The night Boko Haram attacked Halima’s village, her husband disappeared in the chaos and she had to flee alone with her four young children. Five years have passed and she has still not heard from him. She fears he was killed that night. 

Halima, 32, is not the only one that has been forced to flee her home because of attacks from armed groups in the border areas between Cameroon and Nigeria. The Boko Haram conflict in Nigeria has led to significant protracted displacements in Cameroon’s Far North region, ranking Cameroon as the second most affected country (after Nigeria) in the Lake Chad Basin region. 64% of all humanitarian needs in the country, affecting approximately 2.1 million people, are concentrated in the Far North region. This includes 227,581 internally displaced persons (IDPs), 92,238 returnees (former IDPs), 96,727 Nigerian refugees, 406,700 host community members and more than one million other vulnerable people (Humanitarian Response Plan - HRP 2018). As more and more attacks are now also happening inside of Cameroon, it is leading to more insecurity and secondary displacements. For aid agencies, access is also increasingly difficult. 

“After I fled my home, we stayed in Kourgui for two months hoping that life would be better there, but it was not easy at all, so I decided to come here to Mora".

Mora is a little bit further from the border and feels a bit safer. Halima now rents a small house in a compound with another family, trying to make a new life after having lost all she once owned. Back home she had a sewing machine that gave her a steady income. Without her machine or her husband’s help, she has struggled to make ends meet. Now, with the support from NRC, her situation has turned for the better.

Halima is part of a group of women that are selected for a fish farming project that NRC supports as part of our Food Security activities. A local entrepeneur, Boucar Adji, had set up a fish farming cooperative and NRC decided to provide financial support to this great initiative. The entrepreneur used the funds to expand the fish activities and intentionally hired displaced women to work with him at the cooperative.  The women receive 15,000 francs every month from the cooperative for the work they do on the fish farm. Every morning for the past three months, Halima and the other members of the association meet to feed the fish and clean the premises.

In addition, NRC has provided financial assistance directly to the women to help them start up a small business. With the first of three cash instalments, Halima chose to buy peanuts that she now roasts and sells. The income from this and the work at the fish farm has made it possible for her to pay the school fee for two of her four children. It also generates a welcome addition of fish into their diet. 

"If today my small family manages to eat fresh fish, it is thanks to the fish farming done by the association," Halima ends.  

Photo: Ingebjørg Kårstad/NRC
Cameroon

The ripple effect: how fish farming is transforming lives

“All that I couldn’t have before I can have now,” says Halima, 32. This is the story about how one entrepreneur’s eureka moment is empowering displaced women in the Far North Region of Cameroon. Through doing so the entire community is benefitting.

It is midday in Mora and the unrelenting sun beats down on the dusty streets. Halima is sitting in the shade of a tree in the compound outside her house. She looks down at a large basket of peanuts, passes her hand through them and in a swift motion, grasps a handful, effortlessly shells them and tosses them into a separate basket.

The night Boko Haram attacked Halima’s village, her husband disappeared in the chaos and she had to flee alone with her four young children. Five years have passed and she has still not heard from him. She fears he was killed that night. 

Halima, 32, is not the only one that has been forced to flee her home because of attacks from armed groups in the border areas between Cameroon and Nigeria. The Boko Haram conflict in Nigeria has led to significant protracted displacements in Cameroon’s Far North region, ranking Cameroon as the second most affected country (after Nigeria) in the Lake Chad Basin region. 64% of all humanitarian needs in the country, affecting approximately 2.1 million people, are concentrated in the Far North region. This includes 227,581 internally displaced persons (IDPs), 92,238 returnees (former IDPs), 96,727 Nigerian refugees, 406,700 host community members and more than one million other vulnerable people (Humanitarian Response Plan - HRP 2018). As more and more attacks are now also happening inside of Cameroon, it is leading to more insecurity and secondary displacements. For aid agencies, access is also increasingly difficult. 

“After I fled my home, we stayed in Kourgui for two months hoping that life would be better there, but it was not easy at all, so I decided to come here to Mora".

