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and fertilizers, a lack of conservation infrastructure, such as warehouses to stock harvests before the market, and outdated farming practices that limit productivity.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

US Border Patrol Union Accused of Taking Sides on Immigration

Report alleges agents leaking info to immigration opponents, appearing at their private events; Center for Immigration Studies director defends agents' actions More

Video Blind Somali Journalist Defies Odds in Mogadishu

Reporting from Somali capital for past decade, Abdifatah Hassan Kalgacal has been working at one of Mogadishu's leading radio stations covering parliament More

Video Rights Monitor: Hate Groups' Use of Internet to Inflame, Recruit Growing

Wiesenthal Center's Abraham Cooper says extremists have become skilled at celebrating violence, ideology on Web 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.
Hate Groups Spread Influence Via Interneti
X
Mike O'Sullivan
June 30, 2015 8:20 PM
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 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 US Silica Sand Mining Surge Worries Illinois Residents, Businesses

Increased domestic U.S. oil and gas production, thanks to advances known as “fracking,” has created a boom for other industries supporting that extraction. Demand for silica sand, used in fracking, could triple over the next five years. In the Midwest state of Illinois, people living near the mines are worried about how increased silica sand mining will affect their businesses and their health. VOA’s Kane Farabaugh has more in this first of a series of 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.
Video

Video Texas Defies Same-Sex Marriage Ruling

Texas state officials have criticized the US Supreme Court decision giving same-sex couples the right to marry nationwide. The attorney general of Texas says last week's decision did not overrule constitutional "rights of religious liberty," and therefore officials performing wedding services can refuse to perform them for same-sex couples if it is against their religious beliefs. Zlatica Hoke reports on the controversy.
Video

Video Syrians Flee IS Advance in Hasaka

The Syrian government said Monday it has taken back one of several districts in Hasaka overrun by Islamic State militants. But continued fighting elsewhere in the northern city has forced thousands of civilians from their homes. In this report narrated by Bill Rodgers, VOA Kurdish Service reporter Zana Omer describes the scene in Amouda, where some of the displaced are taking refuge.
Video

Video Rabbi Hits Road to Heal Jewish-Muslim Relations in France

France is on high alert after last week's terrorist attack near the city Lyon, just six months after deadly Paris shootings. The attack have added new tensions to relations between French Jews and Muslims. France’s Jewish and Muslim communities also share a common heritage, though, and as far as one French rabbi is concerned, they are destined to be friends. From the Paris suburb of La Courneuve, Lisa Bryant reports about Rabbi Michel Serfaty and his friendship bus.
Video

Video S. Korea Christians Protest Gay Rights Festival

The U.S. Supreme Court decision mandating marriage equality nationwide has energized gay rights supporters around the world. Gay rights remain a highly contentious issue in a key U.S. ally, South Korea, where police did a deft job Sunday of preventing potential clashes between Christian protesters and gay activists. Kurt Achin reports from Seoul.
Video

Video Saudi Leaks Expose ‘Checkbook Diplomacy’ In Battle With Iran

Saudi Arabia’s willingness to wield its oil money on the global diplomatic stage appears to have been laid bare, after the website WikiLeaks published tens of thousands of leaked cables from Riyadh’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs. VOA's Henry Ridgwell reports.
Video

Video Nubians in Kenya Face Land Challenges

East Africa's ethnic Nubians have a rich cultural history that dates back thousands of years, but in Kenya they are facing hardships, including the loss of lands they have lived on for generations. They say the government has reneged on its pledge to award them title deeds for the plots. VOA's Lenny Ruvaga reports.
Video

Video Military Experts Question New Russian Tank Capabilities

Russia has been showing off its new tank design – the Armata T-14. Designers claim it is 20 years ahead of current Western designs - and driving it feels like playing a computer game. But military analysts question those assertions, and warn the cost could be too heavy a burden for Russia’s struggling economy. Henry Ridgwell reports.
Video

Video In Kenya, Police Said to Shoot First, Ask Questions Later

An organization that documents torture and extrajudicial killings says Kenyan police were responsible for 1,252 shooting deaths in five cities, including Nairobi, between 2009 and 2014, representing 67 percent of all gun deaths in the areas reviewed. Gabe Joselow has more from Nairobi.
Video

Video In Syrian Crisis, Social Media Offer Small Comforts

Za’atari, a makeshift city in Jordan, may be the only Syrian refugee camp to tweet its activities, in an effort to keep donors motivated as the war in Syria intensifies and the humanitarian crisis deepens. Inside the camp, families say mobile phone applications help hold together families that are physically torn apart. VOA’s Heather Murdock reports.

VOA Blogs