"Before the dawn: Three women who survived the worst" in Sunday Express, 11th May, 2014. Interview by Mariana Matoso. Photograph by Stuart Wood.

Reignite in Bambui

In 2011 Fernando and Teresa (Reignite Co-Founders) embraced the North West Region of the Republic of Cameroon and settled in the Village of Bambui. With a local Charity as partner (BUKDA– Bambui UK Development Association) they started a six months observation and research period focusing on the needs and main problems of the Community and Village.
From November 2011 until May 2012 they had the opportunity to work closely with the community in identifying critical issues that were hindering the village’s development.

Having traveled throughout 36 Quarters in a three seat motorbike, through sunshine, rain, storms and mud, and having worked in conjunction with multiple stakeholders (the Fon, the Village Council, local institutions and organisations) the result came about as a joint drafting of a new Development Strategy for Bambui.Such strategy included the creation of priority areas of action such as: water and infrastructure, skills development and education, micro finance, agriculture and markets, environment and climate change, governance, social-culture and consultancy. Its aim: to revive Bambui and its People using their own resources, tools and human potential.

Following Fernando & Teresa’s return to the UK, their stories and experience soon inspired Mariana to take action. After a couple of months of careful thinking Reignite Action for Development was born. As a response to the problems found in Bambui; but also as an active call to deliver international development in a different, more concerted, sustainable and culturally respectful way.

Our motto became: “Work with the less privileged, for the less privileged and through the less privileged. For 6 months we traveled in a motorbike through Bambui’s 36 quarters: every day we listened to people, everyday they shared their worries with us, everyday we felt we had to do something.

The Story behind Reignite

“I was in my final year at university in Lisbon, Portugal, when a freak accident almost killed me. It was April 2006 and I was working out at the university gym, lying on the floor doing stretches, when another gym user accidentally dropped a 30kg weight on my stomach. I was rushed to hospital where surgeons performed an emergency operation to repair my gallbladder, which had burst, and my intestines, which were lacerated. My mum Teresa and dad Fernando, who were living in the UK, told me later that the doctors had rung them to say they needed to board a flight immediately, as they couldn’t be sure I would survive.

After three weeks in hospital, I was finally discharged. I still intended to finish my degree but now I wanted to do something more with my life. My accident had shown me that time is short and we need to make our mark on the world before it’s too late.

My dad was born in Angola and I used to love listening to his stories about Africa. I also grew up knowing first-hand about the poverty in parts of the continent and I’d always had the romantic notion of helping in some way. Now I felt a new resolve that this was definitely what I wanted to do.

Mum and Dad had volunteered for a development organisation in Cameroon and it was when they told me about a village called Bambui that something sparked in me. Sanitation is a real problem there, as they have no sewage or wastewater treatment systems, so there is a lot of unnecessary disease. Farmers also struggle to water their crops during dry seasons because they have inadequate irrigation systems. I had a vision of helping the community sort out these problems by working with them on some relatively straightforward interventions and equipping them with the tools and education to sustain these changes.

After finishing my degree I moved to the UK to be closer to my parents. I got a job teaching Portuguese and started to look into how I might start a charity. It took a long while but when I received £70,000 compensation for my accident, I knew things could really start moving. My mum and dad agreed to help and, in November 2011, they went to Bambui and spent six months talking to locals to identify issues that needed resolving. They came home with a five-year plan and we launched our charity in August 2012. I called it Reignite Action for Development.

 

 

 

 

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Where we work

We will explore working in one or more of the following countries: Cameroon, Uganda, Sierra Leone or Tanzania. However, we will be flexible and can consider working in other countries where there is a high level of needs. Our model is adaptable to existing context and receives support from the local communities.

Headquarters (London, UK) This is where our chief executive and core fundraising team are based. Through London, we facilitate access to skills and raise funds and awareness for our projects in Cameroon and beyond.

Operations Office (Bambui, Northwest region of Cameroon) This is where our Project Team is based and most of the projects take place. Through Bambui we manage stakeholders [community, government, NGO’s…], ensure objectives of strategic plan are followed and support the implementation of projects.

 

Why Bambui?

This is a small village with approximately 20,000 inhabitants, which has risen to 30,000 in the last two years due to the construction of a University. This has brought lots of opportunities but also lots of challenges as the village becomes a semi-urban area.

Despite enjoying an atmosphere of peace and slight economic growth, this region is still considered to be the 2nd poorest one in the country with 30% of its population living with less than $1 a day.

