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Community engagement

In recent years the project has had little need for more land in or around the OFDA and the pipeline corridor, resulting in a significant reduction in compensation being paid to individuals and communities. Because EEPCI, TOTCO and COTCO want to continue their close, positive long-term relationships with these communities, all three companies have continued to reach out to local municipalities and to provide support, with an emphasis on schools and other forms of sustainable development.

COTCO’S focus on sustainable development is getting positive results

COTCO’s assistance to three villages located near the pipeline in Cameroon in 2016 illustrates the company’s increased focus on building a sustainability component into its responses to community needs. As was the case in these three situations, sustainability can include helping the communities learn how to build and maintain critical infrastructure like schools.

“In addition to the impact mitigation work that we do, we are taking a voluntary approach to improve the lives of the communities along the pipeline corridor. We expect to apply the same rigor to implementing our social investment program as we would with any other program while making sure all our stakeholders understand what we are doing. Our objective is to improve living conditions by addressing community needs as eff ectively as we can.” - Jules Wack Mballa, CSR Manager, COTCO

Helping Bemboyo build a school

Bemboyo is a locality of 2000 people located 15 kilometers from Pump Station 2 in northern Cameroon. It has a site designated for a secondary school, but for years nothing was built there. Children admitted to secondary schools have had to travel to the larger town of Touborou, almost 80 kilometers away, to attend school. This often has required parents to have the money or relatives in that town to board their kids, which makes it nearly impossible for children from poorer families to receive a secondary education.

Since Bemboyo has a close relationship with COTCO, with as many as 50 people employed by the pipeline project, it turned to the pipeline company for help. COTCO responded by agreeing to fund construction of a newly created secondary school if community members participated in building and maintaining it. Completion of the new school took six months, with a construction team of up to 22 local workers for the duration. The building project was managed by a qualified designee from the community. COTCO’s Community Relations Officer for the area performed regular checks to make sure steady progress continued and resources were efficiently used. When the school doors opened in September, COTCO facilitated the use of an old building from a construction camp to accommodate secondary school students until the completion of the new building which now contains three classrooms and enough desks for 50 students.

Photo — “We are very proud because this school allows children who live near here to have a school close to home. To have a school in a place like this is important because when children go to school, they learn to take care of the environment and with education they can get a job more easily.” – Amadou Saidou, Community Project Manager, Bemboyo

Housing built for teachers in Biombe

Biombe is a small village in Eastern Cameroon. It has a school located about 500 meters from the pipeline near Pump Station 3 and, as a result, it has a long relationship with the project, involving consultation meetings, compensation payments and jobs. The school, which has three teachers, serves over 80 children from Biombe and three surrounding villages; however, there were no provisions for housing the teachers assigned to the communities.

The community in this case began to build housing adjacent to the school with materials given to them as compensation by a logging company. Unfortunately, the materials ran out before the building was finished. The village contacted COTCO and asked for help completing the housing. Because the community had already been proactive in addressing the challenge – indicating a high degree of ownership – the company supplied the villagers with the needed materials and training to complete the building (second photo). While working with the community on the housing, COTCO staff noticed a nearby classroom the company had provided years earlier as compensation for pipeline construction impacts had fallen into disrepair. So, as part of its social responsibility program, the company also provided the materials necessary to refurbish the classroom (first photo).

It took 15 workers from the local villages about five months to complete the new housing and classroom refurbishment. Now Biombe has a new classroom and residence for the teachers serving the community.

  • Kinda Albert

    President Parents Association and Project Manager, Biombe
    “The pipeline affects us positively because before it was built, we never had water wells or schools like this. In the past, life was much more difficult – for example, kids had to go very far to school and four were even killed walking along train tracks which they used to get to school. Before, we had schools with just a roof held up by sticks and no walls. Now we have a strong concrete classroom. It’s good for us to build ourselves because we know now that these are our assets, since we put our heart and soul into the work.”

Follow-up visit to Nkometou results in classrooms receiving badly needed repairs

As part of its sustainability program with local communities, COTCO visited the primary school in Nkometou, a village near the pipeline north of Yaoundé, to check on the condition of a classroom it had built years earlier as compensation during construction of the pipeline. The school serves about 350 children from Nkometou and the surrounding villages.

During their visit, COTCO’s representatives found that the school needed much more than repairs to that one classroom building. Two of its government-built classrooms were so dilapidated, they were not usable. Recognizing an opportunity to support local development, COTCO responded by supplying enough materials and training for the community to refurbish not only the COTCO donated classroom but also two of the government built classrooms.

  • Bitome Alexandre

    Teacher, Nkometou III Public Primary School
    “Before, our school was not nearly so beautiful. The school was looking dirty. Now it is much nicer. I’ve been a teacher for 30 years, and it makes me proud to see my children succeed – some of them have gone on to great careers.”

