also currently conducting thorough evaluations of all past projects that were concieved and implemented before we partnered with RIDEV. These evaluations will alert us to any other possible challenges or areas of our strategy that need improvement.
Results: Describe the expected results of these actions over the next three years. Please address each year separately, if possible
By the end of 2010 Breaking Ground plans to have funded 5 community projects. We are in the process of working with local organizations and Peace Corps volunteers in the city of Dschang to adapt the Women’s Entrepreneurial Program to that region. If this program is ready in September, by the end of 2010 approximately 60 women in N’gaoundere and 30 women in Dschang will have taken the WEP course. We are currently fundraising for 11 women run businesses in N’gaoundere and with a fall session in both N’gaoundere and Dschang we will be aiming to give an additional 4 grants in the fall. Rather than continuing to give 7-10 grants per session, Breaking Ground is planning on transitioning to a microfinance partnership. We will, however, continue to give two grants per session, one for a high-need individual and one for a particularly promising and innovative project. Additionally, in partnership with ICA Canada, we are currently researching a Small Enterprise Development Program in the Southwest region that should begin this fall.
In 2011 we hope to capitalize on our Peace Corps partnership and be able to fund 10 community projects. We will run two sessions per year, per location of the WEP (approximately 120 women total) and for each of these sessions we will fund two grants (8 total). The Small Enterprise Development Program will be well underway in the Southwest, increasing cocoa and palm oil production and thus enabling more girls to go to school and families to invest in their children's education. We will also recommence our work with the coffee farmers in the West.
In 2012 we hope to fund 15 community projects, ideally partnering with at least one community in each of Cameroon’s 12 provinces. The WEP will be continuing in Dschang and N’gaoundere and, funding permitting, will have expanded to Bertoua (in the East province) where there is already a list of interested women. The Small Enterprise Development Program will be will underway in both the Southwest and the West and we will be conducting research for a program in the Adamaoua.
By the end of 2012, our sixth year of operation, we will thus have funded projects in 36 communities, provided seed grants to 70 female run businesses and be working with three agricultural communities to increase their revenue.
If your innovation seeks to impact public policy, how?
Approximately 150 words left (1200 characters).