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Earthworm training program across natural resources supply chains in Africa

African graduates first step into change in Africa:bridging the gap between companies and communities

Photo of desire Ndoumou
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Explain your project idea (2,000 characters)

In many parts of the world, the establishment and operation of large-scale plantations, farms, forestry operations and mines often leads to serious conflicts with local communities or workers that create huge costs and problems for everyone involved. Businesses, governments and investors are increasingly understanding the value of investing in good community and worker relationships, but there is a lack of trained professionals from the regions in which the companies operate to help them implement the work. In order for companies, government and civil society organizations to work together effectively on such challenges, they need staff trained in how to implement participatory mapping, resource use and sharing agreements, social impact assessments, and free, prior, and informed consent (FPIC) processes. The Centre of Social Excellence (CSE) was established in 2008 and currently operates two programs, CSE Africa and CSE Indonesia. The CSE Africa is based in Cameroon and serves as a training centre for West and Central Africa. Together, CSE Africa and Indonesia have trained over 266 students from more than 11 countries. The graduates of the long course program have a 90% job placement rate as social practitioners and are serving in companies in a variety of sectors: forest products, agribusiness, mining, and oil and gas. They are also working in national governments, the United Nations, NGOs, consulting firms and research organizations. Through TFT’s work with companies, we have been able to witness firsthand that hiring a CSE graduate results in a much higher standard of social engagement and management within companies. The success of the CSE graduates is not only the result of best-in-class inspirational training, but also is the result of careful recruitment of promising students who are sincerely committed to a career as a social practitioner linked with raw materials supply chains in their home countries and bearing values.

Who are the beneficiaries? (1,000 characters)

earthworm training beneficiaries are in Africa early career professionals, young graduates, concessions (forestry, agro-industrial, mining) who recruit or host trainee during internship, and riparian communities surrounding concessions who are measuring the impact of the training throughout the improvement of their living conditions ( social project, cordial relations with companies, smallholders programs, recruitment of village's manpower...)

How is your idea unique? (1,000 characters)

Social conflict is a risk in many rural areas around the globe where the production of agricultural commodities and extractives is expanding. This is particularly the case where supply chains begin in remote rural areas with insecure and complex land tenure, large development needs, and poor governance systems. In many cases, we believe that costly conflicts from new disputes and existing “legacy issues” could be prevented or guided toward resolution if well-trained social practitioners were to lead early engagement with communities and actively influence the planning and development of new operations. The scaling up of CSE around the world comes at an opportune moment when the need for skilled social practitioners is urgent and producer companies are looking for a way forward. More agribusinesses are seeing the need to establish, expand or better equip their social team as they become aware of how these issues affect business.

Idea Proposal Stage (choose one)

  • Full Scale Roll Out: I have already tested and scaled this idea significantly with the intended user base.

Tell us more about your organization/company (1 sentence and website URL)

TFT is an international non-profit organization registered as a charity in the United Kingdom, with headquarters in Switzerland. TFT is a membership organization that works with member companies and their supply chain partners to develop and implement new production models that respect communities, workers and nature. Through ambitious commitments and measurable work plans, TFT and its member companies work together to reduce and eliminate deforestation and social exploitation.

Expertise in sector

  • 7+ years

Organization Filing Status

  • Yes, we are a registered non-profit.

In 3-4 sentences, tell us the inspiration or story that encouraged you to start this project.

The CSE was inspired by the experiences of TFT’s founder, Scott Poynton; Forest Peoples Programme’s former Africa Lead, John Nelson (now TFT Social Mentor), and Jerome Lewis, Professor of Anthropology at the University College London. They joined together in a unique partnership when Congolaise Industrielle des Bois (CIB), one of the largest forestry companies in Africa, reached out to TFT for guidance on how to sustainably manage 1.3 million hectares of tropical forest in Congo-Brazzaville.

Please explain how your selected topic areas are influenced, in the local context of your project (1,000 characters).

