Mmuock Leteh, a cosmopolitan village in Wabane subdivision, Lebialem Division, Southwest Region of Cameroon; is one of the country’s highest producers of Irish potato exported to major cities (Bafoussam, Yaounde, Douala) and even to some countries within the Central African Sub-region like Gabon, Equatorial Guinea, Chad, etc. yet unknown to many.
According to a research finding published in the Global Advanced Research Journal of Social Science carried out by a senior lecturer of Geography at the University of Yaounde I, Professor OJUKU TIAFACK, over 85% of the estimated 7000 inhabitants are into agriculture. A large-scale farmer for instance can produced about 420 bags of Irish potatoes (100kg each) per season.
Despite being an important Irish potato hub, most of the inhabitants of the village on the northwestern border with the West Region of Cameroon are yet to make the best out of this activity. The first major problem they encounter is poor state of rural roads, consequently, high transport costs and limited access to wholesale buyers due to the perishable nature of the product and poor communication. A situation that only goes to favor middlemen who enrich themselves at the mercy of the farmers.
The lack of knowledge about current market prices according to the Vice President of the Mmuock Leteh Traditional Council, TANO FOTANG is one of the major reasons most of the farmers have remained poor. They cultivate and harvest hundreds of tons year in year out, which they often sell at very low prices to middlemen who are the only ones to determine the market price.
‘Right now, a 15-litre bucket of Irish potato in Bafoussam town ranges between CFA 4000-5000, but in Mmuock, unscrupulous middlemen are buying the same quantity for CFA 1800, and if it is expensive, it is CFA 2000, something must be done’ one young farmer, Yimnai Blaise Njoutsop who had no choice but to abandoned school due to the socio-political crisis in the Northwest and Southwest Region to come back to his native land to invest in agriculture complain.
High post-harvest losses due to the lack of proper storage facilities has made it very difficult for farmers to store their produce especially during the rainy season when Irish potato supply is more than demand; consequently, low prices. The wish of many farmers is that the government through the Wabane municipal council construct warehouses where they will not only store excesses but equally purchase and store farm inputs to prepare for next farming season. Wishing this will be taken into consideration, the famers remain positive things will change for the better.
Collective action for a brighter future.
Both the internal and external elite of Mmuock Leteh have come to understand that government alone cannot solve all their problems. Reason why they have all become front line actors of participatory development. The first major project that is underway is the creation of an autonomous financial institution, called MULECCUL (Mmuock Leteh Cooperative Credit Union). Natives will be able to easily borrow at low interest rates to finance important projects that can contribute to the development of the area.
They want to work in unison with agro-pastoral counselling programs such as PCP-ACEFA, to enlightened farmers on the need for them to create Common Initiative Groups and Producers Associations to pool farm inputs and outputs, and a greater bargaining power. Provide technical support through extension workers and increased staffing of the Agriculture Post. To further provide certain farm inputs (Via CIGs and agricultural cooperatives), constant and consistent control the price of farm inputs.
The creation of an information service to provide farmers with current information on market conditions is considered an important mechanism to deal with unscrupulous middlemen. This explains why the creation of a community radio station in the village championed by one of the members of elite, TANO FOTANG, backed by the Cultural and Development Association, MULCUDA together with some natives at home and abroad is crucial.
Fertile ground for investors.
The soils are volcanic, fertile and rich for agricultural production. Thanks to this, Mmuock Leteh farmers have over the years won prizes at national agro-pastoral shows in Cameroon: In potatoes, carrots and other vegetables. The soil comprises a vegetable material at the summit (35 cm), followed by a humified horizon of 35 to 40 cm, a tertiary horizon and clayey horizon. Although the main market crops are Irish potato and carrots, a diverse range of crops are produced, such as leek, cabbages, beetroot, garlic, maize and beans. The people are very welcoming, their doors are widely opened for all investors.
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