  • Ondoua Nomo Norbert

    President of the Nkometou Parents Association
    “The former environment was not good for kids to study. The parents are very satisfied with the changes because the conditions now are more suitable for children to study. We appreciate the ongoing partnership with COTCO. We can talk directly with them and they listen.”

COTCO helps village build a cassava drying facility

The Platform is a tripartite relationship between COTCO, NGOs and the Cameroonian government that ensures the project’s interaction with local communities remains productive and positive. One of the Platform’s successes in 2016 was to help the village of Ndoumba Kanga, a community near the pipeline and Pump Station 3, build a badly needed cassava drying facility. Cassava, also known as manioc, is an edible, starchy tuberous root and a major source of carbohydrates for people in many parts of Africa.

During one of several visits by a Platform team to Ndoumba Kanga in 2016, representatives of the village expressed concern about the unsanitary nature of the traditional method of drying cassava, one of their staple foods. Traditionally cassava is left on the ground to dry for several days after harvesting, but this practice leaves it open to multiple forms of contamination and being eaten by animals. COTCO responded to this concern by designing a custom-built cassava drying facility and providing the village with tools and materials needed to create the facility. The community delivered sand, concrete blocks and the workers.

  • Fulbert Ngatchi

    ROW Administrator, COTCO
    “The Platform’s visits to Ndoubma Kanga illustrate our evolving relationship with communities. We are trying to listen and respond to their needs more than ever.”

  • Francois Mekadi

    Chief of Ndoumba Kanga
    “We have always had a good relationship with COTCO. This facility, which all the women in the village can use, is a sign that the company is a good neighbor to us.”

Women's association promotes artists in Douala

For nearly 10 years COTCO’s female employees have volunteered to make positive contributions to disadvantaged communities in Cameroon. In April 2016, the women’s organization – the Association des Femmes de COTCO (ASFEC) – held a gala that raised 50 million FCFA, funds that will support the Association’s activities over the next four years. ASFEC’s members meet once a year to discuss how to allocate its budget in four target areas: education, supporting disadvantaged people, HIV prevention and promoting artists. In 2016, the organization decided to support artists in Cameroon by sponsoring a temporary art gallery called COTART in the COTCO parking lot. In addition to inviting artists to participate, ASFEC promotes the event to attract potential buyers. Artists receive 80% of the revenue from the sale of their works with the association keeping 20% to help cover its costs as sponsor.

  • Brigitte Mbongo

    Process and Controls Specialist, COTCO
    “It’s important that we do what we can to help provide artists with opportunities. Many artists tell us that because of COTART they have become better known and successful in selling their work.”

Creating needed materials for villages in southern Chad

Every year, EEPCI organizes multiple donations of materials to communities near project areas or its headquarters in N’Djamena. In 2016, the team fabricated 400 desks and 57 blackboards to be donated to villages around the OFDA in the beginning of 2017. In addition, 50 beds and mattresses with customized hygienic waterproof covers were donated to nine rural health centers in the OFDA. Left, employees of EEPCI contractor SENEV Tchad, a Chadian owned company that is contracted to support operations at Komé 5, put the finishing touches on a set of desks.

Consultation meetings

In 2016, the project held hundreds of consultations in communities near operations areas across Chad and Cameroon. The sessions, part of the project’s commitment to ensure regular contact and open communication with its neighbors, covered a wide range of topics, from updating villagers about the latest developments to providing education sessions about public health and safety issues.

2016 Consultation Meetings
 Chad
 Sessions  214
 Attendees 11,635
 Cameroon
 Sessions  1,025
 Attendees  7,724

EEPCI community investment updates

In addition to stories covered in various sections of our website, EEPCI’s ongoing commitment to invest in local communities took multiple forms in 2016, including:

  • A donation of 400 electricity poles to Doba that will benefit large numbers of people in the area by helping expand the city’s electric network.
  • Support for World Malaria Day in April by organizing malaria awareness sessions in two villages and donating anti-malaria drugs to their health centers. This was in addition to the ExxonMobil Foundation’s ongoing malaria prevention and treatment programs that are carried out by NGOs World Vision and JHPIEGO.
  • Activities to support efforts to reduce maternal and child mortality in N’Djamena.
  • Organizing the seventh annual competition for secondary school science students. The competition has proved to be very effective in encouraging excellence in school.

  • Peter Larden

    Operations Superintendent, EEPCI
    “ExxonMobil is always a visitor everywhere we operate, so being a good corporate citizen and understanding the challenges of the community is a responsibility of ours. We need to understand our impacts on the community and contribute to the community in whatever ways that we can.”

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