Jean Pierre Ndinga | June 16, 2014
Like most women in her part of Pointe-Noire, Annie* is a farmer and her husband a fisherman. Annie has grown cassava, groundnuts and maize for many years. She set aside some of her harvest for home use and sold the rest. She earned up to 500,000 Central African francs a year (more than $1,000 US) from her hectare of cassava.
This was enough to meet some of her family’s needs, especially important if her husband failed to land a good catch. She explains, “I could buy soap and kerosene, or school supplies for our three children.”
But for the last couple of years, Annie has not planted any crops. She says: “I had spent nearly 100,000 CFA francs ($200 US) on clearing, weeding and harvesting, but the neighbour’s goats, sheep and pigs would come repeatedly and eat or uproot the cassava.”
Discouraged by the continual destruction of her crops, Annie is trying to make ends meet by re-selling cassava in the small local market. But her profits are very small.
Like many other local farmers, Annie saw no point in prosecuting the owners of the foraging animals. She says: “You know that in our country, farmers and herders have the same problems. I could make a complaint. But would they find the money to compensate me?”
Rather than pursue her case through the legal system, she gave up farming. Annie says, “Some think it’s an admission of impotence. But we must preserve harmony in the village.”
Jean Claude Itsoua Sayi is a socio-cultural advisor to the mayor of the village. He is aware of the damage caused by stray animals. He states: “We have resolved to compel farmers to keep their animals in pens. This measure, which is not yet in force, will allow all farmers to carry out their agricultural activities in peace.” Mr. Sayi says the plan will come into effect in one year.
In the meantime, Annie makes only 5,000 francs ($10 US) profit from re-selling 100 cassava tubers. She regrets that she is no longer able to farm. She says, “On one hand, my body no longer aches. But on the other, I no longer earn what I did.”
*Editors’ note: Annie is not the farmer’s real name. To protect her from harm, we have used a pseudonym.