Isaac Zama is a Southern Cameroonian based in the United States (US), who has dedicated himself to discovering ways to help his countrymen. With an estimated 100,000 Southern Cameroonian refugees in camps across West Africa, 60% of which are women and children, Isaac is using his Amba Farmers Voice (AFV) to help increase their sustenance.
Over the last 3 years, these refugees have relied mostly on handouts from Southern Cameroonians in the diaspora for support. This is however unsustainable given the growing refugee population, the increasing need for food, education, shelter, and health care. Competing demands for diaspora funding and the current economic realities are made worse by the COVID-19 pandemic that has deeply affected diaspora disposable incomes.
This is where TheAfricanDream.net September 2020 COVID-19 Hero comes in with ways to help some of these refugees discover ways to grow food for themselves with his AFV initiative. Isaac conceived with a focus on appropriate techniques and technology for Southern Cameroonians in refugee camps in Nigeria, Ghana, and elsewhere with no possibility and money to travel to towns to buy agricultural inputs.
He tells TheAfricanDream.net that “I don’t think I’m a hero, I am just the guy who figured out ways for these people to be able to make their fertilizer and insecticides by reaching them how to do so using available materials and herbs in their immediate environment...”
His modesty notwithstanding, we still think that about 80% of these refugees who were farmers before the war and even people in similar situations across Africa or even around the world can benefit from Isaac’s AFV initiative.
The birthing of Amba Farmers Voice initiative
“In April of 2020 after thinking of ways I could help the situation, I ended up collaborating with Southern Cameroons Broadcasting Corporation Television (SCBC-TV) which is based out of South Africa because of the war. I shared with them my idea for a TV program called ‘Amba Farmers Voice’ (AFV).“
SCBC-TV bought into the idea of Isaac, who is an international development professional with a focus on agriculture and sustainable rural development. The program focused on education through television that will assist other farmers in the Southern Cameroons with practical information to assist them to grow enough food to sustain them during the war as people were no longer able to work due to the war.
Since then AFV has also explored pre and post-harvest appropriate technology of saving and storing food. In addition to these emergency wartime agricultural methods and techniques, the program also encourages its benefactors in general and farmers, in particular, to see the potential for agriculture in the development of the Southern Cameroons and indeed all of Africa.
“AFV also explores topics including cottage industrial food production, transformation, marketing, and export as we feel arming our viewers fully with these kinds of knowledge in their own language makes it easier for them to digest and also transfer by teaching others,” Isaac explained to TheAfricanDream.net about the program.
The main goal of AFV is to assist the refugees and farmers with practical techniques, information, research, and scientific methods to increase food production during the war. AFV is focused on in-depth research, investigations, newsmaker interviews, and methods of successful agricultural techniques from countries across the world to assist farmers to become better.
How AFV is becoming more beneficial amidst COVID-19
As a result of COVID-19 protocols like social distancing that has created movement-limitation, AFV has enlightened its benefactors with practical programs to enable them to grow food in bags and sack mounds. This method of food production limits movements from one place to another, thus reducing the spread of the virus.
TheAfricanDream.net feels this is among one of the many cool ways AFV is bringing hope to poor folks across Africa who were heartbroken by the fact that visiting their farms had become impossible.
The saying that goes ‘use what you have to get what you need‘ came to mind as Isaac shared even cooler ideas like “how the AFV is teaching people to make their organic fertilizer using human urine, or the making of organic pesticides using leaves and other organic material found around their homes, refugee camps, or villages while making sure they do these hygienically and safely.“
“The possibilities are endless when it comes to defying the odds and learning new ways, or going back to old ways to adapt in hard times, which is why the AFV also educated people on how to make their solar dryers, as well as making local fridges without the need for electricity – a technology that is suited for all rural villages in Africa.“
From the AFV studios in Fairfax, an enclave located in the state of Virginia in the US, the program is produced in Pidgin, a language that is spoken in Nigeria, Ghana, Sierra Leone, Liberia, and Southern Cameroons. SCBC-TV broadcasts the program via satellite, which is then captured in many African countries.
AFV has received positive viewer feedback not only from Southern Cameroons and Nigeria but also from Francophone African countries including Benin and Gabon where there are pockets of pidgin speakers watching. The program is broadcast every Sunday at 11AM EST and 4PM West African time on SCBC-TV and the official Facebook page of Amba Farmers Voice. Also, watch previous episodes of AFV programs on its official YouTube page.
Why Isaac Zama believes Africa is still capable of feeding herself and the world
One of the main problems facing farmers in Africa is that they have imported foreign agricultural methods and processes and foods, which are more often than not very expensive. “There are local, cheap, efficient, and sustainable technologies that can be produced by the African farmers themselves without the need for spending huge sums of money on imported technology” Isaac believes, which is why his greatest dream is to one day see the total eradication of chemical fertilizers in Africa.
TheAfricanDream.net September 2020 COVID-19 Hero firmly claimed that “Africa can produce 100% of its food with an organic fertilizer that can be produced by farmers themselves. Can African leaders muster the courage to fight against neo-colonialist foreign fertilizer companies? Is there the political will in Africa to challenge the foreign international fertilizer lobby?” he asked.
Well, that is the million-dollar question we are also asking. And the answer is YES! With a new generation of progressive African youths and leaders that have proven their desire to see Africa and Africans everywhere prove to the world that the continent is capable of rising above limitations and difficulties like COVID-19, the war in Southern Cameroon, and a few bad seeds — there is still hope that Africa could become 100% organic in the not too distant future.
Isaac Zama is a lawyer by training and holds a Ph.D. from the Land Tenure Center, University of Wisconsin-Madison College of Agriculture and Life Sciences. He has spent most of his career working in the US, Cameroon, and also taught community forestry and rural development at the Ecole Nationale des Eaux et Forets in Gabon.
With more and more farmers becoming interested in the program, Isaac Zama envisages extending the program to other African countries to assist farmers. AFV can be contacted at WhatsApp with +1202-735-1145, and firstname.lastname@example.org is their email address.
Written by Oral Ofori