Cameroon: Housewife achieves dream of becoming a farmer

| May 11, 2015

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With a machete in one hand and a stick in the other, Teresa Biakolo is clearing a plot of land. She explains: “For the last year and a half, with the help of a project called New Generation, I have developed this one-hectare farm. I planted cocoa and plantains. This coming year, I am going to increase my acreage, which is why I am clearing this land.”

Mrs. Biakolo farms in Mbalmayo, a city in the Central Region of Cameroon. The former housewife had always wanted to start a farm to earn some money, but had no start-up capital. The 32-year-old says, “It takes money to get into farming. You have to buy seeds, agro-chemicals and other products. I didn’t have that money. I didn’t think that I would ever fulfill my dream.”

Then Mrs. Biakolo heard about New Generation. The project is run by the Conseil Interprofessionnel du Cacao et du Café, or CICC, Cameroon’s largest group of cocoa and coffee professionals.

Omer Maledy is the Executive Secretary of CCIC. He says: “New Generation aims to rejuvenate both the workforce and the farms by encouraging young people to invest in cocoa and coffee farming.” The project trains young people and provides them with enough money to establish a farm of at least one hectare over three years.

Since 2012, New Generation has trained more than 700 young people and helped create nearly 1,800 hectares of farmland. Mr. Maledy is delighted with the results. He says, “This is a good opportunity for young people, who don’t often find the help they need to get into agriculture.”

Mrs. Biakolo grabbed her opportunity and signed up for the project. Until her cocoa trees are ready for harvest, the young mother of four has already harvested her plantains. Smiling broadly, she says, “I am really proud of this farm. It’s something concrete I have made with my own hands.”

Her success has inspired some of her neighbours. Sylvain Modo is a motorcycle taxi driver who lives near Mrs. Biakolo. He says: “Having seen [Mrs. Biakolo’s] experience, I’m tempted to get into agriculture. I feel that the soil is more profitable than the motorbike.”

Mrs. Biakolo sold her plantain harvest for 700,000 Central African francs [$1,210 U.S.]. She says: “I saved some of that money. With the rest, I bought a gas stove to replace my old kerosene stove. I also bought new cooking pots, and clothes and new shoes for my children.”

Photo credit: Anne Mireille Nzouankeu