Some of the problems we have encountered:

  • In Bambui, only 10% of the houses, around the main asphalt road, have electricity. Energy cuts are constant, last up to several days and the voltage is very erratic. For small businesses working with freezers it’s a true nightmare because they never know when the electricity is off and for how many days.
  • In Bambui, 90% of the economic activities depend on agriculture and women & youth are the main workers. Currently, only 0.1% of the farming is processed into value added products and the percentage of food waste is enormous: not only because the harvest happens in a very short period of time, but also because there is no preservation techniques being used.
  • The level of education here is very low. Many children do not have the opportunities to complete even primary education. Boys and girls of teenage age mostly contract early marriages and often they are forced into it. Schools fall short of facilities and do not provide an  environment propitious to learning. In general there is a wide lack of proper infrastructure, sanitary conditions are usually very poor or non-existent, drinking water supply is reduced or absent and there are no textbooks or didactic materials.
  • There is limited access to potable water. Water catchment areas are increasingly polluted and sanitation levels remain low with the majority of the population still defecating in open air.

Our Vision & Mission

We are committed to breaking the cycle of poverty by empowering communities in Africa and beyond to improve their standards of living. We support this process by using a robust, adaptable and well governed model for sustainable development that puts each community firmly in control of tailoring realistic, achievable and sustainable programmes to suit their own social, cultural and environmental context.

Our Approach

We use a multidisciplinary and holistic approach to sustainable development. We work very closely with the local communities to develop an integrated long-term strategy that focus on key areas that provide an effective and sustainable solution to end poverty and improve the livelihood of the local communities.

What do we offer

  • Bespoke solutions using the local resources available;
  • Financial support by applying for international grants, by providing micro-credit and develop projects with revolving funds;
  • Training and technical advice, as well as overall assistance with capacity building, planning, budgeting and institutional development.
  • We also act as a cooperation platform, through which we seek to partner with international organisations available to link up with local partners.

Why are we different

We don’t tackle one problem at a time; instead we work very closely with the community in developing an integrated long-term strategy for the general improvement of their living conditions. Thus, our areas of action are:

  • Water & Sanitation, Hygiene & Public Health;
  • Skills development & Education;
  • Micro-finance;
  • Food & Organic Agriculture;
  • Environment, Biodiversity & Climate change adaptation;
  • Promotion of Cultural Heritage

How we do it

We work through local partner organisations in order to provide support to project implementation. These local partners are usually non-governmental organisations, local government departments, small private companies and community based organisations. We use competencies sharing among  North-South, South – North and South-South.

Our Action Model

  1. Visit a community and meet all stakeholders [local people & authorities, NGO’s];
  2. Identify constraints, opportunities and priorities; Research adequate sustainable possibilities;
  3. With the community, develop a multi-sectoral Strategic Action Plan [3-5 years];
  4. Help implement the plan [prioritise projects, allocate resources, train locals, set it up…];
  5. Evaluate and adjust projects according to community feedback, successes and failures;
  6. Support & ensure the sustainability and continuation of the project by locals;
  7. Replicate and scale up this model to other regional communities.
Reignite Action Model for Development

Our Principles

Glocalisation

We believe that the knowledge sharing processes initialised by globalisation should be used and applied to local problems in conjunction with appropriate local solutions.

Sustainable Development

We believe that human development has to be based on the consolidation of the balance between humankind and Nature.

Locally appropriate solutions

We believe in finding and adopting appropriate solutions to the community’s problems that are environmentally sustainable as well as accepted locally and culturally accepted.

Innovation

We believe that in order to progress, people have to be innovative in their approach to both old and new problems and embrace a new, broader vision of their surrounding environment.

Ownership

We believe that development of people and communities belongs to themselves and that they should take ownership for  the  progress of their ideas.

Inclusiveness

We believe that development will only be achieved through ensuring the participation of minority groups (religion and tribal minorities). We will ensure an equal participation in our work from all groups.

Culture recognition

We believe that promoting local culture, heritage, traditions, and celebrating them will help to protect the local identify and increase the feeling of pride and sense of belonging.

Strategic Objectives


Strengthen the capacity of local communities to sustainably improve their agricultural production, income generation and food security.
Professionalise and revitalise local communities’ agricultural sector by improving farmers’ agricultural skills and levels of productivity, whilst helping them to build viable agribusiness through developing their ability to reach larger more profitable markets and gain access to finance.
Re-brand the agriculture sector in local communities to encourage youth and people with disability to participate in the agriculture sector and create a pool of new experienced farmers. We will support the youth and people with disability to overcome the barriers which hinder them from accessing agriculture activities.


