Nelly Bassily | May 11, 2009
It’s planting season in the village of Souza. In this small community in western Cameroon, women bustle about their fields. Since the middle of March, they have been seeding or planting various crops: cassava, maize, peanuts, and peas.Cassava comes first on Rosalie Ngo Titih’s small parcel of land. She calls cassava the plant that never fails and never lets you down. It’s an important part of her diet. She enjoys it as a tuber, in cakes, and in couscous. No part of the cassava plant goes unused: the leaves serve as vegetables and even the stems are used for firewood.
But Ms. Ngo Titih also has business reasons for making cassava the top crop on her farm. She processes cassava into tapioca for sale. Seated in front of her house next to a 50 kilogram sack of tapioca, Ms. Ngo Titih explains that cassava is her only source of revenue. But it’s not always easy to find buyers. Since cassava is such a popular crop in Souza, supply is often greater than demand.
While Ms. Ngo Titih stayed with cassava, Florette Mbanze made a different decision on her nearby farm. This year, Ms. Mbanze planted very little cassava. Instead, she planted groundnuts.
Compared to crops like cassava, groundnuts produce little food for the amount of farming effort involved. But Ms. Mbanze remains confident in her crop choice. At least groundnuts sell quickly, she adds with pride.
Still, Ms. Mbanze knows there’s risk involved in trying a new crop. Groundnuts require a lot of work and are vulnerable to theft. To compensate for this risk, she decided to dedicate equal parts of her land to a local vegetable called pistache. Like cassava, pistache requires less energy to manage and costs less to grow.