Chede Cameroon – assistance to village farmers

By Denise Nanni and Milena Rampoldi, ProMosaik. The next interview we would like to introduce you to today was conducted with Chede in Cameroon. Chede assists farmers in villages in Cameroon. Would like to thank Michael for this time and important information.
Can you tell me more about how Chede was founded and in which context?
The Chede Cooperative Union which currently assists village farmers to  raise food and agricultural productivity, process, and market their  production, originates from “the agric project” which was founded in  1986 by local stakeholders to serve as an institutional and  technological pilot for agricultural and community development in  Muambong, an agrarian village community in Kupe Muanenguba division of  Anglophone South West region of Cameroon (map attached). The project  aimed to mitigate the financial losses and hardships suffered by village farmers as a result of the African and Cameroonian commodity and economic crises of the 1980s and 1990s and the attendant structural adjustment programmes administered by the world bank, international monetary fund, and major bilateral development partners – especially USA and EU countries.
What kind of training and advices do you offer to farmers?
Chede’s training and advisory services to its member cooperatives,  which group over 10’000 individual smallholders, consist of:

2.1 – technical capacity building, including agronomic principles of soil conservation, plant protection against pests and epidemics, seed science and technology, crop production, application of farm inputs, mechanized solutions where appropriate, etc.; and

2.2 – institutional capacity building, including, for our primary coops, issues of cooperative governance and management consistent with the national cooperative law and the requirement for regular general assembly and board meetings and proper documentation, share capital issues, cost and financial accounting guidelines; and for individual farmers, issues of transition from subsistence farming to commercial, contract-based production, managing a farm as a business enterprise with strategic and operating plans and budgets, accounting and audit systems to reduce risks of failure and enhance transparency and predictability of farm operations, etc.


What are the main challenges that farmers and agriculture face in Cameroon?

The challenges are many – as summarized in attached articles – “is the  African farmer an endangered species?” and ” Cameroon coffee sector: value chain or broken chain”. for chide in particular we need strategic business partners willing to invest with us at production and food manufacturing/industry levels, and also facilitate profitable market openings for our products. we need expertise and partnerships at these three levels – agronomic, food processing and packaging, and distribution, as well as exports to the regional and global levels

What are the benefits of establishing a network among farmers?

This exists already through Chede Cooperative Union which is a federal or umbrella farmer organization at the service of over 10 village-based farmer cooperatives with an aggregate membership of over 10’000 smallholders and more still signing up.

Do you cooperate with local authorities and institutions? if yes, how?

Of course we do since we serve as the field operating arm of the Cameroon ministry of agriculture and rural development (minader), but our cooperation is hobbled by institutional bottlenecks caused mostly by the excessive centralization of government programmes and extension services targeted to village farmers, whereas Chede’s strategic focus is on village-oriented or village-sensitive development approaches that place the village farmer at the front and centre of national agricultural development strategies, which may be the case on paper but not in the actual implementation of such strategies. that’s the problem in Cameroon and many other African countries because of limited institutional space for local self-governments and community empowerment.

As priority, we need a partner of several for our robusta coffee (initially 500 tonnes per annum rising to 1000 tonnes over the next five years) and cocoa beans (1000 tonnes initially rising to 2000 tonnes over five years) with the option of local processing or value addition prior to exports.

We have other major projects in the pipeline with some European partners, especially the production and dissemination of improved seeds of food crops; and cassava value chain development from production to processing, packaging and marketing. other partners would be most welcome.

The benefits of networking village smallholders within a federal cooperative farmer organization like Chede are multiple, including the following:

1. aggregating and multiplying individual farmer capacities in several critical areas such as bargaining with government for provision of normative public goods and services – especially rural infrastructure including transport and communication systems – now mostly concentrated in urban and industrial economic centres, negotiating for government 
subsidies, or for improved quality and efficiency of national agricultural extension services and research outputs;

2. bargaining with banks for farm credits at affordable and reasonable interest rates and payment conditions for village smallholders;

3. bargaining with insurance companies for special policies tailored to village smallholders and their farming environment increasingly stressed by climate-change events, risks and other uncertainties;

4. negotiating with supplier companies for bulk acquisition of farm inputs, especially fertilizer;

5. undertaking systematic and large-scale pro-farmer advocacy activities, including publications and conferences, use of the mass media to advertise the crucial role of the village farmer in our nation-building process, or farmer produce promotional activities such as trade fairs and product exhibitions, which are all activities beyond the institutional and financial capacities of individual village farmers;

6. identifying and formulating comprehensive and integrated projects, especially infrastructure, production, marketing, or quality certification projects, which target the needs of all or most smallholders of a given community, and where individual farmers very often lack state-of-the-art expertise needed to develop such projects on their own;

7. uniting village farmers under a single brand name such as Chede provides the additional advantage of easy brand marketing and recognition locally and globally, which helps with marketing, sales, and revenues for all farmers concerned.