Cameroon Pt. 2: Meet Mama Foncha
Meet Mama Foncha. Matti Foncha, Mama’s son, is the founder of Cameroon Boyo Coffee and travels back and forth between Cameroon, Atlanta and much of the world helping CBC and Hilltop Farms sell their coffee. Matti was our first coffee relationship, and we were so excited after 15 years to finally get to travel to Cameroon and meet his family and all the farmers! While we were in Cameroon, Mama hosted us, took amazing care of us, and taught us so much about Cameroon, coffee and just the basics of being a caring person!
A very quick and abbreviated (think SparkNotes, don’t expect perfection) history:
Cameroon was once split into two colonies under control of France (East Cameroon) and England (West Cameroon). In the early 60’s both colonies gained their independence and became two separate states. East Cameroon elected a president and John Ngu Foncha (sound familiar? Hint: Mama’s husband) became the Prime Minister of West Cameroon. In the early 70s, the two countries re-unified into The Republic of Cameroon. According to Mama, the initial plan was for the leaders of the two groups to essentially take turns being in charge of the country as a whole, with the president of East Cameroon taking his turn first. Guess what: The Republic of Cameroon still maintains a presidency, and the Fonchas went from being Prime Minister and family to just being the Foncha family kind of over night.
Now, back to Mama:
“Just being the Fonchas” is a great thing for them to be! EVERYONE in Bamenda and the surrounding areas knows who Mama is, and she loves EVERYONE. Even when her husband was the Prime Minister, Mama says she never wanted her children to live in some big palace without learning to do things on their own, so she and her husband bought some land on the top of a hill in Bamenda, Cameroon, built a house and started to farm. Mama has always loved to farm! She’s a go-getter with a serious commitment to making things better for anyone who needs it. Mama insisted on going to high school back when girls didn’t go to school… she found a school in a completely different town who would finally accept her and walked there every day. Now, she’s helped found a girls school in the same town, and more girls in Bamenda go to high school than boys!
Mama Foncha has very strong Christian beliefs and reaches out to anyone in need around her. She and her family donated a portion of their land to build a church many years ago, and then donated more land to help the church build a school. Many children who live around her house come to her for meals every day, and Mama recognizes that some of them would not be able to eat at home. She lets them play in her yard, teaches them about things like how to share or be polite and professional, brings them into her house to pray the Rosary together and then sends them home with treats. Mama is never without a visitor! Some are friends coming to check in… others are neighbors coming for advice. Mama is kind, loving, thoughtful and considerate, and everyone around her adores and respects her for it.
After the re-unification of Cameroon, West Cameroon definitely felt (and still feels) the effects. Many coffee farmers at the time started having difficulty making good money off of their coffee because of corruption in the system and chose to stop growing coffee. Entire coffee plantations fell to ruin, and Mama Foncha and her family noticed that something should be done about it. Mama had started growing coffee of her own, in her back yard, and wanted to show other farmers that they could sell it productively. But she needed more coffee to have enough to sell at first. So she got together with Bobe Ngam, and Cameroon Boyo Coffee was born!Coffee Adventures