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Roland Fomundam and the mission of making Agriculture Look Cool

August 25, 2016

By Ajong Mbapndah L

Agriculture must not be seen as something for the poor and uneducated says Fomundam,a Graduate of Northeastern University

Agriculture must not be seen as something for the poor and uneducated says Fomundam,a Graduate of Northeastern University

For over eight years now, Roland Fomundam, founder and CEO of Greenhouse Ventures (GHV) and a seasoned social entrepreneur has devoted his time to finding lasting solutions to tackle challenges facing agricultural communities that make up the bulk of the population in Cameroon and Africa.

Fomundam started GHV, to address  challenges, improve the lives of farmers and bridge income inequality by deploying a Greenhouse business model that not only challenges the stigma that agriculture in Africa is for the poor, the dirty and uneducated people, but also portrays one that is enjoyable, profitable, sustainable and environmentally friendly.

Greenhouse Ventures Ltd is today Cameroon’s premier sustainable agriculture company with a mission to make agriculture more productive and more profitable. The company develops and deploys sustainable technologies with a primary focus in agriculture and rural development.

A product of Northeastern University, Fomundam’s solutions and ideas have been implemented in several communities throughout Cameroon

“Our greenhouses and the GreenHouse Ventures model meets the three pillars of sustainability and can be vital in alleviating poverty and minimizing food insecurity challenges in Cameroon and Africa as a whole,” says Fomundam

 Can you tell us a bit about your background and how the idea of Greenhouse ventures was conceived?

Once it is thinkable then it is doable, says Fomundam in encouragement to young Africans

Once it is thinkable then it is doable, says Fomundam in encouragement to young Africans

My name is Roland Fomundam. I am the founder and CEO of Greenhouse Ventures Ltd – Cameroon’s premier sustainable agriculture company with a mission to make agriculture more productive and more profitable. The company develops and deploys sustainable technologies with a primary focus in agriculture and rural development.

I am educated as an entrepreneur, as such I find opportunities in every crisis situation.  When I looked at the crisis situation within the agriculture industry in Cameroon, I immediately uncovered several opportunities to capitalize on. Since 2006, I have taken several exploratory trips to Cameroon where I worked on the realization of a number of goals: forming cooperative groups; building capacities within farmer’s and rural groups and introducing several technologies to minimize post harvest losses, foster productivity, increase profitability with a common goal to upgrade the socio economic standards of target communities.

In Cameroon, there is an aging farmer’s population – and the demand for produce is on the rise. The existing producers cannot meet current demand and so the pressure continuous to mount on them. They are forced to employ unethical and unsustainable means to meet production such as the use of excess fertilizers among other things to forcefully increase production at the detriment of the consumers – sadly, them too.

In Cameroon, unemployment rates are soaring as high as 30%. The growing and educated youth population is unable to find jobs for several reasons. Urban cities are experiencing a surge and the rural areas being affected by depopulation and an exodus. The resulting situation is a loss of resource and talent in the rural areas with a corresponding rise population density and youth delinquency in urban areas.

Developments in Agriculture have proven to have a broad based potential to improve the socio economic standards of citizens. The President has on numerous occasions reminded the citizens to consider such investments in Agriculture but most importantly he has made several advances in ameliorating agriculture and its process – a transition into the second generation agriculture.

Greenhouse Ventures is a one stop shop for producers and consumers to engage and earn value that meet their present needs for sustainability.

What changes does your initiative bring to the development of Agriculture in Cameroon?

20151122_120944 (2)I am introducing a novel technology in Cameroon that will have an impact similar to the introduction of cell phones some few years ago. This greenhouse technology will engage more youths in agriculture thereby curbing the high unemployment rates, increasing productivity and nurture broad based economic growth in the entire region. Citizens will also have the ability to grow premium food year round for auto consumption and to sell to target markets.

The greenhouse technology was introduced in 2013 with the perceived expectations that it will be a vehicle to increase productivity and profitability for farmers. Three years later, our results have exceeded our expectations and the impact of our technology is already being felt in numerous communities

In terms of cost, how affordable is it and how sustainable is your model?

