The village Kamkata is found in the Center region of Cameroon. This farming community is located 160 km west of Yaoundé, the country’s capital. This village, which today has about 3,000 inhabitants, all engaged in agriculture, welcomed the pioneers at the end of the 1990s, attracted by the fertility of the soil.
This locality presents an agro-ecological variety made up of forest and shrubby savannahs which favor the cultivation of a wide variety of plant species, including cash crops, market gardening and food crops.
At the start of this farming season, the young shoots of corn, yams, peanuts, pistachios and other tubers look great. The adult cocoa trees are blooming and various fruit trees – mango, plum, orange, guava, lemon and mature palm groves – add to the charm.
Due to its attractiveness, this cosmopolitan village is inhabited by people from across the country in search of green gold. They have formed a Common Initiative Group there to defend their interests and the state deploys extension officers there regularly to advise and support producers. The annual cocoa production in this village increased from 213 tons in 2018 to 346 tons in 2019.
In this period of uncertainty relating to the Covid-19 pandemic, social distancing measures have been adopted here and interactions with urban centers reduced to the essential. We visited some farms there and here we present the profile of three farmers.
Ousmaïla Bamboyé, 50, better known as ‘Malam’ is from Kumbo in the North West region. He arrived Kamkata in 2005 as a traditional healer, invited to provide care to sick farmers. While there, he discovered the virtues of agriculture through significant income generated by the production and sales cocoa. He decided to settle here braving, the criticism of his family back home. “At the time, there were no houses here. Everything was temporary and we were sleeping under tree trunks,” he explains. He started out with an initial plot of 2 hectares, but has almost 20 today and has become a great cocoa farmer, relying on seasonal labor. His income enabled him to build a large house in his hometown and to donate a mosque to the community. He also provides education for his children, nutrition and health for his family and parents without difficulty. He evolved from his initial status as a traditional healer to that of a successful farmer. He has been recognized as a model farmer by the Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Development. Mr. Bamboyé operates a small fashion store in Kamkata. He aims to develop his production chain by acquiring a palm oil press to directly process the nuts from his palm grove, as well as a utility vehicle to transport his produce more easily to markets.
Ngah Sulemanu, 43, is a professional photographer converted to farmer. He left Bafoussam, his hometown in the west of the country in 2016, flattered by the good news from Kamkata farmers. In order to also enjoy the benefits of the land to ensure the well-being of his small family, he settled there the same year by buying a 3 hectare plot of virgin forest in the ‘Cable’ neighborhood where he delved into a mixed cultivation of cocoa, plantain, cassava and cocoyams. To make the most of his free time in Kamkata, Mr. Ngah opened a photo studio in the English-speaking neighborhood where a shopping center is gradually being formed, thus allowing his fellow farmers to make souvenir portraits on the spot. He uses seasonal labor to maintain his plantation and harvest. An additional motivation came from his first cocoa harvest. The income generated enabled him to acquire another 5 hectares in the savannah where he aims to start growing corn on a large scale.
Mrs. Mavegam Ouembe Henriane Stéphanie, 38, is an educational psychologist and passionate about agriculture, a passion inherited from farming parents. She is one of the new arrivals in Kamkata where she acquired a 1.5 hectare plot of virgin forest in the ‘New Town’ area in 2018 and quickly launched the cultivation of cocoa and coco yams. After clearing, 1,500 young cocoa trees and 370 banana shoots were planted. She has 300 other cocoa plants on the nursery bed to transplant soon. “In addition to that, I am going to plant 300 other plantain suckers because the demand is very high in Yaoundé and my family also consumes a lot of it” she declares with confidence. For the good health of the plants, she organizes three brush cutting sessions there per year. The removal of large trees is gradual to increase ventilation and lighting on the farm. She only goes there from time to time to practice and encourage the workers who operate on the spot. She intends to increase her farm land by the acquisition of a large space in the savannah to boost her production of subsistence crops.
Despite these production gains, the village remains enclaved due to the lack of electricity, dependence on an embryonic solar energy and difficult access to the mobile phone network. Only the farmer can search the network to reach a correspondent in town. The main challenge remains post-harvest losses, notably of bananas and plantains linked to the difficult access to this farming village.
With a 4-wheel drive vehicle, the journey from Yaoundé takes 4 hours on average. For the moment, only the road section between Yaoundé and the city of Ntui, divisional headquarters of Mbam and Kim (80 km) is paved. The rest of the road to Kamkata is an obstacle course, especially in this rainy season. However, the ongoing development works on the National Road N ° 15 connecting the city of Batchenga in the Center region to the city of Tibati in the Adamawa region (380km) with the construction of a 400 meter bridge over the Sanaga River at Nachtigal will further open up this farming area, reducing the portion of unpaved road to only forty kilometers. So the periodic treatment of quagmires and the development of collection tracks in the village will certainly see an increase in production, and consequently more income, thence an improvement of the well-being of farmers.
A report by Meli Rostand