Electrification of a village in Cameroon
Overcoming differences to bring light to Yassa village
Following concerted efforts by staff at the Dibamba power plant in Cameroon, years of differences with residents of the nearest village to the plant have been overcome, and at last it now has electricity.
Financed by the Dibamba Power Development Company (DPDC) to the tune of $62,824, and developed and constructed by the national power utility, ENEO, the new electricity network has brought light to some 300 households in Yassa village, which is less than a kilometre away from the plant.
Commissioned in 2009, the Dibamba plant made limited social investments in the local community during its construction phase, thereby missing out on an opportunity to build trust with the local community.
But in 2012, under the leadership of the plant’s General Manager, Frédéric Mvondo, the company started a negotiation process with the traditional authorities in Yassa village.
This was however complicated by tensions between the villagers because of internal disputes over leadership and land ownership.
“Happily, the initial round of talks cleared up misunderstandings and we gained back support and trust from the Chiefs for the project. This allowed us to proceed with the consultation process,” says Frédéric.
Key to success
Ultimately, the involvement of DPDC’s top management, in-depth consultations with all community leaders (which included 2 local chiefs and a Paramount Chief as well) and the setting up of an effective and efficient mechanism to deal with grievances, were the key factors in the success of the project.
Consultations were undertaken with all the various factions within the community leadership and, through this participatory approach, a Memorandum of Understanding was established that identifies the needs the village would like to see addressed in the future.
These include the expansion of the low voltage electric network around the plant, the establishment of potable water wells with pumps and the rehabilitation and reinforcement of health care services in the village.
All’s well that ends well
Frédéric was supported by Catherine Minya and Albertine Yougna from DPDC during the process, and various other issues were resolved and robust mechanisms put in place. These allowed the DPDC community relations manager to effectively liaise with the administrative authorities, and a steering committee made up of community members and plant representatives.
“From the team’s perspective, it is a great achievement to have restored a peaceful climate between the company and surrounding communities and also to have succeeded in setting up a positive framework that will allow for the smooth implementation of the company’s community development plans,” says Frédéric.