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Every Cameroonian would certainly agree that agriculture, in all its forms, represents the backbone of our economy.
High-ranking government officials, including the President of the Republic, have made statements over the last decades to that effect. Yet, agriculture as we know it is carried out by men and women, who are hardworking, are rarely celebrated by the country and not respected by foreign plantation land grab companies and lazy villagers.
Support Small-scale local farmers, not foreign plantation land grab companies.
Our country is an incredibly blessed country. By no fault of its own, it is located in the tropical belt, just above the equator. This location provides an ideal climate for the cultivation of both cash and food crops. It is not surprising then that prior to independence the colonial powers directed policies towards a focus on cash-crop production to meet the growing needs of western economies. As Farmers we were encouraged to practice mono-cropping, using chemical inputs, pesticides and fertilizers. The availability of subsidies and credit pushed most farmers towards the production of export crops to the expense of food crops. We farmers have being quite resilient. We withstood the economic crises that struck the country in 1986 with the drastic fall in commodity prices on the world market. The ensuing foreign food aid programs, the government's removal of agricultural subsidies and the subsequent devaluation of the CFA franc left the country with increasing concerns regarding food insecurity.
The problem is not that our country can't feed its people or become a net food exporter. We farmers continue to face daunting challenges as they seek to increase productivity and yield. Environmental challenges are at the centre of this problem. Soil degradation, continued loss of agricultural biodiversity as well as decreasing precipitation further complicates the problems. The drop in annual rainfall has forced us farmers to implement water harvesting strategies. The weak purchasing power of some subsistence farmers results in limited availability of capital and limited use of mechanization technologies which results in low productivity. Despite the pervasiveness of information technology, significant information asymmetry persists with regard to market opportunities. Trade restrictions hamper international market accessibility.
We are waiting in the South West region for all this projects. To help farmers to increase productivity and output, the Minister of Agriculture must pursue a policy re-orientation focusing on food crop production, corruption free, preservation and commercial scale to meet the needs of its growing population. This will only be achieved through increased production/distribution of farm seeds/fertilizers, access to micro-financing and private sector investment, better access to land and land tenure security, training on farming techniques and development of agriculture curriculum in schools from primary to tertiary , improvement of rural and national road infrastructures, improved governance and decentralization in the management of agricultural products as well as strategic approach in the transformation, preservation and marketing of our food crops throughout the country and across our borders.
While the government has failed to articulate a serious agricultural policy framework in the villages in the South West region of Cameroon, the farmer has remained steadfast, ever more determined to feed her household and increase her economic standing in the process. Her quest to meet the basic needs of her children � food, shelter, education, good health � leads her to travel kilometres at a time on foot, while climbing hills and crossing rivers on a search of arable land. When the rainy season is haphazard, she is patient, studying the skies and waiting for the right time to sow her seeds. She is involved, not only in growing maize, millet, cassava, and plantains but also in poultry farming, animal rearing, and fish rearing.
She is ingenious, embracing information technology and using sms messages to reach new markets and expand her potential. She gets up every morning at 5am to ensure that the children have food before going to the local market or to her farm. For her, there is no stopping. Never. She has a family to feed but a country that does not appreciate all she does. She is a hero and a role model to all of us. She is the Cameroonian of the Year.
Voice of the voiceless