Mora is a little bit further from the border and feels a bit safer. Halima now rents a small house in a compound with another family, trying to make a new life after having lost all she once owned. Back home she had a sewing machine that gave her a steady income. Without her machine or her husband’s help, she has struggled to make ends meet. Now, with the support from NRC, her situation has turned for the better.

Halima is part of a group of women that are selected for a fish farming project that NRC supports as part of our Food Security activities. A local entrepeneur, Boucar Adji, had set up a fish farming cooperative and NRC decided to provide financial support to this great initiative. The entrepreneur used the funds to expand the fish activities and intentionally hired displaced women to work with him at the cooperative.  The women receive 15,000 francs every month from the cooperative for the work they do on the fish farm. Every morning for the past three months, Halima and the other members of the association meet to feed the fish and clean the premises.

In addition, NRC has provided financial assistance directly to the women to help them start up a small business. With the first of three cash instalments, Halima chose to buy peanuts that she now roasts and sells. The income from this and the work at the fish farm has made it possible for her to pay the school fee for two of her four children. It also generates a welcome addition of fish into their diet. 

"If today my small family manages to eat fresh fish, it is thanks to the fish farming done by the association," Halima ends.  

Photo: Ingebjørg Kårstad/NRC
Read caption Halima now sells peanuts providing her with two sources of income. Photo: Ingebjørg Kårstad/NRC

“I’m really happy now,” she says, smiling shyly. “All that I couldn’t have before I can have now.”

Until recently Halima’s life was quite different. Five years ago, armed attacks and explosions forced her to flee her hometown of Amchide with her four children. Her husband disappeared in the chaos. Five years have passed, and she has still not heard from him. She fears he was killed that night.

She fled to Mora, a town only 27 km away, but far enough south to be safe from the constant threat of violence. In Amchide, Halima had worked as a seamstress, but she had to abandon her sewing machine when she fled. She arrived in Mora with nothing to her name and no means of providing for her children. She got by only through food distributions from humanitarian aid organisations. It was a tough time for her and her children.

But things would not remain this way for Halima. Her fortunes were about to change. And this change would have everything to do with fish.

The night Boko Haram attacked Halima’s village, her husband disappeared in the chaos and she had to flee alone with her four young children. Five years have passed and she has still not heard from him. She fears he was killed that night. 

Halima, 32, is not the only one that has been forced to flee her home because of attacks from armed groups in the border areas between Cameroon and Nigeria. The Boko Haram conflict in Nigeria has led to significant protracted displacements in Cameroon’s Far North region, ranking Cameroon as the second most affected country (after Nigeria) in the Lake Chad Basin region. 64% of all humanitarian needs in the country, affecting approximately 2.1 million people, are concentrated in the Far North region. This includes 227,581 internally displaced persons (IDPs), 92,238 returnees (former IDPs), 96,727 Nigerian refugees, 406,700 host community members and more than one million other vulnerable people (Humanitarian Response Plan - HRP 2018). As more and more attacks are now also happening inside of Cameroon, it is leading to more insecurity and secondary displacements. For aid agencies, access is also increasingly difficult. 

“After I fled my home, we stayed in Kourgui for two months hoping that life would be better there, but it was not easy at all, so I decided to come here to Mora".

Mora is a little bit further from the border and feels a bit safer. Halima now rents a small house in a compound with another family, trying to make a new life after having lost all she once owned. Back home she had a sewing machine that gave her a steady income. Without her machine or her husband’s help, she has struggled to make ends meet. Now, with the support from NRC, her situation has turned for the better.

Halima is part of a group of women that are selected for a fish farming project that NRC supports as part of our Food Security activities. A local entrepeneur, Boucar Adji, had set up a fish farming cooperative and NRC decided to provide financial support to this great initiative. The entrepreneur used the funds to expand the fish activities and intentionally hired displaced women to work with him at the cooperative.  The women receive 15,000 francs every month from the cooperative for the work they do on the fish farm. Every morning for the past three months, Halima and the other members of the association meet to feed the fish and clean the premises.

In addition, NRC has provided financial assistance directly to the women to help them start up a small business. With the first of three cash instalments, Halima chose to buy peanuts that she now roasts and sells. The income from this and the work at the fish farm has made it possible for her to pay the school fee for two of her four children. It also generates a welcome addition of fish into their diet. 

