ASSERTING CAMEROON AS AFRICA IN MINIATURE
Many describe Cameroon as “Africa in miniature”, asserting that the country offers all the diversity of Africa—in climate, culture, and geography—within its borders. With its varied climates, a wide range of crops are grown across the country.
Agriculture was the main source of growth and foreign exchange until 1978 when oil production replaced it as the cornerstone of growth for the formal economy. Even so, agriculture still remains the backbone of the country’s economy, employing over 70 percent of its workforce, while providing 42 percent of its GDP and 30 percent of its export revenue as of 2004.
Blessed with fertile volcanic soil and regularly abundant rainfall, the South West region produces a variety of agricultural commodities both for export and for domestic consumption.
A great deal could be seen during the 3 days Agro Pastoral Show that took place in Buea; from vegetable and fruits to tuber and livestock and even products made from plant leaves.
Launched in 1985 for the 1st time in the country, the Agro Pastoral Show is held at national (once after 25years) and regional (every year) levels, and is treated with utmost deference. Present for such shows are dignitaries such as the Minister of Agriculture and his entourage. During the show, one can see species you wouldn’t see going to the market every day just for daily shopping; seeds (Gnetum africanum), eggs(snails) and fingerlings(tilapia).
Of the many crop varieties, one particular crop caught my interest. ‘Akwana’; that’s the most I could get of its name, which is a yellowish cocoyam species from the Ndian division. This crop isn’t the usual one used to prepare Achu( typical of the North West ) but with the almost extinction of the Colocasia Species, this crop has been a great replacement for achu coco. It could grow for up to five years (as is this one) or more provided it has the right climatic conditions and nutrition.
The show proceeds with evaluation by an evaluation team from the Ministry of Agriculture and prices are being given out to farmers with the best crops. Mr Mukake, a farmer and president of the Root and Tuber Farmers has won the 1st price for the past 5 years and this year was no exception. His yam tubers could weigh up to fifteen kilograms. Talking to him about it, he said ‘the secret is in the planting and that is what most people don’t get’. He said he digs holes of about 1 meter into the ground, plants the fattest of his yam seedlings and uses the tallest and strongest sticks to stake the yams tendrils. The most difficult part is during the harvesting. You have to dig deep into the ground and carefully so as not to break or wound the yam. Sometimes it takes almost the whole day and about 3 people to successful remove the yam from the ground.
The Agro Pastoral show is held once every year at the regional capital of a region. Thousands are invited to the show and farmers bring the best of their harvest. After the evaluation, the farmers are free to sell their produce at whatever price their product is worth. The products are generally not cheap on such occasions because although in agriculture crops are graded; grade 1, grade 2 and grade 3, during Agro Pastoral show you will see only the Grade One.