JRS Nigeria: A Profitable Shoe Enterprise For Locals
06 September 2022
In 2018, the military attacked and occupied Nelson’s hometown in Kumbo village, Northwest Cameroon. They killed many people and took others as prisoners. Frightened, Nelson waited until nightfall before fleeing with his wife and children. They never returned.
Nelson recounted in resignation: “They took my elder brother. We have not heard from him till today. He was 58 years old then, I don’t know if he is still alive or dead now.”
The ongoing Anglophone crisis occurring within the villages in Bui division in the northwest region of Cameroon resulted in the influx of refugees into Taraba State, Nigeria, along the border.
There are 68,806 Cameroonian Refugees registered with UNHCR in Nigeria according to UNHCR Nigeria Cameroonian Refugees Overview October 2021, with a vast majority residing in rural areas. The registered refugees in Taraba are generally concentrated along the borders namely, Kurmi, Sardauna, Takum and Ussa areas, which account for 17,533 of the refugees.
Currently in Gembu Sarduana, a town in north-east Nigeria, Nelson is slowly rebuilding his life after losing everything he had built with his wife back in his hometown of Kumbo.
In December 2021, Jesuit Refugee Service (JRS), with support from UNHCR Nigeria, offered Nelson one-time cash transfers for food for the value of 13,800 Naira. Nelson chose to invest some of the funds in a shoe business that turned out profitable enough to venture into another business: the making and selling of bean cakes. Today, Nelson earns enough money to feed the whole family and to pay for his children’s school fees.
In his words, “Last year, things were so difficult that we couldn’t even afford Kunu (gruel) and bread for breakfast” he recalls.
Unlike last year, Nelson has been preparing to celebrate the end of the year. He already bought a few roosters to be slaughtered for the celebrations.
He recounted, “This year, the children are happy because there is enough to eat, and we can even have a meal for Suhur (pre-dawn meal). We even vary our meals; we don’t have to eat the same food over again.”
Nelson is determined to be a successful entrepreneur. He is currently one of the highest shareholders in their Village Savings and Loans Association (VSLA) organized by the JRS Mental Health Support Group. With a smile, Nelson confesses, “I want to expand my shoe business and become one of the biggest shoe retailers in Gembu.”
Driven and ambitious, Nelson continued sharing a few qualities that he believes have been key to his success: “The first is to always be happy and be friendly. Next is to be consistent and finally is to be a reliable person.”
This testimony would not have been possible without funds from the U.S Department of State: Bureau of Population, Refugees, and Migration and UNHCR Nigeria.