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Cameroon: Water Insufficiency Hampers Food Production

Aaron Kaah Yancho
July 07, 1013

Agriculture is the main source of livelihood for all families in Cameroon Rural areas. Over the past years rapid urbanization has been placing a stress on the existing water sources and infrastructure in the country. Mounting pressures on these natural resources has also led to land and water degradation. Yet with the population growth, food crop production will need to increase by at least 60% to meet demand. Interpreting this subtext will mean more water will be needed to boast this sector.

The (International Decade for Action, “Water for Life”, 2005-2015) presents an opportunity to promote a sustainable water management in Agriculture and to eradicate poverty and care for the earth.

2013 is International Year of Water Cooperation

2013 is International Year of Water Cooperation

Statistics prove that irrigation farming systems which represent only 20% of the world’s farmland produces about 40% of the world food supply and 60% of cereals much more than rain fed agriculture.

The longer dry seasons in Cameroon (4 months in the coastal regions of Cameroon and 7 months in the Sudano Sahel regions) has been hampering rain fed Agriculture very severely.

In the Ngokentujia division of the North West Region of Cameron Rice production use to be a predominant food staple. The scarcity of water in this plain has made rice production very difficult. More than 80% of farmers in the area now lack a primary source of a staple and income.

Mary Nyagha Ngum is a subsistent farmer who today is not undermining the role that fresh water and rain had played in the cultivation of rice in the area.

“We didn’t think protecting the water sources upstream was important until now,” she remarks.

The overcutting of trees upland affected the water catchments that supplied fresh water for this farming. The creation of the Upper Noun Valley Development Authority (UNVDA) to reinvigorate rice farming and to development drought resistant species have not helped things. Water scarcity and the high temperatures have continued to mar the sector.

In the coastal Regions of Cameroon and some parts of the North West Region one in five farmers depended upon fishing farming for a direct livelihood. Today more than 70% of fish stocks are already depleted in these regions. This is already posing serious challenges to this main food source which was also providing employment opportunities.

“I now depend only on imported fish to have my meals well prepared,” Isaiah Ngufor a Fish Farmers in the region says.

Some needy farmers who cannot afford an income like Isaiah to buy this fish virtually feel cheated either by nature or circumstances. Water has become just these farmers’ biggest needs. The changing rainfall patterns and the stultifying effects of climate changes predict no good thing in the near future.

Along the Lake Chad river basin the overexploitation of water for irrigation by some development organizations has drained all wetlands upstream leaving the farmers downstream stressed.

“This has been posing a big challenge to the sustainability of farming in the area,” Micheal Nouh, a researcher working for Green Peace in the area remarks.

Dried up Part of Chad Lake Basin

Dried up Part of Chad Lake Basin

Along the coastal region of the country where most cocoa, rubber and banana plantations are located the inappropriate use of chemicals fertilizers in these farms has led to the pollution of streams and rivers habitat for endangered animals species like snails which are a high protein and money source for the local farmers.

Joe Nchemty, a member of one of the common initiative groups working to eradicate poverty in this community says the loss of these snail habitats has deprived the communities of their main traditional meals. “We are suffering,” Joe says.

Like everywhere in the world where water is actually needed to move agriculture, greater efforts are needed to help these farmers produce more food of better quality with less water. Only then can local governments be proud to be fighting poverty and caring for the earth.

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