News / Africa

Cameroon’s Agriculture at Crossroads

Experts say soaring food prices could spark unrest in Cameroon

Multimedia

Audio

Cameroon’s dependence on food imports has skyrocketed over the last three decades. The Ministry of Finance says last year alone, the country spent about $1.1 million on imports of rice, fish, flour, sugar and other products. That’s about five percent of the national budget.

Agricultural specialists attribute the decline to low levels of investment in agriculture and in rural areas in general. Eighty percent of the population is composed of rural dwellers whose main occupation is farming.

Cameroon's farmers must cope with the rising cost of inputs like seed and fertilzer
Cameroon's farmers must cope with the rising cost of inputs like seed and fertilzer


But the government allocates less than 2.5 percent of the national budget to rural development. As a result of the neglect, roads from farms to markets are crumbling, making the distribution and marketing of food nearly impossible.

High Cost of Inputs

The agricultural sector is also plagued by the high cost of inputs like seeds and fertilizers, a lack of conservation infrastructure, such as warehouses to stock harvests before the market, and outdated farming practices that limit productivity. For urban consumers, it’s cheaper to buy imports than to buy locally grown foods.

Godfred Mututu Awa is the government’s regional delegate for agriculture and rural development in Cameroon’s northwest. Injecting more money into the rural sector will significantly reduce the problem according to Mututu. .

“ If we must survive and not depend on other countries," said Mututu, "we must know that this is a vital sector and it needs a lot of financing. This is the only sector that can create job opportunities for children. What share of our national budget goes to agriculture? If we consider it a priority sector, it means other sectors must find the money to pump into agriculture and guarantee food for the rapidly growing population of this country.".

It has not always been this way

In the 1970s and ‘80s, Cameroon produced enough food to feed itself and to export. That changed when an economic crisis began in 1986. The emphasis on agriculture dropped as the demand for oil increased.

Prices for exports slumped on the world market. Government subsidies to farmers evaporated and agricultural development programs collapsed. Farmers looked elsewhere for sources of income and poverty increased in the rural areas, with large numbers of people relying on foreign food aid.

Cameroonian farmers tilling the soil.
Cameroonian farmers tilling the soil.

In February 2008, thousands of hungry Cameroonians poured into the streets in growing unrest. Government statistics reported 40 dead, but civil society activists said some 140 protesters were killed in the riots that swept across the country. The government reacted by announcing a $1 million to improve food production in two years.

But three years later, critics say not much has changed. Food prices remain beyond the reach of average Cameroonians and once again, tension is on the rise.

Experts say the entire agricultural system is in urgent need of an overhaul. Professor Jacob Ngeve Ebua is general manager of the Institute for Agricultural Research and Development, IRAD.  He says Cameroon is utilizing only 12 percent of the arable land for food crop production.

“If we can double the surface area cultivated," explained Eluba, "then we shall have food surpluses. The land tenure systems are so complex. We’re still dealing with smallholder farmers who plant less than one hectare. Mechanization has to be improved so that farmers can organize themselves into cooperatives and hire agricultural machines like tractors to be able to plant large plots of land.".

In January, President Paul Biya announced a new plan boost food production. The president is seeking reelection this year after nearly 30 years in power. Among the measures are the creation of a specialized farmers’ bank to provide cheap loans, an agency to monitor food availability and a tractor assembly plant.

But critics say the measures do not go far enough.  According to  Albert Njonga an agronomist and leader of the 11,000-member Association for the Defense of Collective Interests, (ACDIC),  all logical solutions should center on a 2007 World Bank report.

He says it prescribes agriculture as a launching pad for sustained economic growth through increased direct subsidies to the small farmers in rural communities. The most productive farmers would get the biggest shares.

"The poor farmers do not trust banks," he said, "some of which have recently collapsed on short notice. They also lack the capital to purchase tractors,  subsidies for costly fertilizers and pesticides will significantly encourage production.”

As food prices spike worldwide, experts warn Cameroon’s heavy dependence on imports makes it increasingly vulnerable to external price fluctuations that could trigger another wave of unrest by hungry people.

