Sunday, May 4, 2014

How UNVDA is Enhancing Food Security in Cameroon

By Fai Cassian Ndi
Of the several crops introduced to the Ndop ecological zone, rice has had the most profound impact on the people and the economy. This is no laughing or joking matter given the quantity of rice served on tables every morning, at breakfast, afternoon at launch and evening at dinner. The unwavering attention paid to the cultivation of rice by government in its second generation agricultural policy and by the local farmers has transformed the sector into a veritable asset to alleviate poverty and enhance food security.  Its ubiquity and the proportion of the population engaged in its cultivation are all indices of its importance.
For all practical purposes, the introduction of large scale farms has had a marked influence on the dietary habits of the people of Ndop. Apart from extending the variety of food stuffs available to the people of Ndop, the introduction of these crops have helped in breaking the myth surrounding crops especially as it was in past considered as the Whiteman’s preserve and or a food reserve during Christmas. Rice therefore has been accorded a special social status to the farmers involved in the enterprise.
Created in 1970 with general objectives to reduce poverty, contribute to food security, and increase agricultural production and productivity, the Upper Nun Valley Development Authority-UNVDA is going into records for its strive to improve lives, enhancing food security and sufficiency in Cameroon . As part of their activities to mark this year’s World Press Freedom Day, North West journalists grouped under the umbrella the Cameroon Association of English Speaking Journalists-CAMASEJ stormed UNVDA Headquarters to discover the marvels linked to rice production.  The 30 journalists who were led by their the National Vice President of CAMASEJ, Choves Loh and Rose Oba arrived Ndop at about 10 am and were received by the officials of UNVDA. Instead of dinning and wining, North West journalists were more practical in their choice of embarking on a development venture that would trigger rice cultivation in the region. 
Boosting Productivity
Eco farms
In presenting the structure, Chin Richard Winkar disclosed to the visiting journalists that UNVDA operates in two regions (Bui, Ngoketunjia and Mezam Division of the North West Region and in the Noun and Bamboutous of the West Region). The general objectives, he added are geared towards reducing poverty in its areas of intervention, contribute to food security and increase agricultural production and productivity. Besides, he also said that UNVDA strategic objectives are aimed at facilitating the processing and marketing of farmers’ produce; as well as improving access to rural infrastructure for farmers in their area of intervention. In order to success in ensuring sustain actions in the management of natural resources of the area, the General Manager of UNVDA disclosed that plans are underway to transform all the farmer’s professional groups into cooperatives.
Harping on some of the major realizations of the development Authority, the General Manager revealed that UNVDA is currently working with close to 12,000 farmers. “As at 2014, UNVDA has moved from 2,500 ha of land developed to 3,000 ha out of the potential 15,000ha of marshy land reserved for rice cultivation”, he continued. “ Two years ago our farmers produced between 14,000 and 15,000 tons of paddy and now we have about 16,000 tons (in stock) which shows that we have stepped up from about 04 tons per ha to 5.5 tons worth of paddy rice”. According to the General Manager of UNVDA, Chin Richard Winkar, during the 2013 harvest for instance, paddy purchase was 4,730 tons as against 2,696 tons purchase in 2012.
On the other hand, Jacob Ndichia who accompanied journalists to the rice fields said that close to 3000 ha of land have been rehabilitated for rice production. Besides, he also revealed that mechanized agriculture is given that UNVDA is putting 16 tractors at the disposal of farmers as well as qualified extension workers, quality seeds and farm inputs. Implicitly, with mechanized system, one hectare of land will require just about 20 kilograms of seed as compared to 35 kilograms when it is done manually. Moreso, the introduction of upland rice production is also expected to increase rice production. The development of farms to market roads, the rehabilitation of the dams and water canals in the farms and plots have impacted on rice production.
Serving Quality Products to Consumers
stock of paddy rice
Harping on the commercialization and marketing strategies, UNVDA puts at the disposal of consumers numerous finished products. Its finished products include-Natural white rice, parboiled rice, upolished rice, and the by-products notably, broken rice, rice bran and rough rice bran which are the top most qualities. In order to be attractive in the market, rice is packaged by adopting very attractive and bio-degradable sachets. Statistics from the commercial department indicate that about 2, 216, 557 tons of rice were sold in 2013 as compared to 1,306,735 tons in 2012. The distribution of rice has been stratified with the opening of two shops, the UNVDA gate shop and the Douala shop located at old Bonaberi road. It should be noted UNVDA has wholesalers in all the ten regions of Cameroon.
Chin Emmanuel Winkar says these successes have been registered given the acquisition of modern and new equipment such as the combined planter/harvester, the modernization of the rice mill which has been existed for the past 30 years. The availability of a rice mill with the capacity of processing 3.5 tons per hour and introduction of two cropping seasons will increase production tremendously. In mitigating climate change, UNVDA according to its General Manager has also introduced ecological farming systems thanks to its collaboration with Eco-Farms Cameroon. This partnership with ECO-farms which stands for Ecological Conscious Farming, according to the management is currently working with a team from Brazil that also deals in rice cultivation.  
ready to consume rice
It should be noted that Cameroon imports approximately 600.000 tons of rice per year. This is due to the high demand given that Cameroon produces only about 180.000 tons per year. Yet indicators are rife at that what comes into the country in the name of rice is all buffer stuck; rice that has been in the store for over 10-15 years.

However, rice farmers are of the opinion that UNVDA needs to revise its input supply programme given that they prices are the same with market prices. Notwithstanding, an official debunked the accusation, adding that UNVDA gives out inputs to farmers on credit; interest free whereas in the market they pay cash. Mami Christina a farmer in Bamuka Ndp appreciated the reforms in UNVDA. To her, gone-by are the days that they use to
give their produce to UNVDA and wait for months before payment is made. "I can gladly tell you that things have changed, our live-styles too. I am able to pay school fees for my kids, hospital bills and even save something at the end of every harvest. In the past it was hand to mouth but today we are gradually into business", she concluded.
Yet perspectives are high at UNVDA expanding the rice farms from 3000 ha to 7000 ha by 2016. Chin Richard says this will include the introduction of upland rice farming/ rain –fed rice which will enable farmers to move from “rooms” to large scale cultivation so as to facilitate land preparation. Speculations as to why this initiative has not reached the Mbaw Plain and Ako in Donga Mantung Division whereas the area also habours good potentials that are suitable for rice farming.

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