"If today my small family manages to eat fresh fish, it is thanks to the fish farming done by the association," Halima ends.  

Photo: Ingebjørg Kårstad/NRC
Read caption With her two sources of income, Halima says that she can now feed her family and provide for her children’s needs. Photo: Ingebjørg Kårstad/NRC

Eureka moment

Cameroon’s Far North Region has a dry and arid climate in contrast to the lush, green landscapes of many other parts of the country. This makes finding fresh fish in towns like Mora quite a challenge. With the nearest body of water, Lake Maga, 140 km away, fish sellers are forced to make the long journey there and back to sell fish in Mora’s weekly markets. These transportation costs would force sellers to sell the fish at inflated prices and by the time it arrived at the markets, the produce would no longer be fresh.

In the far north province of Cameroon, on the road between Maroua and Mora, we drive past many dry riverbeds. It is the end of the rainy season, but already the water is scarce.

Photo: Ingebjørg Kårstad/NRC
Read caption A dry riverbed in the Far North Region of Cameroon. It is the end of rainy season, but the water is already scarce. Photo: Ingebjørg Kårstad/NRC

It was in this context that Boucar Adji, a native of Mora, had his eureka moment. Adji was an entrepreneur keen to start a business that would meet the demand for fresh fish in Mora, while also helping his community prosper.

Boucar Adji, in front of the fish ponds.

Cameroon’s Far North Region has a dry and arid climate in contrast to the lush, green landscapes of many other parts of the country. This makes finding fresh fish in towns like Mora quite a challenge. With the nearest body of water, Lake Maga, 140 Km away from Mora, fish sellers are forced to make the long journey there and back to sell fish in Mora’s weekly markets. However, these transportation costs would force sellers to raise the price of fish to exorbitant amounts and by the time they arrived in Mora’s markets, they would no longer be fresh.

It was in this context that Boucar Adji, a native of Mora, had his eureka moment. Adji was an entrepreneur willing to start a business that would meet this demand for fresh fish in Mora, while also helping out his community. As Mora had become a host to thousands of displaced people from violence-hit parts of Cameroon, he wanted his business to primarily employ Mora’s newly arrived displaced people. His idea was to construct a small fishpond in Mora and raise fish there till the point where they were big enough to sell. He founded the Mora Fish Farming Association and accomplished exactly what he set out to do. Starting with one pond, he began to raise catfish within it and successfully sold these fish at a reasonable price in the markets in Mora. 

As part of NRC’s efforts to improve the food security of displaced people in Cameroon, we provide financial support to local businesses, associations and cooperatives already engaged in efforts to accomplish this. When our teams in Mora came across the association that Boucar Adji had founded, we were excited to partner with him. As Leila Hommal, Food Security and Livelihoods Assistant for NRC Cameroon says, ‘we knew that if we provided support to this association’s fish farming activities, the whole community would benefit. [Adji] was not simply waiting for different NGOs to come to the aid of his community. He already had a clear idea of how his association would help his own community. And so we wanted to provide support to this association.’ With the financial support that he received, Adji was able to expand his business. He built a second pond and hired assistants to help him clean the ponds and feed the fish. Halima and and Gona are two of these women. 


Photo: Ingebjørg Kårstad/NRC
Text: Itunu Kuku
Read caption Entrepreneur Boucar Adji at the fish farm he founded to provide the community with fish and displaced women with a source of income. Photo: Ingebjørg Kårstad/NRC

Raising catfish

His idea was to construct a small fishpond in Mora and raise fish there until they were big enough to sell. To this end, he founded the Mora Fish Farming Association. Starting with one pond, he began to raise catfish. These were then sold at reasonable prices in the markets in Mora.

As Mora had become a host to thousands of displaced people from conflict-affected parts of Cameroon, he wanted his business to primarily employ Mora’s newly arrived displaced people.

Business expansion

When the Norwegian Refugee Council’s teams in Mora came across the association that Boucar Adji had founded, we were excited to partner with him. As Leila Hommal, Food Security and Livelihoods Assistant for NRC Cameroon says, “we knew that if we provided support to this association’s fish farming activities, the whole community would benefit. [Adji] was not simply waiting for different NGOs to come to the aid of his community. He already had a clear idea of how his association would help his own community.”

