Welcome to BioLife, the new hot spot for “bio” products in Bafoussam. Utamtsi and GIC Sondason have finally opened a store in Bafoussam that will now serve not only as an office space but also as a store front for the GIC’s organic products.
While this is still a fairly new concept here, an organic store marks an important ideological turning point; to ensure that Cameroonians have access to healthy, safe organic products. This is a departure from the fact that previously, Utamtsi’s products were produced in Cameroon by the cooperatives members for the European market. It is vital to show Cameroonians that it’s important not only to produce but also to consume organically. What is even more imperative is making these products available at affordable prices- the price of organic potatoes, beans and leafy greens at the boutique are comparable to or cheaper than prices found in normal Cameroonian markets. This accessibility is incredibly important; a common critique of “organic” is that it is too expensive for the average person. But the name of the boutique, BioLife, says it all; we are trying to make “bio” (short for biologique in French or organic in English) a way of life.
On the boutique shelves are Utamtsi coffee and espresso, Stevia (a natural, zero calorie sweetener derived from the Stevia plant), Effective Microorganisms (EM®) products, organic wine from Germany, and a few organic and natural beauty products such as Shea butter and argan oil. There is also a nice collection of magazines and books on topics such as sustainable development and organic agriculture.
Customers can also come to the boutique to buy individual cups of coffee, a trend that is particularly popular for coffee companies here in the West Region, where much of Cameroon’s coffee is produced. Many conventional coffee companies here have stands throughout Bafoussam where customers can buy a cup of coffee for around 100 francs, the equivalent of about 20 cents. This makes a daily cup of coffee more affordable and creates a unique coffee culture where the coffee is produced in consumed all in the same region.
Another huge advantage of the boutique is that it now provides the producers of organic vegetables, primarily the women’s groups with whom we work, a venue in which they can regularly sell their products. This is incredibly important for producers here; to know that there is a reliable buyer who can offer them a fair price for their products.
Another advantage is that the GIC is now more available to the public. Previously, GIC Sondason’s headquarters were located in the apartment where we live with Christophe, the director of the GIC. We often had visitors at the house to buy the EM® products, or to meet with another GIC member, or simply to get more information about the GIC. This was not only inconvenient for us but for the visitors. Now, with a store that has set hours and is conveniently located in downtown Bafoussam, the GIC and its products are easily accessible to the public.
The opening of the boutique is an occasion for celebration within the GIC, both ideologically and financially. The services and products offered will continue to grow, but in the meantime, it serves as not only a venue to sell GIC products, but also a launching pad for conversations about organic agriculture in Cameroon.Back to top