Cameroon: Enthusiastic young farmer moves forward despite lack of land

| January 5, 2015

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Machete in hand, Daniel Nkodo inspects each row of his seedlings, potted in plastic bags and lined up in rows. Occasionally, he stoops to pull a weed, then continues his inspection. The thirty-year-old farmer operates a plant nursery in the small town of Obala, 30 kilometres from the capital city, Yaounde.

Mr. Nkodo says cheerfully: “These plants are like my children. I bring them in to the world and I see them grow. I am always proud when I go to a client’s plantation and I see a tree that came out of my nursery.”

Mr. Nkodo is the third child in a family of nine, his parents now deceased. He remembers: “I grew up in agriculture. My father was a labourer and sometimes we would help in the fields. It is through agriculture that we [were able to eat] at home and we could go to school.”

After weeding his seedlings, Mr. Nkodo takes a watering can and waters each plant carefully. He says: “When I put … a seed in the ground and after a while I see the maize cobs grow, I feel great joy. There are no words to explain this feeling. That’s why I am passionate about agriculture.”

When he was young, Mr. Nkodo’s father had no land and no money to buy land. Mr. Nkodo dreamt of becoming a great farmer with many hectares of crops. But he has not been able to make this dream come true.

The cheapest land in the area costs about 2,000 Central African francs ($4.20 US) per square metre. At this price, one hectare would cost two million francs ($4,200 US). A buyer must also pay ten per cent of the value to the notary, and there are several taxes and fees. Mr. Nkodo says, “It is very expensive to have a piece of land. I do not have that money, and I do not want to be a farm worker like my father.”

So Mr. Nkodo started a plant nursery. He completed a short internship at another nursery and then set up his own small business in the courtyard of his family’s home. He has quickly established a customer base.

Jean Iréné Ombédé is one of his clients. Mr. Ombédé farms eight hectares of land and is a regular visitor to Mr. Nkodo’s nursery. He says: “I like to stock up at Daniel’s [nursery] as he is always cheerful and has contagious enthusiasm. He does not give the impression of being there only for money. We feel that he loves what he does.”

Mr. Nkodo’s nursery sells many kinds of fruit trees. With the income from his nursery, he is able to take good care of his wife and two children.

But unfortunately, his chances of buying more land are dwindling. Despite this difficulty, Mr. Nkodo always wears a smile. His future may well be dependent on the government. He says: “We need the state to reduce the cost of buying land. You shouldn’t apply the same rules to both smallholders and large enterprises. It seems unfair to me.”

Mr. Nkodo concludes: “I’m saving to … buy a small plot of land, but it is a bit complicated with my debts. I dreamed of becoming a great farmer, but now I would be very happy if I could at least become a small farmer.”

(Originally published on May 19, 2014)