Interview: NGOs in the North West are the real development agents
Awa Stateson, country-coordinator of The Fomunyoh Foundation
August 21, 2005

The North West, province has a large pool of non-governmental organisations in various aspects of life. The Fomunyoh Foundation, TFF, a non-profit organisation with headquarters in Washington DC, recently organised on 8-week-long capacity-building seminar for these service providers. The country-coordinator Awa Stateson at the closing of the workshop in Bamenda told The Herald that if these organisations are well-organised they would help in the democratisation process, good governance and the overall development process of the province. He spoke to Bangsi Daniel Song and started by explaining who attended the seminar, then TFF objectives of bringing together the NGOs.

Participants at this eight-week seminar were drawn from human rights organisations. NGOs, civil society and many other people who had something to offer in society. The purpose of this seminar is to empower or build the capacity of the people who are doing these activities so that they can carry them out properly. This was aimed at helping people to be able to come up with mission statements, have good visions of their organisations and the methods of achieving these visions. Of course for the eight weeks people did not come continuously. They were divided into groups and each week had a group, so the eight weeks had 8 groups of people.

On why emphasis on capacity building.
The purpose of The Fomunyoh Foundation (TFF) is to improve on the living conditions of Cameroonians. We think that these NGOs are already doing a good job in ameliorating life for Cameroonians.

On whether TFF is an umbrella NGO to deal with the rest of the NGOs.
I will not say so. We have our own vision but I think that we are better placed than many other NGOs here to assist others. We don't want to duplicate services on the ground. For the NGOs already doing some of the things we intended to do, we think that the only way is to empower them carry out their projects.

On the impact of the training on population.
Last year, the course was focused on the use of communication by these NGOs. This year we improved it and increased it to capacity building, then we visited a lot of the NGOs on the ground this year. So many were faring better than before.

On whether the TFF is not dealing with "briefcase" NGOs who offer little to the population.
This is why sometimes we take time to go on the field to see what some of the NGO's are doing. If some of the NGOs are what you call "briefcase" NGOs, it may be because they lack adequate training but with the appropriate training they could equally transform themselves into useful NGOs.

On what NGOs should do to be service-oriented to the population.
The Fomunyoh Foundation is just trying to reinforce the community spirit that had existed in this part of the country ever since. We think that this should multiply to the rest of the country. The people here already have the potentials but the problem is the potentials are not properly exploited. We are just trying to help them exploit these potentials to the fullest. If you listened carefully at the close of these seminars you would have heard the facilitators from John Hopkings University say that there are a lot of resources here, that all that we need is just to improve on these potentials. We need foreign aid quite all right but before the foreign aid, we must start with what we have.

On the projects of TFF and the complex under construction in Bamenda.
The headquarters of TFF is based in Washington DC and the headquarters in Cameroon is based in Bamenda. This is where we are building the complex. The offices would be there for the entire foundation. We also intend to have a community radio, which will help us carry out our mission successfully. This radio station will also be used by the community to disseminate their ideas to the rest of the people.

On why a community radio while there are already so many in Bamenda town.
I call it community radio, which means that it's going to be at the service of the community. It is also going to be a demonstration centre so that in future, when we have seminars like this for journalists, etc we use our own facilities rather than go round begging this and that for this purpose. So it will be at the disposal of the community, journalists and, of course the foundation.

On impact of NGOs in the North West province in 10 years to come.
Ten years is even too long. I will like to say in 2 years the province will be a different place. For instance, last year when we came here for this seminar, there were fewer useful NGOs than we found this year. The NGOs in the North West are really development agents. Because the state has so many other things to do the NGOs are now the link between the state and the common man. If the NGOs are properly organised, then they can help a lot in the democratisation process, the development process and good governance. I hope that the multiplier effect of these NGO's would assist Cameroon grow politically and development wise.

© The Herald