The COVID-19 pandemic has increased food and job insecurity within the West African country of Cameroon. Without reliable access to sustenance or steady employment, an increasing number of younger Cameroonian have resorted to committing petty crimes to survive, resulting in high incarceration rates among the population’s youth. As inmates are released back into a world with limited educational access and a lack of employment opportunities, they experience high reincarceration rates and become trapped in the prison system – 47% of prisoners in Cameroonian prisons have already served at least one prison sentence previously. But opportunities for incarcerated youth to learn skills while in prison, such as through farming and agricultural training, may allow for vulnerable youth to gain knowledge and confidence, serve as role models, and pursue more stable economic pathways leading to a successful social reinsertion upon release.
Our team is working with Agriculture for Africa (A4A), an American non-governmental organization that has developed a model program of sustainable and proﬁtable agricultural practices for prisons in Cameroon and beyond. A4A has established an agricultural education program at the Nkongsamba prison, conveniently located in prime agricultural land in Western Cameroon. Here, incarcerated youth have the opportunity to gain agricultural knowledge through mentorship and training with a goal of reducing rates of repeat imprisonment and providing future employment opportunities to program participants. We are working to identify a feasible set of sustainable best practices for the model program to employ such as the potential application of organic and regenerative agriculture practices, as well as assisting A4A in developing a business model for future expansion of the program to other prisons in Cameroon. Our project will connect incarcerated youth with engaging work while helping to minimize environmental degradation resulting from agricultural development.
Student Team: Soﬁa Barker, Erika de Guia, Sophia Roberts, Alexandria Sheehan, and Sage Thomason
Client: Agriculture for Africa
Advisor: Dr. Kevin Njabo