Contributed by Mbei Nhoabi Abuno, YALI Network member from Cameroon
Since 1979, Cameroonian cocoa and coffee farmers have enjoyed the benefits of farmers cooperatives with the mission of organizing the production and marketing of the agricultural cash produce of their members. Our farmers cooperatives are generally characterized by a group of people who come together to pool their resources for the purpose of higher returns on their investments.
Recently, tomato farmers in Muea celebrated the fruitful collaboration in running farmers cooperatives, as has long been the case in the Western Highlands of Cameroon. This area has a predominantly peasant, subsistence farmer population who are always developing strategies to lessen their reliance on outside support. Recently, when faced with commodity price fluctuations and product quality concerns, some tomato farmers and sellers in Southwest Cameroon came together under an association called Muea Tomato Farmers and Sellers Association for the purpose of combating adversaries to their farming ventures. Tomato growing is a profitable venture that is also capital-intensive and demands close surveillance.
The group instituted the following activities, which were designed to benefit the farmers:
- Members served as guarantors for each other, which allowed the sourcing of low-interest loans for members’ projects to become easier.
- The bulk purchase of inputs and sharing amongst members — including fertilizers, pesticides and irrigation equipment for off-season cropping — ensured individual farmers paid less for inputs.
- The collective examination and analysis of individual farm problems and synchronized farm operations, including pest management, gave members the opportunity for proper diagnosis of production constraints and appropriate handling.
- Seminars and updates on recent best practices, including integrated pest management, pesticide application and equipment handling, kept farmers regularly updated on global trends.
- Setting produce standards and commodity price negotiations gave participating farmers fair market competition with tomatoes from other production areas.
What impact did this cooperative have on farmers?
Farmers who joined the umbrella association were supported and as a result were able to double their farm size per family from an average of about 0.2 hectares to a new average of 0.4 hectares. With the introduction of high-yielding cultivars, which were sourced by the group, production has also more than doubled from 12.5 tons per farm to 30 tons per family farm. These changes produced an increase in gross sales from about 1 million francs CFA to 3 million francs CFA per family, per crop. The resulting profits were also observed to have increased without necessarily having to double the cost of production.
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