Anne Mireille Nzouankeu | April 8, 2013
Bonaventure Nkemogne measures beans with a glass and then pours them into a plastic bag. Smiling broadly, he says, “I am trying to sell my excess harvest. I had three 25-kilogram bags of beans and more.”
Mr. Nkemogne grows beans and maize in Bafoussam, a city in western Cameroon. He says, “I wanted to stop because my bean crop plants became very susceptible to disease and attacks from caterpillars which gnawed leaves and seedlings.” He was spending too much on insecticides, so as soon as he heard about new disease-resistant varieties he decided to try them.
The Institute of Agricultural Research for Development, also called IRAD, is the agency responsible for conducting agricultural research in Cameroon. Last year, IRAD promoted seven new bean varieties across the country. Mr. Nkemogne attended training sessions and spoke to IRAD agents at the beginning of the 2012 planting season. He selected one of the varieties, Mac-33, because he liked the shape and colour of the beans. He says he owes his good harvest to the new variety.
Between 2006 and 2012, IRAD conducted field tests at their experimental stations and in farmers’ fields. Nguegim Martin is a researcher at IRAD who helped test the new beans. He says the first batches of new seeds were selected and officially released during the 2012-2013 cropping year.
Pierre Tenfouet also works at IRAD. He says: “The performance of these new varieties is doubled. The old seeds produce about one and a half tonnes per hectare while the new seeds produce up to three tonnes per hectare.” The new varieties have been bred to be more nutritious, richer in protein, iron and zinc. The plants are also less susceptible to attacks from pests and disease.
Pierrot Simo is a farmer in Bafoussam. He heard about the new bean varieties but was hesitant at first. He explains: “I’m a little afraid of ‘new.’ First, I want to see the results that others will get before I commit.” But his curiosity led him to try out the new variety. The results were good and his verdict was clear. He says, “The taste is the same as [is] the cooking time. I think the big difference could be in [the] level of productivity.”
Mr. Nkemogne confirms that he has experienced an increase in production. He says that, over the past several years, he harvested about 12 bags of beans. However, in recent years his harvest had declined until he was only harvesting nine sacks.
He says, “With the new variety, I had 15 bags. I’m happy because my goal was mainly not having to spend too much money for the purchase of insecticides.”