Marie Crescence Ngobo: "practical solutions to the financial issues of women in Cameroon"

Marie Cresence Ngobo assists and trains women in business activities in Cameroon. She specifically supports them in business management and accounts. She has been carrying out this work for several years and we are now rewarding her in partnership with Positive Planet.

Marie Crescence Ngobo Foundation Orange positive planet
Marie Crescence Ngobo, during her speech at the Positive Planet Awards 2015, 7 December 2015.


As a long-term partner of Positive Planet, we are now rewarding Marie’s work, which encourages the integration of women in Cameroon. Winner of the "Access to financial education" prize during the Positive Planet Awards, she tells us about her work and commitment.

You are the winner of the "Access to financial education" prize. What does this prize mean for you as a businesswoman?

This prize encourages me to persevere, it rewards our belief in what we do and our love in what we do. For more than 20 years, we have worked to defend the position of women in Cameroonian society. They still don’t have the position that they deserve. They work hard but they cannot sell their produce as it’s their only asset. We work to give them access to local markets. For example, we set up processing plants and we can buy their produce. Thanks to this, they can earn an income to improve their daily lives and provide an education for their children.

In addition to this, we have increased training for women, training dozens of women so that they are able to manage the produce in their fields and earn an income. We teach them how to budget their activity, plan it, and rationally manage their money. As a result of this work, we have managed to create a market for locally processed and packaged products. It generates income for the women. Now they are free from several things: domestic violence, dependency. They are thriving.

"Women are free from domestic violence and dependency. They are thriving."

What difficulties are there for businesswomen in Cameroon?

The main difficulty is financing. We currently have markets which are opening up due to our work. But our working capital is very limited. We aren’t able to fund these markets. For example, I have a large dried banana market within my company. I have the materials and the employees, but unfortunately the bananas are rotting in the fields. I don’t have any funds to buy these bananas and I cannot sell them, but there is a real demand. That’s the first obstacle, which corresponds to my work.

The lack of infrastructure is another obstacle. In Cameroon, there are no roads. Neither the villagers nor the farmers can build roads. It’s up to the government. The farmers need them. They need to live, to send their children to school. Whilst waiting for the government to build these roads, we have set up a small processing plant which ensures that their produce is valued and they can live with dignity.

What do you do on a daily basis to help and advise them?

We go to fairs regularly. At any event like that, we meet with an goal. So each woman sets an goal, and throughout the fair, we observe them to understand their difficulties. Together we attempt to resolve them. We also come together as a community. When one person is lacking funds, everyone contributes to help them.

"If they want to be trained, I do as much as possible"

If they want to be trained, I do as much as possible to respond to their needs: I travel, we work together. And I am always proud to see that after the training, they start to dance, they thank me. Knowing that I was able to contribute to improving the daily lives of these women and their village, I am very proud of that. It also has a positive impact on the education of the youngest children and their dietary health.

What feedback do you get from the women you work with?

They are often very happy. I will give you the example of the women who grow cassava leaves. They are widely eaten in certain areas of Cameroon. We taught them to grow and farm their cassava leaves in a new way during the dry season. Before, women of all ages would spend a lot of time crushing and preparing the fresh cassava leaves before eating them. Now, they can do it by hand as they leave the cassava leaves to dry in the sun, and the preparation time is divided by two or three. It’s a real innovation for these women, it’s very practical. It means that young girls don’t need to crush them when coming home from school and it allows the grandmothers to spend time just preparing and cooking them.

What comes next?

Now the aim is to improve the quality of our different products and to streamline them, so that each little processing plant produces the same product. We want to improve both the quality and quantity of our products. In order to succeed, we are working with different partners. The aim is to be able to provide practical solutions to the financial issues of women in Cameroon.
We are already in a cooperative, which includes 18 female-run businesses. As part of my business, I manage 4 employees and a network of more than 30 raw materials’ suppliers. Each business in the cooperative is based on this model. We meet regularly, the aim is to organise into sectors: cassava, bananas, etc... We also think about annual development plans. The challenge is to improve each activity and each sector and to enter into larger markets.

>>> During the prize ceremony, with Brigitte Audy, General Secretary of the Orange Foundation and Liza Azuelos, French film maker.

Marie Crescence Ngobo foundation orange Positive Planet
Brigitte Audy Marie Crescence Ngobo ceremony
Marie Crescence Ngobo prize

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