Peace is influenced by conflicts between industrial plantations, forestry or mining concessions and their surrounding communities and indigenous populations in Africa. Prosperity is impacted by Loss of productivity: Delays and shutdowns, Loss of property; Reputation risk: Erosion of value and competitiveness; Loss of capital: Compensation, fines, litigation costs; Project redesign/modification costs; Loss of stakeholder support - “social license”. The Planet is impacted by massive deforestation (legal and illegal) in West and Central Africa and GHG emission from agro-industrial and forestry projects generating climate change impacting smallholder agriculture and food security in Africa.

Who will work alongside your organization in the project idea? (1,000 characters)

SOCFIN is supporting the project idea. SOCFIN is an oil palm and rubber tree grower with land concessions in 8 African countries: Cameroon, Côte d’Ivoire, Ghana, Sierra Leone, Nigeria, Liberia, Sao Tomé and the DRC. To date, they have 124,778 hectares of oil palms planted in Africa. SOCFIN’s operations in Africa have been consistently subject to media and NGO attention concerns about their social and environmental practices. In 2010, the OECD received complaints from NGOs against SOCFIN’s operations related to worker’s rights, environmental and land grabbing issues, and violence against riparian communities. In February 2016, Greenpeace launched a campaign against SOCFIN’s operations in West Africa ( SOCFIN has agreed to fund partially one long term session of 10 months and to hire/host trainees and the end of the training. those trainees will act as earthworm within the organization to create transformation internally.

Please share some of the top strengths identified in the community which your project will serve (500 characters)

CSE alumni are linked through their shared practices and training, as well as their driving values for enabling diverse stakeholders to collaborate.

Geographic Focus

The project target Central and West Africa young graduates and professionals

How many months are required for the project idea? (500 characters)

24 months

Did you submit this idea to our 2017 BridgeBuilder Challenge? (Y/N)

  • No

Attachments (1)


Join the conversation:

Photo of Ashley Tillman

Hi desire Ndoumou great to have you in the Challenge! You'll have to forgive me I'm a bit naive about earth worms, how do they fit into the program? Also it sounds like you are currently working in Indonesia and Africa, can you share a few more details about what you are proposing for this challenge? For example, is it expanding the work you are already doing, improving your model, etc?

Looking forward to learning more!

Photo of desire Ndoumou

Hi Ashley Tillman; thanks for your feedback. The earthworm (TFT) sees the tree (brand, companies, supply chains) as an ally in its mission to fertilize the soil (communities, natural resources) which allows life to develop. As the earthworm nature transformation process is invisible, TFT work for many private companies is invisible, but creates a fertile ground for improvement in uniting extremist views towards a safer world. The Centre of Social Excellence (CSE) for the Congo Basin Forest trainees was initiated in 2008 in Congo and then transfer in Yaoundé, Cameroon. CSE trainees are trained to transform companies involved in natural resources supply chains from within; inside companies they are able to transform organizations creating social harmony around and inside concessions. 90% of CSE trainees are hired by private companies working in natural resources supply chains (palm oil, wood, sugar, cocoa, mines…) in a social role, mainly in remote areas in Africa, and majority of these companies have started sustainability schemes. While in their professional milieu, as faithful diggers bearing TFT Values (truth, respect, courage, humility and compassion committing to protect & heal nature and people) they slowly and surely make the change happen in the relationship between companies (plantations, logging and mining concessions) and local & indigenous riparian communities. It is people who manage natural resources and human relationships. It is people who will stop conflicts, stop environmental damage, heal our relationships with one another and find the solutions for a balanced future. After 10 years of existence in Africa, we are lacking funding to continue this program in Africa. It has recorded tremendous impact on reducing deforestation over 3, 5 Million Ha of forest and curbing social conflicts rate in more than 400 villages surrounding concessions in Africa. The success of the initiative in Africa led many donors to support the CSE project in Indonesia since 2015, while others CSE are planned to be created in Brazil, Peru, India, and Malaysia. CSE Africa initiative is now at a crossroads seeking ideas and more funding to continue its activities and improve its model. CSE Africa recently obtained a partial funding from SOCFIN a private company having concessions in 8 African countries, and facing allegations of deforestation, land grabbing and workers abuse campaigns from several NGO's. The idea will be to select 10 -12 talented young African graduates of both sexes and trained them as social practitioners to seed the company and scale up the transformation process internally. The budget shortfall is still to be covered to totally fund the project.