Tuesday, June 30, 2015

Watermelon, Market Gardening: Success Story of SURUDEV Sustainable Bio Demonstration Farms Bongom

Kari Jackson and Munkwa Victor
The Sustainable Run for Development-SURUDEV, a not for profit organization based in the North West Region is entering into records in great names. This is so due to the impact SURUDEV is creating through its Sustainable Bio Demonstration Farms located in Bongom, Donga Mantung Division. The farms which habours onion, okro and especially watermelon is at the center of attraction thanks to its uniqueness and innovative approaches. The population of Nkambe town was taken aback when a truck load of watermelons surfaced in the market. The quality and quantity attracted both buyers and admirers. Eye-shopping and inquisitiveness reached its apex when information filtered around that the fruits were not imported into the Division but were just produced in the nearby Bongom village, in Nkambe Central. What was however so interesting was the taste and the quality of fruits says Mary Awudu. "I could not believe these fruits are from Bongom" she concluded.
Like irish potatoes, beans and maize, watermelon is gaining grounds in the North West Region. Donga Manung Division has been in the cold since the invasion of this highly market potential farm produce. Munkwa Victor Fon is one of the experienced farmer who is farm manager at SURUDEV Sustainable Bio Demonstration farms. " I have worked on a watermelons farm in the Littoral region, so when I came back home,  I tried some few plants and the result was wonderful. The flavour was great and that is how we launched this demonstration project".  This cool juicy refreshing fruit is gradually becoming a favourite at meals. It is found at almost every outdoor party and in most food markets. For the first time in Donga Mantung Division, such fruits found selves in villages.
Statistics show that Cameroon was one of the main producers with a total production of 28000 tons in 2002. Presently, although little information is yet available on the production of watermelon in Cameroon, the Donga Mantung has always been one of the areas with no production. No one thought of taking this earlier risk and not to talk of breaking the myth. During the last few weeks, most young men and women in Donga Mantung Division have confessed they would like to be trained in the techniques. SURUDEV's Jackson says they are ready to share their experiences in the “stress free cultivation of watermelon”. This is a local method that farmers will be trained on-farm and implicitly, the method will provide excellent results. The good yield coupled with improved techniques on marketing agricultural produce results in better income for the farmers and thus potential for watermelon business to foster a green economy. This is inline with SURUDEV efforts to promote agroforestry and at the same time sustaining its activities in the field.
 On whether it is profitable, he revealed that the project is on a good footing. "Generally, the benefits will not be much but it will be two times much better than someone who cultivated maize and or beans. We have a ready market, we were at the Nkambe market, Kumbo and the next market day we will be in Ndu" Kari Jackson said.".
The visit to SURUDEV Sustainable Bio Demonstration Farms, Bongom, ignited optimistic views and dashed doubts that the project will go a long way to change the mentality of the people of Donga Mantung Division. Kari Jackson said the idea of setting up the watermelon and onion farm is to stimulate youths into agricultural activities. “The population should be aware that we turn to waste alot of land to cultivate nothing. A farmer can sell watermelon and or onion to buy maize”. He also emphasized that when harvesting will end by July training of youths and women will start by August. "We are actually into marketing and we are looking forward that retailers should come and buy from us on the spot". Munkwa Victor on the other hand disclosed to this reporter that since they started harvesting, the number of people that come just to see whether it is true that watermelon is cultivated in Bongom is about 15 per day.
Harping on the importance demonstrating to the farmers that they were ignorantly sitting on a goldmine, Kari Jackson said that they intend to train atleast 10 to 15 youths every year in the demonstration farms. “We want to change the mindset of women and youths towards farming”. Sustainable agriculture he insisted provides high yields without undermining the natural systems and resources that productivity depends on. In the case of the watermelon and the onion farms, Kari continued that the farms will serve as traning centres for other farmers. On why SURUDEV is going biom Kari outlined that the approach works efficiently with natural processes rather than ignoring or struggling against them – and use the best of current knowledge and technology to avoid the unintended consequences of chemical based agriculture that would destroy the soil. "We are trying to show to farmers that  they can be able to minimize the use of pesticides and fertilizers, thereby saving money and protecting future productivity, as well as the environment", he continued. According to SURUDEV Coordinator, the soil is arguably the single most prized element of agricultural ecosystems. Healthy soil he added teems with life, including many beneficial microbes and insects, but these are often killed off by the overuse of pesticides. " When we launched the agroforestry project, the whole idea was to improve on the soils that can lead to improve yields and produce robust crops less vulnerable to pests. We have tested EM products and this is the results". In the next few months, the demonstration farms will start the marketing of okro, pepper and garlic while transplanting is going on the onion plot estimated at about one ha of land.
The Sustainable Run for Development-SURUDEV, a not for profit organization based in the North West Region is entering into records in great names. This is so due to the impact SURUDEV is creating through its Sustainable Bio Demonstration Farms located in Bongom, Donga Mantung Division. The farms which habours onion, okro and especially watermelon is at the center of attraction thanks to its uniqueness and innovative approaches. The population of Nkambe town was taken aback when a truck load of watermelons surfaced in the market. The quality and quantity attracted both buyers and admirers. Eye-shopping and inquisitiveness reached its apex when information filtered around that the fruits were not imported into the Division but were just produced in the nearby Bongom village, in Nkambe Central. What was however so interesting was the taste and the quality of fruits says Mary Awudu. "I could not believe these fruits are from Bongom" she concluded.




Bongom watermelons
              

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