By Amos Fofung
Cameroon-born Manka Angwafo is the 2019 sub-Saharan Africa winner of the coveted Cartier Women’s Initiative award that seeks to identify, support and encourage projects by women entrepreneurs worldwide.
She got the distinction thanks to her grain-handling company, Grassland Cameroon that offers smallholder farmers asset-based financing, tools, training, and market access.
Founded in 2015, Grassland Cameroon has already supported 300 farmers in the North West region with impacting thousands of residents. Through their cooperate channels, they have assisted artisan farmers to market over 1800 bags of maize.
She received the award in San Francisco, United States among six other winners the world over including; Zineb Agoumi Europe Laurate, Carmina Bayombong-South Asia and Oceania, Yeon Jeong Cho-East Asia, Hibah Shata-Middle East, and North Africa, Ran Ma-North America, and Liza Velarde from Latin America.
The first prize for the 7 laureates includes a US$ 100 000 in prize money and an intensive One-to-one personalized business mentoring geared at promoting and expanding the laurates business idea and brand. They also get a place at INSEAD, one of the world’s leading and largest graduate business schools.
The former World Bank research analyst who comes from a family of farmers, says her motivation came from seeing her grandmother, a smallholder farmer, struggle with her farming activities, just like thousands of Cameroonians, yet without any reasonable benefits.
Her project was particularly seen as a life-changer in Cameroon where as much as 70 percent of the population is involved in agriculture.
However, what made her stand out among the 2,900 applicants from 142 countries is due to the importance and impact her company creates to boost farming in the crisis-sicken English-speaking region of Cameroon where civil conflict has forced farmers to migrate creating a scarcity of agricultural inputs in the market.
The severity and magnitude of the situation is such that the United States Agency for International Development, USAID, estimates over 1.4 million people in Northwest, Southwest and West regions will face stressed (Phase 2) levels of acute food insecurity between March and May this year. In addition, nearly 486,000 people – approximately seven percent of the three regions’ total population – will face crisis (Phase 3) conditions during the same period. Phase 5, which is catastrophe and/or famine, is the highest level of acute food insecurity.
Her company is a response to difficulties faced by farmers in accessing loans, improved seedlings and markets.
This is the second time a Cameroonian is recognized by Cartier Women’s Initiative. Last year, another Cameroonian, Melissa Bime with her Infiuss health system, bagged the same award for her an online blood bank that collects and dispatches blood donations to hospitals.