GreenHouse Ventures; Changing Cameroon’s Agriculture
Roland Fomundam is a social entrepreneur. He studied Technology Entrepreneurship in the USA and has been the initiator of several sustainable innovations introduced in the Cameroons such as the solar dehydrator, ameliorated cook stoves, green charcoal, corn shellers and ultimately the affordable greenhouse technology. This technology is currently changing the face of Cameroon’s agriculture. BaretaNews caught up with him for a chat. You do not want to miss to get to know him and his products. Read on.
- Good Day and Welcome to BaretaNews
Thank you for having me
- Who is Roland Fomundam in a nutshell? BaretaNews will love to know
Roland Fomundam is a Father, an educator, a business developer and promoter. He is a serial social entrepreneur with a particular focus on developing products and processes that meet the needs of the bottom pyramid dwellers – the bottom 4 billion people of the world. Born and raised in Cameroon until the of age 22 when he left for the US to further his education. In the US, he studied Technology Entrepreneurship and has been the initiator of several sustainable innovations introduced in Cameroon such as the solar dehydrator, ameliorated cook stoves, green charcoal, corn shellers and ultimately the affordable greenhouse technology. He founded Youth Action Africa nonprofit group, JolaventureInc before arriving at Greenhouse ventures. A few others didn’t survive the valley of death so not worth mentioning here. He is also a visiting lecturer in some Cameroonian Universities where he teaches Innovation and Entrepreneurship.
- We have been watching and reading a lot about GreenHouse Ventures, What is this?
Greenhouse ventures is Cameroon’s premier sustainable agriculture company. It is the first time an agriculture company in Cameroon meets the three pillars of sustainability – people, planet, and profit. The company has as its mission to use the affordable greenhouse technology to improve the quantity and quality of food for producers and consumers while saving the environment. The greenhouse technology is a house – like framework covered by a special plastic or glass and is used for the cultivation of certain crops under controlled environments. In Cameroon, we have succeeded in growing a wide variety of crops year-round as well as multiplication and propagation of seeds and tubers. The technology has proven to be effective in increasing yields and profits with minimal resources compared to outdoor agriculture.
- How did it all start? When was the vision born?
In 2006, we started with a micro-funding program that provided micro loans to a group of 102 farmers. This activity gave us an insight into the challenges these groups do face – from preproduction, production, and post-harvest management. We introduced several models for micro management, several technologies such as the solar dehydrators to minimize post-harvest losses yet, our farmers could not break the glass ceiling. All that was needed was not just a technology but also a business model that will assure the increase in production and profit potentials while minimizing losses and saving the environment. The greenhouse technology proved to be the best fit. It’s an existing technology and widely use. All we needed was to customize and adapt it to our local environment and clients – a concept which Pennsylvania State University had introduced in East Africa. Founded in 2013, we have introduced several designs, grown a wide variety of crops, tested in the various ecological zones, using different seeds and methods – today, we are proud of our results. We have successfully standardized our products and processes to meet the needs of citizens nationally and beyond.
- Where do you want GreenHouse Ventures to be in 10 years? What are you aiming at?
Several things are happening already:
- We are making greenhouse farming the standard method of farming and converting many non-farmers into farmers. In our time, farming will become a noble profession that will attract many especially the youths.
- Greenhouse produce has proven to be healthier with extended shelf life compared to traditional farm crops. For example, our tomatoes can last longer than 35 days and our cucumbers have gone over 60 days on the shelf without any refrigeration. The consumption healthy foods should not only be for the rich and wealthy – it should be the right and pride of every Cameroonian and we are aiming to make this a reality.
- Imagine Cameroon being a major producer of various fruits and vegetables but we have no processing factories and the worst is that we still import the same things we produce. Greenhouse Ventures is about to change the status quo by engaging many farmers for the production of several foods year round.
- Imagine the Cameroonian farmer who toils the most but earns the least in the value chain – most farmers go hungry and remain poor – what an oxymoron. At this rate, we will achieve the unattainable in less than 10 years – God has a way of making certain things happen.
