Empowering Local Humanitarian Organizations in Cameroon

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In most humanitarian crises, local organizations are often first responders. They play a crucial role in providing immediate assistance to the affected population. They have better access to the population and possess a full understanding of communities and their culture. They can also ensure the benefits of a response continue after formal projects end. To better equip them to do that, Catholic Relief Services developed the EMPOWER approach to local leadership in humanitarian response.

EMPOWER stands for Empowering Partner Organizations Working on Emergency Responses. CRS has implemented EMPOWER in Burkina Faso, Cameroon, the Central African Republic, Mali and Niger, strengthening the capacities of 50 partner organizations since 2021.


Staff from six partner organizations of the EMPOWER project in Cameroon

Staff from six partner organizations of the EMPOWER project gather during a five-day training to learn how to define strategies and approaches for successful emergency responses and leadership in their organizations.

Photo by Mabel Chenjoh/CRS


In Cameroon, through the EMPOWER project, CRS is building the capacity of 10 local humanitarian groups to better manage responses and strengthen their participation in platforms for the coordination of humanitarian affairs at the local, national and regional levels. EMPOWER supports partners' capacity strengthening and local leadership in Cameroon in the five main ways highlighted below.

Capacity Self-Assessment and Improvement

EMPOWER uses a self‑assessment tool to facilitate partner‑led self‑evaluation of their organization’s ability to meet internationally recognized standards. This self-assessment includes subjects such as laws and ethical codes, finance and accountability, governance and organization, leadership and coordination, and gender. Based on the results, EMPOWER works with each partner to develop a two-year capacity strengthening plan, prioritizing the areas in which EMPOWER support is most urgently needed. 

“At the start, I found the EMPOWER procedures time-consuming, especially because of the many evaluations,” says Jean-Bosco Ndjock, director of the Tammounde Speranza Association in Cameroon’s Far North region. “But the evaluations revealed that there were a lot of weaknesses, especially in our organizational and management system and our policies. We reviewed and adopted a good number of policies.”


Jean-Bosco Ndjock

Jean-Bosco Ndjock is the director of the EMPOWER partner organization Tammounde Speranza Association in Cameroon’s Far North region.

Photo by Mabel Chenjoh/CRS


“The assessment tool has been very helpful, and we have shared it with other partners,” says Billian Nyuykighan, programs coordinator for Strategic Humanitarian Services in Cameroon.

Policy Documents and Procedures

Through the EMPOWER project, CRS supports partners as they update, develop or adopt important policy documents and procedures to enable them to be better equipped and prepared for humanitarian responses.

“Before the EMPOWER project, our organization had barely three policies, but we now have about 10 new and revised policies,” says Yinda Djakdjing, coordinator of Youth Association for Rural Development.

“The assessment revealed that our gender policy was biased and targeted only a particular ethnic minority. With the support of EMPOWER, we have reviewed the policy to be more inclusive and it’s now titled Gender Equality and Diversity Policy.”

“I learned from the EMPOWER project that statutes, internal rules and regulations are not sufficient for an organization to function,” says Jean-Bosco. “There is a whole machinery of policies and manuals, which orientates the management and functioning of the organization. Thanks to EMPOWER, we have reviewed the organization’s strategic document for administrative management, the gender policy, the security policy, the feedback mechanism, and the conflict-of-interest policy.”


EMPOWER has continually trained the 10 local partners in Cameroon on a wide range of topics such as resource mobilization strategies, safe and dignified programming, financial risk management and fraud mitigation, emergency leadership, and preparedness. Today, all 10 organizations possess a resource mobilization plan and an action plan to prevent fraud. 

“We have applied the strategies we learned during the training on resource mobilization and our funding has increased by 25%,” says Billian.


Billian Nyuykighan

Billian Nyuykighan is the programs coordinator for Strategic Humanitarian Services, one of the 10 partner organizations of the EMPOWER project in Cameroon.

Photo by Mabel Chenjoh/CRS


“Thanks to the training on resource mobilization, our organization gained a modest funding opportunity which enabled us to equip our office space,” says Jean-Bosco. “After reviewing our policies and making structural adjustments, today our association has gained four more financial partners.”

Systems to Promote Local Leadership

EMPOWER also works closely with humanitarian coordination systems to reduce barriers that prevent local organizations from participating and occupying leadership roles in humanitarian coordination forums. CRS, as a key actor of the National Localization Working Group, has supported all 10 partners in Cameroon to participate in the monthly group meetings. These local organizations are now more involved and effectively participate in various humanitarian coordination forums.

“EMPOWER helped us to rediscover the importance of belonging to humanitarian coordination forums,” says Belle Ntui, program associate for Caritas Kumba. “Before EMPOWER, Caritas Kumba never occupied any leadership role but now Caritas Kumba is the information manager in the child protection working group for the Southwest region and that gives us the leverage to make our voice heard.”


training on leadership and preparedness in emergencies in Cameroon

Partners of the EMPOWER project share experiences during a training on leadership and preparedness in emergencies.

Photo by Mabel Chenjoh/CRS


“Strategic Humanitarian Services is today the co-lead for the Nutrition working group for the Northwest and Southwest regions,” says Billian. “Our organization also occupies the coordination position for the United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs in the Bui Division of the Northwest region.”

Small Grants to Support Leadership Positions

CRS supports local partners with small grants to enable them to sustainably assume the leadership roles they have acquired in humanitarian coordination forums. Seven of the 10 EMPOWER partners received small grants to cover some coordination-related costs, such as staff costs, logistics and meeting facilities.


Yinda Djakdjing

Yinda Djakdjing is the coordinator of the Youth Association for Rural Development based in Cameroon's Far North region. The organization has benefitted from capacity-strengthening initiatives through the EMPOWER project.

Photo by Mabel Chenjoh/CRS


“Thanks to the grant from the EMPOWER project, the Youth Association for Rural Development has moved from being a partial member to becoming the co-facilitator of the working group on food security in the Far North region,” says Yinda. “As co-facilitator, we have even launched an initiative to produce a quarterly newsletter for the working group.” 

“Participating in humanitarian coordination forums gives increased visibility to our organization,” says Jean-Bosco. “Because of EMPOWER, our organization was able to assume a leadership role as the Deputy Focal Point of the Far North branch of the National Platform for Civil Society Organizations called Cameroonian Humanitarian Organizations Initiative. Recently, there was an international exposition for localization and Tammounde was one of the two organizations invited to participate from the Far North region.”

In West and Central Africa, Empowering Partner Organizations Working on Emergency Responses, or EMPOWER, is a two-year project funded by USAID’s Bureau of Humanitarian Assistance that aims to make the humanitarian response structure in Burkina Faso, Cameroon, the Central African Republic, Mali and Niger accountable, localized and inclusive. The project supports local humanitarian organizations to build capacity on a variety of operational and technical topics, according to their needs. The EMPOWER project also works closely with humanitarian coordinators in each country to reduce obstacles that prevent local humanitarian groups from participating and occupying leadership roles in forums for the coordination of humanitarian affairs.