Talk of agriculture being the mainstay of Cameroon’s economy is as old as its history. The sector is said to employ over 70 per cent of the workforce. The country is blessed with a youthful population, vast and rich arable lands as well as conducive climate. Someone even joked that Cameroon is one of the rare countries wherein one simply needs to throw a grain of any crop anyway to have a bountiful harvest. Only for these inspiring information, one would have gone away with the conclusion that agriculture could have been used as trump card to catapult the country’s economy to any development height. Realities on the ground show everything but a buoyant sector.
In fact, food self-sufficiency in Cameroon is still a far-fetched dream. In the face of the sorry situation, authorities increasingly resort to incessant imports to bridge the demand/supply shortfall. The effects of this disturbing phenomenon on Cameroon’s trade balance is disastrous as money spent on importing what the country has diverse potentials to produce in huge quantities could have been tailored into other productive sectors of the economy had output been substantial in quality and quantity. To reverse the trend, government opted for an agricultural revolution whose fruits are sluggishly taking time to show. Untiringly, President Paul Biya has insisted on the need for Cameroon to produce what she consumes and consume what she produces.
The veritable “agricultural revolution” the Head of State has spoken of for the past years now entails modernising production tools and further processing agricultural products. If some youth today look at the sector with somewhat disdain, it is largely because production methods and tools are still at best rudimentary and output barely subsistent. There is need for a complete overhaul of how production is carried out so as to make it attractive and fruitful.
The soil never fails, they often say, but when conditions are not favourable to venture therein, output is bound to be stagnant with high probability of regress. For the umpteenth time, President Paul Biya in his December 31, 2018 state-of-the-nation address still highlighted the need to give agriculture pride of place in Cameroon’s economy. Those who have keenly followed Mr Biya’s outings in the past years would agree that his determination to project agriculture to the limelight is in fact unwavering.
Telling Cameroonians on the eve of 2019 that, “I would like to simply recall that one of our priorities should be the modernisation of our agriculture by meeting its production and diversification targets, and providing it with the required technical resources,” was almost customary. However, different field actions expected to walk the Presidential talk remain wanting. What went wrong where remains a mindboggling question to many a Cameroonian.
Apparently, insufficient efforts to get the basic things right and probably ‘fixing the first thing first,’ have kept the country’s agro-pastoral productivity crippling. Modernising agro-pastoral production, many hold, has the magic wand to lift the sector and boost the national economy. Without being exhaustive, this consists in acquiring new farming equipment, developing high-yielding and pest-resistant seeds, constructing warehouses and developing farm-to-market roads.
It is absurd that much is being said of second-generation agriculture but at the same time still giving farmers hoes, spades, machetes, wheelbarrows and watering canes. Serious thought equally needs to be given to the policy of land acquisition in the country. Plans to rejuvenate farms and farmers can only bear desired fruits when interested people have the required land to practice any agro-pastoral activity of their choice.
The small parcels of family land they have can barely feed their ‘African’ families. The least of issues to handle should not be effectively taking the long-drawn bank for agriculture off the ground. For, no one doubts the fact that manifest will, effective field action coupled with available means to do what is needed have the susceptibility to right the wrongs.