With the financial support that he received from NRC, Adji was able to expand his business. He built a second pond and hired assistants to help him clean the ponds and feed the fish. His assistants are all displaced women. One of them is Halima.

“When the fish farming association approached me and asked me to participate in their activities, I agreed,” Halima says. “My job is to clean the ponds and feed the fish along with the other members of the association.”

With her sewing machine gone and with no other means to provide for her family she was grateful for the opportunity. Halima receives a salary for her work at the fish farm. But as a member, that’s not all she receives. She and the other members of the association are given some of the fish they are raising to take home. So now Halima and her family can eat fresh fish on a regular basis.

Halima is helped by Gona and her family to prepare the nuts for sale. 

The night Boko Haram attacked Halima’s village, her husband disappeared in the chaos and she had to flee alone with her four young children. Five years have passed and she has still not heard from him. She fears he was killed that night. 

Halima, 32, is not the only one that has been forced to flee her home because of attacks from armed groups in the border areas between Cameroon and Nigeria. The Boko Haram conflict in Nigeria has led to significant protracted displacements in Cameroon’s Far North region, ranking Cameroon as the second most affected country (after Nigeria) in the Lake Chad Basin region. 64% of all humanitarian needs in the country, affecting approximately 2.1 million people, are concentrated in the Far North region. This includes 227,581 internally displaced persons (IDPs), 92,238 returnees (former IDPs), 96,727 Nigerian refugees, 406,700 host community members and more than one million other vulnerable people (Humanitarian Response Plan - HRP 2018). As more and more attacks are now also happening inside of Cameroon, it is leading to more insecurity and secondary displacements. For aid agencies, access is also increasingly difficult. 

“After I fled my home, we stayed in Kourgui for two months hoping that life would be better there, but it was not easy at all, so I decided to come here to Mora".

Mora is a little bit further from the border and feels a bit safer. Halima now rents a small house in a compound with another family, trying to make a new life after having lost all she once owned. Back home she had a sewing machine that gave her a steady income. Without her machine or her husband’s help, she has struggled to make ends meet. Now, with the support from NRC, her situation has turned for the better.

Halima is part of a group of women that are selected for a fish farming project that NRC supports as part of our Food Security activities. A local entrepeneur, Boucar Adji, had set up a fish farming cooperative and NRC decided to provide financial support to this great initiative. The entrepreneur used the funds to expand the fish activities and intentionally hired displaced women to work with him at the cooperative.  The women receive 15,000 francs every month from the cooperative for the work they do on the fish farm. Every morning for the past three months, Halima and the other members of the association meet to feed the fish and clean the premises.

In addition, NRC has provided financial assistance directly to the women to help them start up a small business. With the first of three cash instalments, Halima chose to buy peanuts that she now roasts and sells. The income from this and the work at the fish farm has made it possible for her to pay the school fee for two of her four children. It also generates a welcome addition of fish into their diet. 

"If today my small family manages to eat fresh fish, it is thanks to the fish farming done by the association," Halima ends.  

Photo: Ingebjørg Kårstad/NRC
Read caption Halima with other members of the fish farming association sorting peanuts for a secondary source of income. Photo: Ingebjørg Kårstad/NRC

Two sources of income

In addition to providing financial support to the association, our food security and livelihoods team also provided financial assistance directly to some of the most vulnerable displaced people in Mora. Halima benefitted from this cash transfer and was able to use the money to purchase millet and peanuts which she sells.

“Now, by God’s grace I have two sources of income – the fish farming, and the sale of peanuts,” she explains. “And it is because of this that I am able to feed my family and provide for my children’s needs.”

Halima is proud of what she has been able to achieve. She says that her daily work at the fish farm and the stability it has provided has allowed her to forget the hardship she has been through.

Sustainable support

Our food security and livelihoods activities in Cameroon involve providing support to similar associations in other areas. We have provided support to groups involved in livestock farming and others involved in the storage and sale of fertilisers. We believe working in this way is not only effective, but also sustainable, as the local groups we support will be there long after we are gone.

Read more about our work in Cameroon