Local Cameroonian craftsmen are producing cheaper kitchenware from recycled materials.
By Anne Mireille Nzouankeu, Yaoundé
As an Administrative Assistant, Reine Ekoumou earns 130,000 CFA francs (200 euros) a month. Despite her rather modest income by Cameroonian standards, the 32-year-old woman’s kitchen is equipped with various utensils including cake tins, wooden spoons and peelers. Reine Ekoumou reveals her secret: “Unlike most young women who would buy imported utensils from Europe or China, I buy mine from local craftsmen”.
Construction materials recycled
Emmanuel Yimele is one of the local craftsmen making kitchen utensils. In his workshop located in the Elig-Essono neighbourhood, Yaoundé, Yimele gives a second life to discarded household items and constructions materials.
The 43-year-old recycler makes cake tins from leftover aluminium sheets on construction sites. Whisks are made from clothes hangers and he makes graters by cutting and piercing empty milk tins to give them the grating edges. Emmanuel Yimele transforms wheel rims into barbecue grates and makes the grills from iron wires collected from car tyres. “We burn old car tyres and collect iron wires from the ashes”, Yimele explains.
Since Yimele’s utensils are made locally, they are three times cheaper than imported ones. Reine Ekoumou bought a wooden spoon for 200 CFA francs (0.30 euros) instead of 1000 CFA francs (1.5 euros) in the stores. She also paid 300 CFA francs (0.45 euros) for a peeler, instead of 1200 CFA francs (1.83 euros) for the same item in stores.
In addition to the low prices, clients also praise the quality of the products. Reine Ekoumou is satisfied with the products bought from this craftsman. “Before knowing about Emmanuel Yimele, I used to buy imported kitchenware from China and I wasn’t always satisfied. The items were too fragile and broke after three or four uses”, explains Reine Ekoumou. She adds that she was not always getting the expected results: “When I was using imported cake tins, for example, the cake would burn systematically”.
Preserving the environment
Emmanuel Yimele’s clients come from all classes of society and business is booming. “Thanks to this activity, I can feed my three wives and pay for the education of my fourteen children”, Yimele reveals.
To satisfy this growing clientele, Emmanuel Yimele, who has been a craftsman for 25 years, established his own system of supply in raw materials. “In the early years, I used to spend my mornings looking through garbage and visiting construction sites to collect leftover materials. But with time, I initiated other youths who now do the collecting and I would buy from them”, he says. Yimele would buy, for instance, empty aluminium milk tins for 25 CFA francs (0.03 euros) a piece. He is proud to help households whilst preserving the environment.