Cameroon has been experiencing a complex humanitarian crisis since 2013 with the number of food insecure people doubling since 2015 from 1.1 million to 2.7 million. Currently 57% of rural people live in poverty.

This is partly due to the Lake Chad crisis that has seen unsustainable water management and climate change reduce the lake’s surface area by 90%.

Due to erratic weather conditions driven by climate change agricultural production in Cameroon has declined and farmers have struggled to maintain their livelihoods.

Cameroon was largely self-sufficient in food 20 years ago but it now imports a large number of basic food supplies.

However, a new government supported initiative is providing farmers with relief through better crop seeds.

The Southwest Development Authority, a Cameroonian organisation, has partnered local farmer organisations to offer small-scale farmers seeds that can withstand harsher weather conditions.

The project began in 2014 and has since established over 24 multiplication farms for crops across Cameroon for crops including maize, cassava, beans, yams and plantain.

The project has reportedly increased crop production to support processing and export jobs.

Christopher Ekungwe, regional delegate of agriculture and rural development for Cameroon’s Southwest region commented:

“For agriculture to be successful, it starts with quality planting material.”

Farmers in the region have reported that the project and new seeds have prevented their crops from failing due to climate change and have boosted their incomes.

The seeds provided by The Southwest Development Authority mature in 90-100 days, much faster than the traditional seeds used in the area, which take 130-150 days to mature. The faster maturity period reduced the chance of the crops being damaged by droughts.

Between 2012-2015 Cameroon suffered a number of severe droughts that resulted in a significant price increase for seeds.

The Southwest Development Authority offers farmers the opportunity to purchase a range of seeds at a lower cost if they join a cooperative. The cooperatives share the cost of large-scale seed purchases, thereby cutting individual costs by a substantial amount.

To date, 63 farming groups with 70,000 members have been established. The Southwest Development Authority reports that over 70,000 tonnes of maize seeds, 20,000 tonnes of bean seeds and 15,000 yam were distributed to farmers in 2017.

However, the programme has faced some challenges, for example: the seeds have proven most successful in cooler areas of Cameroon and the Southwest Development Authority has been unable to distribute seeds to all farmers who could benefit from them.

Peter Epie Ngalle, SOWEDA’s director of monitoring and evaluation said:

“If we could have enough seeds to deal with individual smallholder farmers and supply them on time, the results would have been twice what is obtained now.”