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Saturday, August 25, 2012

UNVDA and the Rice Deficit in Cameroon



Chin Richard: Will he make or mar
After the demise of SODERIM, there are fears that the Upper Noun Valley Development Authority-UNDVA could easily kick the bucket to bit farewell to rice production, processing and marketing. Even though officials of UNVDA are claiming that new rice fields have been developed in Balikumbat and Bafanji while the abandoned fields located at Bamunka, Baba and Babungo respectively have been rehabilitated; the level of skeptic as to whether the kangaroo management system in the Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Development will give room for Ndop rice to resurface on market counters is still very high.
In the past, UNVDA used to run a small shop at the entrance of the main office, but for more than 5 years now, the shop disappeared alongside UNVDA rice on market counters. At some point in time, former Minister of Agriculture, Augustine Federick Kodock (of blessed memory) signed a controversial text transferring the head office of UNVDA from Ndop to Bamenda. The decision almost generated into street rioting yet public opinion holds that the decision was initiated to kill UNVDA like WADA which was never liquidated since closure. What therefore was government’s hidden agenda to transfer UNVDA head office from Ndop to Bamenda?
Before now, UNVDA was producing rice varieties like Tox and Tainan 5 which many Cameroonians enjoyed it tastefulness but the productivity was very low as compared to the demand. Instead of increasing the fields, government was reluctant in disbursing funds for the purchase of rice from farmers. Mysteriously, rice production has remained paper works with government disbursing huge sums as running cost. Nevertheless, the management continuously talks of strategies to increase the quantity and quality of Ndop rice. Recently, the new Manager of UNVDA, Chin Richard was on tree tops announcing the introduction of another new rice variety (NEIRICA) which produces between 5 to 7 tons per hectare as compared to Tox variety which produces between 3 and 5 tons per hectare.
It should be noted that 650.000 tons of rice is needed in Cameroon annually but the country can only produce less than 200.000 tons per year with UNVDA contributing apparently nothing. If not of the land grabbing Chinese rice farmers that have invaded recently Cameroonians would have relied on imported rice. Yet UNVDA has been boosting of enough land for the cultivation of rice. The most pathetic thing is that over 15.000 hectares are still unexploited.
Whereas government had invested hundreds of millions of FCFA to acquire the best hauling machine which according to production statistics is under-utilized. Chin Richard noted that another new variety of rice dubbed, “Irga 417”, has just been imported from Brazil including some equipment but public opinion is still skeptical that as far as farmers are not empowered, all these investments will end up in waste. According to a hint, the Minister of Agriculture and Rural Development is expected in Ndop soon but sources hinted that Minister Essimi Menye’s visit could only create an impact if he (Minister Essimi Menye) dislodges the barriers in his Ministry. Two years ago, an agent was arrested in one of the hotels in Yaounde in connection to funds allocated to UNVDA. According to what we gathered, the man who claimed he a middleman between the Ministry of Agriculture and Ministry of Finance was arrested thanks to Prime Minister Yang Philemon’s muscular intervention. 

When News Breaks Out, We Break In. Minute by Minute Report on Cameroon and Africa

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