Support local communities in developing water resource management strategies and devising water, hygiene and sanitation (WASH) service delivery systems that respond to their needs but are respectful towards the surrounding environment.
Work with local communities to identify and design water resource management strategies that balance existing water needs and promote environmental sustainability in the long-term. For example, we will work to improve irrigation systems to ensure the availability of water for the agriculture activities to support achieving Objective 1.
Work with local communities to develop WASH service delivery strategies that capitalize on existing re- sources (human and technical) but also address service gaps. For example, provide technical support to service water providers, we will promote business development approaches to waste management and sanitation and we will foster cross-sector collaboration to increase local communities’ adoption of safe hygiene practices.

Support local communities to ensure a sustainable usage of the existing natural resources.
We will work with local communities to identify the existing natural resources including water resources, forest and wildlife, and facilitate the best strategies to manage and protect. We will bring a Natural Resources management approach, which includes land, water, soil, plants and animals with a particular focus on how management affects the quality of life for both present and future generations. It brings together land use planning, water management, biodiversity conservation and the future sustainability of economic activities such as agriculture, tourism, fisheries, mining and forestry.
Reignite Action for Development recognises that people and their livelihoods rely on the health and productivity of our landscapes and our actions as stewards of the land play a critical role in maintaining this health and productivity

Our Themes

Gender equality

We support local communities to achieve gender equality and empower women and girls.
We do this by mainstreaming gender into how we work as an organisation, how we design project interventions with our partners and how we engage with local organisations. Internally: We will provide training for our staff on gender mainstreaming and promote inclusion of women in key roles of our organisation. Through our projects: We will ensure women from the local communities are involved in shaping the activities of objectives 1, 2 and 3, and actively participate in achieving them. How we engage with partners: We will work with other Women’s organisations and groups to enhance their capacity and increase their involvement in decision making, sensitizing local communities to discard social prejudices which limit women’s participation in local development or limit women’s access to economic resources. Working closely with rural communities in Africa educated us on the impact of menstrual days and lack of hygiene on girls and women lives. A lack of adequate menstrual hygiene management (MHM) denies women and girls their right to education, right to health, and right to work in favourable conditions. We will keep working with the communities to raise the awareness and reduce stigma to help women and girls access to MHM.

Disability Inclusion

We engage with people with disabilities and ensure their participation in our development work with the local communities. People with disability are often amongst the poorest and most marginalized people in communities.The cost of living with a disability can also increase household poverty. Therefore, we believe that people with disabilities have the right to participate in and benefit from our development work with the local communities and their inclusion is essential to break the cycle of poverty and improve livelihoods for sustainable development in the communities we support. We mainstream disability into our projects and we provide disability specific interventions within our projects. We engage with people with disabilities and ensure their participation in our development work with the local communities. We provide training for our staff on inclusive of people with disabilities in projects planning and implementations and promote the inclusion of people with disabilities in all aspects of life including education, employment and cultural activities among the local communities with whom we will work.

Climate resilience

Climate change will have wide-ranging effects on the environment, and on socio-economic and related sectors, including water resources, agriculture and food security, human health, terrestrial ecosystems and biodiversity and coastal zones. Changes in rainfall pattern are likely to lead to severe water shortages and/or flooding. Melting of glaciers can cause flooding and soil erosion. Rising temperatures will cause shifts in crop growing seasons, which affects food security, and changes in the distribution of disease vectors putting more people at risk from diseases such as malaria and dengue fever. Temperature increases will potentially severely increase rates of extinction for many habitats and species (up to 30 per cent with a 2° C rise in temperature).
Reignite Action for Development increase local communities’ knowledge on potential climate change-related hazards and how to the changes triggered by those. This is done in relation to Objectives 1, 2 and 3.

Actions

Build Partnerships

We will partner with other organisations locally and internationally to unite our efforts and avoid duplication in our work. To ensure successful and sustainable interventions we will engage and partner with the local government, private sector and other civil society actors who share our vision.

Grow Income

We develop, implement and continuously review our fundraising strategy. The fundraising strategy will help us improve our long-term financial situation by growing and diversifying our income. We are working now on developing new business models to help raise both restricted and unrestricted funding.

Learn and Develop

We will develop a capacity building plan to help us improve our internal capacity (e.g fundraising, communication) that will in turn increase the impact of our work.

Our Achievements

Direct & Indirect Beneficiaries from Reignite’s development areas.

  • Water Assessment
  • Lake Study
  • Water Supply
  • Tippy tap
  • Waste Management
  • Urban Planning
  • Ngong Farmers
  • Pigs for Pikin