You May Like

Cambodia Seeks Official UN Maps for Vietnam Border

Notice of request comes as 2 countries open border talks Tuesday after a clash last month More

From South Africa to Vietnam, Cyclists Deliver Message Against Rhino Horns

Appalled by poaching they saw firsthand, sisters embark on tour to raise awareness in countries where rhino horn products are in demand More

Uber Wants Johannesburg Police Protection

Request follows recent protests outside ride-hailing service's Johannesburg office More

This forum has been closed.
Comments
     
There are no comments in this forum. Be first and add one

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
New Implant Could Help Restore Movement to Paralyzed Limbsi
|| 0:00:00
...    
🔇
X
Maia Pujara
July 07, 2015 10:01 PM
A half-million people suffer spinal cord injuries each year because of car accidents, serious falls and diseases, according to the World Health Organization. Researchers are now working on a soft but strong spinal cord implant that could one day restore movement in paralyzed individuals. VOA’s Maia Pujara reports.
Video

Video New Implant Could Help Restore Movement to Paralyzed Limbs

A half-million people suffer spinal cord injuries each year because of car accidents, serious falls and diseases, according to the World Health Organization. Researchers are now working on a soft but strong spinal cord implant that could one day restore movement in paralyzed individuals. VOA’s Maia Pujara reports.
Video

Video Getting it Done Beyond a Nuclear Deal

If a nuclear deal is reached between Iran and world powers in Vienna, it will be a highly technical road map to be used to monitor nuclear activity in Iran for years to come to ensure Tehran does not make nuclear weapons. Equally as complicated will be dismantling international sanctions that were originally intended to be ironclad. VOA’s Heather Murdock talks to experts about the key challenges any deal will present.
Video

Video Rice Farmers Frustrated As Drought Grips Thailand

A severe drought in Thailand is limiting the growing season of the country’s important rice crop. Farmers are blaming the government for not doing more to protect a key export. Steve Sandford reports from Chiang Mai, Thailand.
Video

Video Making Music, Fleeing Bombs: New Film on Sudan’s Internal Refugees

In 2012, Sudanese filmmaker Hajooj Kuka went to make a documentary among civil war refugees in Sudan’s Blue Nile and Nuba Mountains region. What he found surprised him: music was helping to save people from bombing raids by their own government. VOA’s Carolyn Weaver has more.
Video

Video 'From This Day Forward' Reveals Difficult Journey of Transgender Parent

In her documentary, "From This Day Forward", filmmaker Sharon Shattuck reveals the personal journey of her transgender father, as he told his family that he always felt he was a woman inside and decided to live as one. VOA’s Penelope Poulou has more.
Video

Video Floodwaters Threaten Iconic American Home

The Farnsworth House in the Midwest State of Illinois is one of the most iconic homes in America. Thousands of tourists visit the site every year. Its location near a river inspired the design of the house, but, as VOA’s Kane Farabaugh reports, that very location is now threatening the existence of this National Historic Landmark.
Video

Video Olympics Construction Scars Sacred Korean Mountain

Environmentalists in South Korea are protesting a Winter Olympics construction project to build a ski slope through a 500-year-old protected forest. Brian Padden reports that although there is strong national support for hosting the 2018 Pyeongchang Winter Olympics, there are growing public concerns over the costs and possible ecological damage at the revered mountain.
Video

Video Xenophobia Victims in South Africa Flee Violence, Then Return

Many Malawians fled South Africa early this year after xenophobic attacks on African immigrants. But many quickly found life was no better at home and have returned to South Africa – often illegally and without jobs, and facing the tough task of having to start over. Lameck Masina and Anita Powell file from Johannesburg.
Video

Video Family of American Marine Calls for Release From Iranian Prison

As the crowd of journalists covering the Iran talks swells, so too do the opportunities for media coverage.  Hoping to catch the attention of high-level diplomats, the family of American-Iranian marine Amir Hekmati is in Vienna, pleading for his release from an Iranian prison after nearly 4 years.  VOA’s Heather Murdock reports from Vienna.
Video

Video UK Holds Terror Drill as MPs Mull Tunisia Response

After pledging a tough response to last Friday’s terror attack in Tunisia, which came just days before the 10th anniversary of the bomb attacks on London’s transport network, British security services are shifting their focus to overseas counter-terror operations. VOA's Henry Ridgwell has more.
Video

Video Hate Groups Spread Influence Via Internet

Hate groups of various kinds are using the Internet for propaganda and recruitment, and a Jewish human rights organization that monitors these groups, the Simon Wiesenthal Center, says their influence is growing. The messages are different, but the calls to hatred or violence are similar. VOA's Mike O’Sullivan reports.
Video

Video Blind Somali Journalist Defies Odds in Mogadishu

Despite improving security in the last few years, Somalia remains one of the most dangerous countries to be a journalist – even more so for someone who cannot see. Abdulaziz Billow has the story of journalist Abdifatah Hassan Kalgacal, who has been reporting from the Somali capital for the last decade despite being blind.

VOA Blogs