In Cameroon, over 8,000 cassava, maize and sorghum farmers are increasing their production to supply national food companies © Elias Ntungwe Ngalame
Through the establishment of partnerships between producer organisations and local food companies, subsistence production of cassava, maize and sorghum in Cameroon is being transformed into commercially-orientated and competitive value chains. As part of a public-private sector initiative, farmers are being supplied with improved seeds in order to increase production and provide quality raw materials to national bakeries and breweries. As a result, over 8,000 farmers are now accessing steady and reliable markets, while the local businesses have been able to significantly reduce their import bills for flour and raw products.
Established in 2014, the World Bank Agricultural Investment and Market Development Project (PIDMA) has developed a partnership agreement between the Ministry of Agriculture and nine private companies within the brewing and bakery sectors. With funding of €76 million, PIDMA is also working with research partners from the International Institute of Tropical Agriculture on providing improved cassava varieties, and the Institute of Agricultural Research for Development in Cameroon, which is supplying high-yielding and disease-resistant maize and sorghum seeds.
As part of the partnership agreement, local agri-food companies use the raw materials supplied by the producer organisations for making cassava flour and starch. Over 200 local bakeries now use the flour within their bread, while the starch is used by Nestlé, for example, to make products such as Maggi bouillon cubes, as well as by Guinness Cameroon and Brasseries du Cameroon in the production of beer. As a result, the companies involved have seen their overall expenditure reduced by over 50% due to a significant decrease in importation costs. “Farmers of these staple crops are now successful because they have a steady market for their products, while the companies have cut production costs,” says Christopher Ekungwe, regional delegate of agriculture and rural development for Cameroon’s south-west region.
Through the provision of quality seed and greater access to local markets, maize and sorghum farmers are also increasing their incomes. Alice Ngum, a maize farmer from Buea in south-west Cameroon says she now earns around FCFA 475,000 (€720) per season – triple the profit she made before the initiative. “In the past, we sold our products at a give-away price and we could not even negotiate with buyers who offered little because we were desperate,” she says. With the proceeds from selling her improved maize, Ngum has built a house and is now able to pay for her children’s school fees.
According to the Ministry of Trade, each year brewing companies and bakeries are using an estimated 400,000 t, 300,000 t and 20,000 t of locally produced maize, sorghum and cassava, respectively. Officials at Brasseries du Cameroon say the project has created a win-win system for both farmers and companies, “The initiative to localise the market for maize and sorghum has been very profitable for all stakeholders, allowing for local supply to the companies and immediate sale of produce for the farmers,” says Julius Wysenyuy, regional director for sales at Brasseries south-west branch.