Helping the rice farmers in Ngoketunjia, Cameroon
BACKGROUND: Farmers increasingly develop their own farms and as such lack basic infrastructure such as irrigation and access roads
Ndop rice is grown in the swampy alluvial Ndop plains in the Ngoketunjia Division in the North West Province of Cameroon. According to official statistics, rice farming currently occupies approximately 2,500 hectares involving over 8,500 farmers (of which approximately 50% are women). Yet, this is less than 25% of the land thought to be available in the plains for rice farming and a fraction of the land thought to be available in the neighbouring regions. Although Cameroon is a net importer of rice (in 2007 the Cameroon spent 80 billion francs importing rice), Cameroon still exports rice to the neighbouring central Africa countries including Chad, Gabon and Equatorial Guinea.
Rice farming is split between the developed farms and the traditional (underdeveloped) farms. The developed farms have been prepared by the government rice corporation, the UNVDA.
The UNVDA (Uppen Nun Valley Development Authority) was set-up by the government of Cameroon for the development of the rice sector in Ngoketunjia (in the catchments of the Nun River). As such during the UNVDA’s 1977 Land Development Program over 2500 hectares of land was developed (of which 1800 hectares is currently being cultivated). The land was cleared and leveled and irrigated by a network of canals sourced by a dam.
However since 1988 the UNVDA’s role changed and the organization in its original form was liquidated. As such the infrastructure has been neglected and the farmers have not receive any technical services. It was only in 2006 that the UNVDA resumed its field work and training. Yet, the UNVDA is chronically under resourced. 12 UNVDA rice inspectors cover an area of approximately 2,500 hectares.
In contrast the traditional farms are estimated at 700 hectares or approximately 30% of the area used for rice cultivation (according to official statistics). However, this is the growth venue within the rice farming activities in Ngoketunjia and this figure does not capture some of the newest farming areas.
For the traditional farms, the land is prepared by the farmers themselves. As such the traditional farms may be lacking in basic infrastructure such as access roads and a well developed irrigation system. For example the farmers may irrigate their fields by breaking the banks of connecting farms to the river and thereby by flooding the entire area. As such the situations may arise where some fields are dry whilst some fields are over flooded. Water level fluctuates and in some cases the fertilizers get washed away. Furthermore, situations have arisen whereby the river has OVERFLOWN and broken its banks and destroyed the farms (at times 10's of farms at a time).
We picked 4 farmers groups and administered a questionnaire to each member of the group.
We surveyed 104 farmers (73% women) over 185 farms. This is what we found.
For the agricultural year of 2007/2008:
• the farmers had applied fertilizers to 62% of their farms
• however, the recommended fertilizer application is to use N-P-K and UREA. The farmers have only applied both N-P-K and UREA to 23% of their farms
• the recommended volume of fertilizer application is 300 kg/hectare. 54% of farmers had applied 150kg/hectare or less. Only 17% of farmers have applied over 250 kg/hectare.
• the farmers had only applied herbicides and pesticides to 44% of their farms
• the farmers had only applied manure or compost to 33% of their farms
• 9% of farms were leveled using tractors, otherwise farmers rely on hoes and matchettes for their work
We asked farmers about their other problems and we found the following:
• 53% of farmers have problems with irrigation
• 73% of farmers have big problems with pests and animals
• 42% of farmers do not have adequate access roads
• 64% of farmers have not had training on the cultivation of rice
Then we asked them about their harvest last year and we found that only 2% of the farmers surveyed had reached or exceeded the expected yield of 6 tonnes/hectare.