- Considering Cameroon’s economy and tax system, do you have any challenges in the Cameroons?
In every challenge, there is an opportunity. I found several opportunities that have filled and will fill the institutional voids faced by our current system. The relationship between my country and me is, first of all, a business relationship and then patriotism. So, I have had no major challenges to dwell on. Our declarative tax system presents some advantages, especially for agribusinesses.
Some of GreenHouse produce
- How many persons do you employ? Is it a joint or single ownership of the business?
I am the brain behind Greenhouse Ventures and maintain most of the stakes of the company. Since inception, I have maintained a highly small and effective in-house team. I continue to work with interns and contractors to fill other eminent needs in the company.
- BaretaNews is aware this type of business is rare in the Cameroons, is there any competition? Are you in the space alone?
There is no competition as of now. I believe that I am creating a path for many competitors to make their way in. And, I continue to encourage many Cameroonians to see the opportunities in the agriculture industry and recognizing the wealth of opportunities in it. This industry sector in Cameroon is still very virgin and has plenty of room to generate wealth for millions of Cameroonians. It’s the field with very few barriers to entry with high-profit potentials.
- How is the produce from GreenHouse ventures managed? Which markets do you target?
We are targeting markets in rural and urban areas as well as international markets. Like I said before, consuming good and healthy food should be the right and pride of every Cameroonian’ either poor or rich. So, we are using several channels to reach every customer. Besides adding value to the traditional and existing channels, we are also working to establish channels that will enable home delivery in every part of Cameroon – we hope this will have a great effect in reducing our carbon foot prints while facilitating the ease and access to high valued foods at affordable prices for all.
- Have you signed any MOU with the government, other institutions to help you achieve your vision?
No. We have not signed any agreements with the government. One of the key elements for success in Cameroon is the ability to make the government a desperate customer rather than you being a desperate entrepreneur. So, we continue to adapt on our courses while hoping that when the time is right we will find the need to engage with the government on a number of impact generating models.
- What is your own personal view of the Cameroons we find ourselves?
Cameroon is a great nation. Unfortunately, most Cameroonians haven’t found the greatness that lies in our nation. Sadly, many of us don’t know what we don’t’ know and some don’t know what they even know. This has created a situation wherein the pessimistic majority continues to fuel negative assumptions that continue to blind our views of the reality. For us to succeed, we must adopt the ability to UNLEARN what we have learned and which is not applicable, and then gain the consciousness to RELEARN what we need to learn to solve our current problems. The very things we seem to know have limited us and only a shift in our mindset will free and enable us to evolve beyond expectations.
- We see you write sometimes on politics, any political ambitions? Do you believe there is an Anglophone Problem?
The Anglophone will say it’s the Francophone and the Francophone will say it is the Anglophone but our neocolonial masters will say “you are all fools”. The Anglophone and Francophone make up Cameroon and both must minimize their differences to forge a way forward for the betterment of this nation.
On that note, I am a positioning myself to be a qualified candidate for Presidential elections in 2025 (everything being equal). I am hoping that by then I would have amassed the experience and wit needed to take this nation towards a more sustainable future. I am hopeful that by then there will be more qualified citizens who will present a strong case for leadership making it possible for the best to take the lead and foster a sustainable future for our children and their children.
- Any last words
As Cameroonians, we should continue to find ways to nurture development in our respective communities and households. We have been made to fight among ourselves for too long and despise our values. We are losing almost everything our forefathers fought very hard to preserve for the sustainability of our future. We must now seek and admit the value in each and every one of us. It is a time we realize that a measure of our collective success is a factor of our individual successes. We can only rise up when we are together.
- Thank you for talking to BaretaNews
Again, thank you for the opportunity. Thank you for being a platform for the Cameroonian people to dwell constructively – with you – the rebuilding of Cameroon is assured.
God is still saying something.