New commodities for Cameroon

When cocoa falters, vegetable crops can provide a stable food supply and increase income.

WorldVeg trainer Lyliane Pousseu (left) and cocoa farmer Yaya Youssoufa check the vegetable crops flourishing on Yaya’s farm. “By growing more and different crops, I can make a good income,” Yaya said.

As the global appetite for quality chocolate increases, it would seem that cocoa farmers in Cameroon—the world’s fifth-largest cocoa producer—would have sweet, smooth, and profitable farming operations.

But that’s not always the case. Prolonged and persistent rains during the harvesting season and attacks by pests and diseases have made cocoa production a risky proposition for smallholders like Yaya Youssoufa.

After considering his options, Yaya decided crop diversification with vegetables was the way to revitalize his cocoa farm.

The World Vegetable Center (WorldVeg) in collaboration with Barry Callebaut carried out a project promoting vegetable production to diversify and improve incomes in cocoa communities in Cameroon.

Using demonstration plots, the project showcased different vegetable crops/varieties and trained farmers in good agricultural practices for vegetable production. The varieties were ranked by farmers based on their preferences and market opportunities through participatory varietal selections. The good performance of WorldVeg varieties encouraged some farmers to take up the vegetable seed kits containing at least four different crops. WorldVeg conducted individual hands-on training for each of these farmers, covering the entire vegetable production process from nursery establishment to harvest.

Most of the participating cocoa farmers had little or no experience growing vegetables. Through the WorldVeg training, their knowledge of vegetable production and their awareness of the nutritional importance of vegetables and the need for increased consumption has considerably improved. They now are producing quality vegetables in sufficient quantities to feed their households—and also are selling the surplus at the market for additional income.

I no longer spend so much money to feed my family because we now can eat the vegetables I grow,” said Yaya, who is currently producing amaranth, African nightshade, African eggplant, okra, pepper and roselle. “And I sell vegetables in Yaoundé, where I receive orders from time to time. It’s extra money for my family.”

Yaya especially appreciated learning good agricultural practices from the WorldVeg team. “After I was trained by WorldVeg, I began producing more and better vegetables,” he said. “I have increased the area I cultivate, as demand is growing for my vegetable crops.” He has completed three vegetable production cycles since June 2019.

Obtaining quality vegetable seed remains a challenge in Cameroon, where Yaya and other vegetable farmers must contend with limited supplies and low-quality seed. The Africa Vegetable Breeding Consortium (AVBC) aims to address seed supply chain issues across the continent. Established by WorldVeg in 2019, the AVBC brings together member seed companies to discuss common research needs and explore solutions to improve seed systems through practice and policy.

Story and photos: Regine Kamga