The International Festival of Cameroonian Cocoa took place in Yaounde, from 11 to 15th of August, this year. The purpose for the festival, was to rejuvenate farms and farmers in cocoa and coffee sectors, in the country. Cameroon, which is the world 5th largest cocoa producer, produced 225000 tons of cocoa in the year 2013/2014, and is expected to produce 230000 tons by the end of 2016. Cocoa is one of the main cash crops in Cameroon, and the South West Region accounts for up to 70% of the nation's cocoa.
In 2011, Breaking Ground started a project in Wabane, one of our partner villages in the South West Region, to educate them on how to improve on the quantity and quality of cocoa in their community. We distributed cocoa plants to the farmers, and this year, they have harvested more cocoa than ever. Despite all these, the farmers complain that, they face a lot of challenges during cocoa production.
To begin with, most of the farmers in this village are poor, and cannot buy pesticides and fungacides to spray their crops, so this leads to fungal attacks like mirids and brown pod diseases, that could account for 30% loss in production.
In addition, the South West Region is known for heavy and prolonged rains, and little sunshine, thus,cocoa beans take longer to dry, or do not completely get dry. Because of this, the farmers resolve to use locally made firewood ovens, built with mud bricks, which burn the cocoa beans. The ovens also produce smoke, which deteriorates the quality of the beans.
Also, the farmers complain of poor farm-to-market roads. Rain has rendered most roads from cocoa farms impassable. During rainy seasons, from Dschang, one can take 2 to 3 days to get to Wabane and it costs about 15000FRS. Farmers sell their crops at very cheap prices to local buyers, because they cannot afford to pay trucks that transport crops to big markets .
Breaking Ground encourages us all to support these farmers because, cocoa production offers significant oppotunities for poverty alleviation, and sustainable development if the necessary infrastructure and support is facilitated.