July 2014 - CBFP Partner of the Month: Cuso International


Ottawa, Ontario (Canada), July 2014 – Cuso International is proud to be a partner of the Congo Basin Forest Partnership (CBFP). We support the CBFP’s goals to increase regional dialogue and collaboration to sustain forest resources in the Congo Basin. Our programming in Central Africa aligns with the CBFP’s commitment to enhance natural resources management and improve the standard of living in the region. Our main objectives are aligned with the strategic directions of the Forest Commission for Central Africa (COMIFAC).


Cuso International promotes secure livelihoods through sustainable use of natural resources and forest governance to enable the participation of all the stakeholders in decision making processes on forest management. We place particular emphasis on participation of women, gender equality and adaptation to changes in climate.


As illustrated below in some featured initiatives of Cuso International, our objectives are fully in line with the Forest Commission for Central Africa (COMIFAC) strategic directions, namely:

  • biodiversity conservation
  • sustainable natural resources management
  • development of alternative activities and poverty reduction
  • capacity building and participation of stakeholders
  • training and information
  • development of funding mechanisms and regional cooperation


Our key partners in these programs are the World Wide Fund for Nature (WWF), through the Green Heart of Africa Initiative, as well as the African Model Forest Network in Cameroon and the Democratic Republic of Congo.


Examples of new initiatives in the Central African Region

B-ADAPT – Eco-Agricultural Business for Adaptation to Changes in Climate 

In 2013, Cuso International partnered with the African Model Forest Network (AMFN) to launch the BADAPT project, a 20-month initiative that began in Cameroon and is supported by the Government of Canada through the Canada Fund for Climate Resilience in Africa. The project is located in the Campo Ma’an Model Forest (CAMAMF) in the Southern Region, and in the Dja and Mpomo Model Forest (FOMOD) in the Eastern Region.

B-ADAPT helps communities become more resilient to changes in climate and extreme weather events which disrupt agriculture and food production in rural areas. In Cameroon, climate change causes substantial uncertainty, where agriculture plays an important role in the economy and employs almost 60 percent of the working population.



The project aims to improve agricultural productivity and food security, while enhancing household revenues by:

  • ♦ using innovative agricultural techniques and technologies such as biofertilizers (mycorhizae and rhizobium)
  • ♦ facilitating access to credit for agricultural producers
  • ♦ supporting the creation of sustainable social enterprises that transform or add value to agricultural and non-timber forest products.






B-ADAPT adapts to local issues with market-led solutions, ensuring benefits for small-scale farmers, ethnic groups and marginalized populations. Implementing jointly planned climate-smart agricultural and agroforestry practices can improve productivity and the well-being of communities. They can also increase the resilience of such systems to climate change, and transform landscapes into climate-smart territories. 


B-ADAPT has the potential to expand its focus and scope, and to move to other landscapes and countries across the Congo Basin and other African regions.


Among its many benefits and opportunities, the B-ADAPT project is:



  • ♦ reaching 1,948 producers in 226 villages of Southern and Eastern Regions of Cameroon.
  • ♦ supporting 234 farm-schools, about 60 percent of which are led by women and indigenous people who serve as peer educators in their communities. The farm-schools help to spread innovations to other local farmers, develop mutual agreements to access microfinance, and work with each other to strengthen value chains and gain better access to markets.
  • ♦ improving productivity, covering subsistence needs and generating surplus sold on the markets.
  • ♦ improving access and diversified food sources and food types for household consumption.
  • ♦ including high participation rates of women – mainly women who head up vulnerable households.
  • ♦generating employment, capacity building and revenues for youths and other members of local communities.




Soap making in the Campo-Ma’an Model Forest

In the Campo-Ma’An Model Forest in the Southern Region of Cameroon, the traditional extraction of oils from tree nuts such as palm, coconut, allanblackia, cacao and njansang, has spurred a new value-added economic activity – soap production.

Empowering women and men to make and market soap supports the African Model Forest Network’s mission to build the capacity of people to transform the landscape around them and enhance their economic sustainability.


Soap making goes back thousands of years. Now, a partnership between the Model Forest and Cuso  International is helping communities to harvest resources sustainably and increase household incomes.


Soap is easy to produce, readily sellable, does not spoil, and transports easily. Also, soap that is made with mixed tree oils is more affordable than the raw oil itself. This makes the ethno-botanical properties of medicinal oil more accessible to a greater number of people.

The Model Forest introduced women to soap making using a self-selected entrepreneurial model. It  unfolded as follows:


  • ♦ Seven women were selected as peer facilitators and received training in soap making, nut tree propagation techniques, and business and marketing skills
  • ♦ Women learned how to make body and household soaps from a teaching guide developed by Cuso International
  • ♦ The peer facilitators have since trained more than 100 additional people


Promoting Good Governance in Sustainable Forest Management

This project was implemented in Model Forests in the Congo Basin (Cameroon, Democratic Republic of Congo and Rwanda) with the support of the Government of Canada through the African Model Forest Initiative. Canadian volunteers worked with civil society groups and associations within these Model Forests, as well as Model Forest administrative bodies, to:

  • ♦ strengthen their capacity to participate effectively in the Model Forest process
  • ♦ create a common vision for environmental sustainability
  • ♦ work towards economic and social growth for communities


The goal of the project was to establish local economic development strategies to protect the unique landscape and ecosystem of the Model Forests and provide sustainable livelihoods for vulnerable communities living in, or dependent on, the resources of these forests.


Specifically, the objectives: 


  • strengthen the capacities of local authorities and civil society partners to:
    - Develop and implement environmentally, economically, and socially sustainable policies, programs, and processes in an accountable, transparent, and participatory way.
    - Engage with women and men from poor and disadvantaged households and communities to support and adopt sustainable livelihoods strategies, and to advocate for support regarding sustainable natural resources management with their localauthorities.
  • enhance learning, knowledge sharing, and coordination between local authorities, civil society organizations, and other stakeholders, and showcase learning with other Model Forest Network members both regionally and internationally.

About Cuso International

Cuso International is an international development organization that works to reduce poverty and inequality through the efforts of skilled volunteers. Each year, we place volunteers from North and South America in developing countries in Africa, Asia, the Caribbean and Latin America. Volunteers collaborate with local partners on health, education, environment, social justice and livelihoods projects, sharing knowledge and experience to create sustainable change.

Our strategic focus

Cuso International volunteers help achieve results in four focus areas:

  • Health
  • Education
  • Secure livelihoods and sustainable development
  • Participation and governance

Cuso International has two cross-cutting themes that shape our work in all our programs:

  • Gender equality is central to all of our work. We take steps to ensure we understand the unique situation of women in our focus areas so that women participate actively in and benefit from our programs.
  • We work with global and local partners to support communities in addressing climate change at local and national levels.

We work with local partner groups to identify strategic needs, and then recruit skilled professionals who

  • Strengthen individual needs by sharing expertise, knowledge and perspectives with local colleagues.
  • Build organizational capacity by strengthening partner organizations’ systems, management and sustainability.

Key facts

In 2012-2013, Cuso International:


  • Placed volunteers in 39 developing countries in Africa, Asia, the Caribbean and Latin America
  • Supported 576 skilled volunteers
  • Spent 90 per cent of funds on direct development programming and 10 per cent on administration and funding
  • Received 18,000 individual donations



For more Information concerning the Content of this Article, please contact: Jennifer Lavoie and Annie Boucher (aboucher@fusecommunications.ca et jennifer.lavoie@cusointernational.org)

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