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Paving a Pathway to Good Health & Prosperity Through Utilization and Production of Local Fever Grass

Medicines for Humanity and partners will fight the scourge of malaria in Cameroon with a tea brewed from locally-grown lemongrass.

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Explain your project idea (2,000 characters)

Medicines for Humanity (MFH) proposes to implement an innovative pilot in western Cameroon that will use a locally-grown herb, lemongrass (also known as fever grass), to reduce malaria rates and provide significant income generation for community health workers (CHWs) and women’s groups.

In 2016, there were 194 million new malaria cases and 410 000 deaths in Africa, the majority in the sub-Saharan region (WHO, 2016). Malaria accounted for 12% of deaths of children under 5 in Cameroon in 2013 (WHO, 2018). Cost, acceptability and accessibility issues often prohibit sufferers in rural Cameroon from accessing prevention and treatment at clinics.

Long before the advent of modern medicine, traditional African society had devised various means of combating malaria. With this project, MFH proposes to increase access to a traditional, culturally-accepted method of malaria prevention. Lemongrass is grown in western Cameroon, and the tea made from its leaves has long been used by Cameroonians to prevent malaria. Two studies on the anti-malarial effects of lemongrass on mice indicated suppressive effects as high as 86.6 % (Tchoumbougnang, 2005 and Mgbemena, 2010).

MFH partners with Congregations of Women Religious (CWRs) to support healthcare systems and income generation in Cameroon. For this project, we will support CHWs and women’s groups in 2 target communities to grow lemongrass, process it into tea, package the tea into teabags, and sell it at affordable prices. We will provide seedlings to CHWs and women and will provide one packaging machine per community. The goal of this intervention is to not only decrease malaria rates in the target communities, but to increase local production of the herb and to create a more formal business infrastructure that increases economic opportunities for women and healthcare workers. Additionally, this project will set the stage for a future comparative study on the impact of lemongrass on malaria prevention in humans

Who are the beneficiaries? (1,000 characters)

Our beneficiaries include the members of women’s groups and CHWs who will increase their income generation and financial security in 2 target communities in the dioceses of Bamenda and Kumbo of northwest Cameroon. Additionally, children, women, and men of the communities will benefit from a reduced malaria burden, lower mortality rate, and a successful business infrastructure for a local growing industry.

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

Unlike conventional malaria prevention programs, MFH’s project will create an impactful bridge between a traditional method of malaria prevention, partnership with women farmers, enhancement of economic opportunity, and integration of a business model within the local environmental context of rural Cameroon.

MFH is uniquely positioned to implement this program because of our significant experience supporting community-based healthcare and income generation programs and because of our long history of working at the grass roots level in Cameroon through local partners who are members of the communities they serve. We believe our approach will result in substantial and sustainable change because of these strengths and because this solution will not be imposed from outside, but is rooted in the history, people, and traditions of western Cameroon.

Idea Proposal Stage (choose one)

  • Initial Design: I am exploring the idea, gathering the inspiration and information I need to test it with real users.

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

Medicines for Humanity collaborates with committed in-country partners in areas of high child mortality to strengthen maternal and child health by building capacity, empowering communities, and initiating or expanding interventions.

http://medicinesforhumanity.org/

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.

Drinking tea is part of the culture of the population of western Cameroon. The region is home to the largest tea plantations in west and central Africa. The population of the region is currently witnessing the effects of an armed conflict. This has further increased poverty and limited access to healthcare services, making the use of lemongrass tea as a malaria prophylaxis even more important.

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

Prosperity in western Cameroon is impacted by political violence and instability, lack of formal education, lack of resources and economic opportunities, significant structural gaps that include poor roads and transportation services, and a high burden of common diseases and insufficient access to high-quality healthcare resulting in significant loss of capacity to work and farm. Planet is impacted by the violence and instability, inadequate infrastructures, and changes in climatic factors, including temperature, precipitation, and the frequency and severity of droughts and flooding.

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

MFH will continue our long-term partnerships with 2 CWRs in the dioceses of Bamenda and Kumbo for this project. We will collaborate with the Tertiary Sisters of St. Francis and the Sisters of St. Therese of the Child Jesus. We believe the Sisters, their clinical staff and CHWs, and local women’s groups are vital change agents. Our partners are engaged in this process through idea-sharing and project development, and they will guide MFH in finalizing all project components. We believe this will result in a more impactful and sustainable project. Partnering with CWRs and community members is a core part of MFH’s mission and fundamental to all our projects across 6 country programs. We currently have projects in a total of 11 communities in western Cameroon and each is based in a strong, reciprocal collaboration with the community.

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

The target communities have the support of local CWRs that have helped to build capacity and health systems. Community members have a long history of serving as CHWs and of organizing themselves into collaboratives like women’s groups. Perhaps most importantly, lemongrass has long been accepted and preferred over more conventional malaria prevention methods in this part of the world. Community members are eager to reap both the financial and health benefits of increasing its use.

Geographic Focus

2 areas of western Cameroon

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

This pilot project can be completed in 24 months. The first 6 months will be used for developing the packaging/bagging component followed by setting up the needed business infrastructures, trainings, seedling distributions, and ongoing project monitoring.

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

  • No

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Team

Thank you for the feedback, Bankole. We are at the initial design phase. We know that Cameroonians have been drinking lemongrass tea to prevent malaria for generations and we want to work with them to increase use and demonstrate its efficacy and also to help to build a strong business infrastructure and expand income-generating opportunities.

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