Monday, December 10, 2012

UNVDA, FCFA 11 Billion and The Deficit In Rice Production (1)

By Fai cassian
The culture, attitudes, norms, values, mind settings and needs of local people are some of the important factors that must be taken into deliberation before any development project is launched. This is true both at local and national levels. Indeed, it is one of the major reasons behind our underdevelopment and why government funds allocated for development usually end in private pockets. Every subject has its own requirement of money. A budget doesn’t decide the fate of a structure. Exaggerated budgets don’t guarantee any success at all. During the last Board meeting of the Upper Noun Valley Development Authority-UNVDA that took place recently at the Ayaba Hotel in Bamenda, it management was trying to make it budget appear like a virtue. 
Yet Prime Minister Yang Philemon told MPs last week that government is relying on SEMRY and the infamous UNVDA of Ndop (Northwest) as well as small rice producers at Tonga in the West Region to double rice production by 2015 from 100 000 tonnes to about 205 000 tonnes. But yet, this dream could be far fetched if all the necessary monitoring tools are not put in place, one MP told this reporter on phone.
When Prime Minister Yang Philemon made this statement on Monday, November 26, 2012, at the National Assembly, technicians of the Ministry of Agriculture have already started producing rice in their offices on papers just to embezzle state funds.
It is really pathetic that rice, which has become one of the most consumed foods in Cameroon, is mainly imported from China, Pakistan and even the United States of America.
The results of the balance of payment in 2010 published earlier this year by the Ministry of Finance, show rice imports have cost 600 billion FCFA in Cameroon that year, approximately 1/16 of the national budget. What a shame!!
It isn’t because experts have proven that for a programme to succeed especially in rural areas there is a need for a strong story at the core and everything else is secondary. However, a critical judgment analysis shows that big budgets become unmanageable when it targets larger investments and that is why rice farmers in Ndop may doubt the sustainability of such a vision. And here, the UNVDA management is a case in point. This is an urgent situation, particularly as far as state funding is concerned for the coming fiscal years.
If UNVDA should choose a different direction, rice farmers deserve to know what this new direction will be, and they need to know sooner rather than later their roles.
With much money available on UNVDA plate, and in no particular order we believe farmers should be at the top of the structures to-do list for the next three years which seemingly is not the case.
UNVDA, we gathered is already suffering a culture where access to deeper secrets conveys higher status. This phenomenon as we learnt is already putting board members on the other end and management at the other end. Indicators are rife at UNVDA that some people have already classified themselves as the "get ahead" in the culture of secrecy in order to use it for personal advancement and riches. Some tribes have been selected and are being treated as priorities while others have been reduced to second class.
Knowledge is power; they say and for many insiders access to classified information is the chief source of their power which is making some board members to raise doubts on the colossal 11 billion FCFA voted despite the fact that they might face the tide. It is not surprising that secrecy in management may eventually lead to corrupt practices, giving that corruption is a progressive disease and it diffuses from person to person. One of the most important impacts of corruption from secrecy is on the making of major technical decisions like the development of rice farms, acquisition of heavy duty equipment and the well established network between the Ministry of Finance and Agriculture that almost disappeared with 600 million FCFA earmarked for UNVDA some years ago. Thank God PM Philemon Yang intervened and the so-called middle man was arrested in one of the hotels in Yaounde.
However, the present state of affairs of UNVDA continues to make one to wonder whether sitting in an air conditioned room at a distant office and prescribing policies could influence rice production in anyway. But what is so tough to include farmers in designing what they are suppose to be key actors instead of convincing them about the importance of the program. Why is it that incorporating their views worrisome? Nonetheless, the most interesting thing is that a total sum of 11 billion FCFA was budgeted to improve rice production for three years and we are aware that in the next few months more groups will be fabricated by the same people who siphoned maize support grants to farmers for their pockets. Accordingly we gathered from a member of the Board that during the board meeting some board members even questioned their role as board members when some information is hidden from them, "I am shocked that as member of the Board we do not have access to some information. I believe we are members of a Ngomba and it is our duty to know everything and every detail" he argued. Yet the general manager Chin Richard Winkar said there are possibilities of increasing farm land from the presence 2532 hectares’ to 7.500 hectares. UNVDA he claims has prepared over 3.000 hectares’ and is expected to produce about 15.000 tons of paddies. As to how the 11 billion FCFA budgeted by UNVDA still keeps it as a secret because an action plan has not yet been developed. One wonders how a budget of 11 billion FCFA was established without an action plan for three years. Necessity as they say is the mother of invention, so we are not very far from concluding that the figures were concocted and invented since it was very necessary.
However, for farmers to enjoy the sweat of their labour and for consumers to savour the flavor of Ndop as well as government vision to be sustainable, there is an urgent need for a mechanism on budget tracking to be put in place to check excesses at UNVDA. If not in the next three years the Biya regime would have invested in to private pockets again. Thus making Prime Minister Yang Philemon the utmost wounded person and laughing stalk for being unable to meet up with the target of producing the expected results.
Up Next: Inside UNVDA the Untold story……

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