New methods of farming coupled with new technologies are transforming productivity in agriculture as a new startup in Cameroon has found out. Will mass adoption turn Cameroon into the giant of agriculture it once was? Richard Atem-Ojong finds out.
Cameroon's GreenHouse Ventures (GHV) is increasing its food production across the country, building multiple greenhouses in each region and extending the technology to other parts of Africa. GreenHouse Ventures has built hundreds of greenhouses in Cameroon, and several neighbouring African countries within the past year alone.
Agriculture contributes about 14.2% to Cameroon's GDP, employs close to 58% of the country's labour force and uses over 13% of the country's total arable land. Still the country imports 80% of all staple foods.
As in most countries on the continent, food production is still mostly considered a rural activity in Cameroon. World Bank statistics indicate the Cameroon has about 2m small family farms complementing the country's few industrial plantations and some large private farms. "Because commercial farming is underdeveloped, Cameroon imports large quantities of food. Yet it has great potential to meet its food demand and improve the living conditions of the rural population," a 2016 World Bank report said.
Developments in the past years may mean that Cameroon's agriculture sector could finally be living up to its true potential. "Second generation" processes and methods are enabling better yields and providing alternative solutions to imported food. Greenhouse technology has been effectively used to increase food production in many parts of the country.
Greenhouse technology is nothing new. Cameroon's first greenhouse was built in 1995 by the Institute of Agricultural Research for Development (IRAD). However the project failed to deliver the expected results and consequently, the government abandoned the project.
Twenty years after this prototype, in 2015, a young Cameroonian, Roland Fomundam, who had just completed a Master of Science in Technological Entrepreneurship from North Eastern University in the USA, returned home with a plan to commercialise the use of greenhouses. He started GHV in his village in Bali, North West Region of Cameroon. He started experimenting by planting basic food crops like tomatoes, cabbages, peppers and other vegetables.
Five years down the line, he has extended its use to all but the three of the northernmost regions of the Cameroon. , GHV has...