The cost of our greenhouses ranges from FCFA200 000 ($400) to FCFA 1 million ($2000) depending on size, use and accessories. Our greenhouses are affordable yet not cheap. We are selling not just a product but the value from the product. For this reason our business model guarantees positive returns from the use of our product. Users will have the opportunity to sell their produce through our platform at prices that assures positive returns within the very first year. Our greenhouses have an expected lifespan of 6 to 10 years making this a very attractive investment venue for all.

How have Cameroonians responded to this initiative of yours?

Fomundam says the soils and climate of Cameroon favor the production of a wide variety of crops, and his greenhouses are proving useful in meeting several agriculture needs

Fomundam says the soils and climate of Cameroon favor the production of a wide variety of crops, and his greenhouses are proving useful in meeting several agriculture needs

The adoption of this technology has been very rapid as opposed to what we expected in the beginning. Though it is fairly new in the fields, it has always been taught in schools in different topics so students have always had an idea of greenhouses. The excitement of seeing the technology and its perceived benefits is what has driven sales and adoption within the various market groups. We have also employed a marketing strategy that has sensitized the population enough and minimized any negative marketing effects.

We have seen picture of you with personalities like the Director of Customs, how much help have you received from the authorities?

I have not received any much help from any of the authorities in Cameroon as of yet. I have not asked or requested any assistance from them. I have treated them like customers and we have maintained business conversations with mutual beneficial outcomes through out our meetings.

What are some of the challenges that you have faced as you seek to implement your project?

My main challenges have been financial since I did not seek any external investments. The field challenges have been much expected and anticipated making them easier to contain.

You are from the diaspora based on your experiences, what advise do you have for other young Cameroonians who have similar bright ideas as yours?

Once it is thinkable then it is doable. Doing starts with a vision, a strategy and a tactics of getting it done. You must make up your mind to believe in what you set out to do. Follow the lead and then lead your way – it is easier said than done but I have been a representation of the phrase.

What appraisal do you make of the Agricultural policy of the Cameroon government and what needs to be done to make it better?

The excitement of seeing the technology and its perceived benefits is what has driven sales ,Fomundam said

The excitement of seeing the technology and its perceived benefits is what has driven sales ,Fomundam said

The agricultural policy of Cameroon is still very limiting in so many ways. The government is doing its best to meet the expectations of its target populations but the institutional voids hinder the seamless progress of a number of initiatives. That not withstanding, some progress is being felt and we remain confident that with time it will become even better.

There needs to be an exodus of many diasporians to get involved in this industry sector which is still very traditional and monopolized by the foreigners. The diaspora has a potential to modify the policies that govern this industry sector.

Any last word especially to the many young unemployed who do not see Agriculture as an option?

Before these greenhouses, you had a reason not to be involved in this industry. These greenhouses have now presented a stage for all, especially the youths to get involved in agriculture. There is an ever growing market for agriculture produce and the demand will only continue rising therefore there is a need for many more Cameroonians to get involved and our greenhouses are a vehicle for a smooth transition. Remember that the demand for food will never ever run out, the soils and climate of Cameroon favor the production of a wide variety of crops, our greenhouses have proven to be useful in meeting several agriculture needs. We have simplified the use of these greenhouses making it possible for anyone to become an owner with a know – how to produce and make desirable profits.

Our greenhouses and the GreenHouse Ventures model meets the three pillars of sustainability and can be vital in alleviating poverty and minimizing food insecurity challenges in Cameroon and Africa as a whole.

 

 

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One response to “Roland Fomundam and the mission of making Agriculture Look Cool”

  1. Rylland says:

    Congratulations to Roland Fomundam and the entire Greenhouse Venture team. I am overwhelmed with the new face of doing agriculture in Cameroon and Africa as a whole. Indeed, the rate of poverty will reduce. Am so glad that my family back home do have an opportunity to improve their health by eating healthy, post harvest will no longer go to waste and they will also sell their products and make money.

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