When Djouke the Dutch girl got news of the ravaging sociopolitical and economic crisis in Cameroon,
she thought it wise to come to the rescue of her project, "A Pig From Djouke" with half the quantity of her usual annual feed donation to members of the pig cooperative.
She could not reach out to all the beneficiaries but the few who received it were very happy with the gesture as you will see in this report.
A narrative of what happened and how the money was used, make up the content of this report.
When we got news that funds will be made available for some feed, we made some phone calls with the farmer group leaders of Guzang, Bawock and around Bamenda where most beneficiaries of the“Feed from Djouke project are found.
With the on-going sociopolitical crisis, it is very risky and so difficult to displace farmers for a meeting. Most coordination was done on phone and sometimes the phone net-work is on and off with the frequent electricity power-cuts everywhere.
Nju Charles and myself made a trip to Bawock to see the farmers (especially beneficiaries of the Djouke project) who were still very active since most were already seen in Bamenda town as internally displaced persons (IDP).
The phase of the village as we saw and our experience on the road with security officers and the separatist forces was not the best, to say the least.
The good news is that we could still locate some farmers that from the look of things, could be considered illegible to benefit from the feed donation.
From all indications, it was clear that these farmers were not permanently living in their houses but shuttling between forest and home because of the frequent attacks by government forces on the village communities everywhere in their search for separatist forces who have no clear uniform of identification, so civilian targets are often mistaken and so many people have lost their life’s unjustifiably because they fail to escape to the bushes with the approach of government forces. We identified 10 farmers and invited them to Bamenda on Thursday 6th June when circulation was a bit free and less risky. Determining who to choose from all was an up-hill task.
We purchased the feed ingredients from town, composed the feed at the cooperative meeting hall prior to the distribution day.
Considering the cost and the risk involved in movement, considering also the fact that holding of meetings was not allowed during curfew time, only five farmers could succeed to come for the feed at the cooperative in Bamenda. They collected for all the rest absent farmers.
Left: Feed Purchase from town
Center: Off-loading at coop.
Right: Mixing at coop
As usual, the feed components are placed on the clean cement floor and the mixing is done manually with the use of a space.
Considering the ground space available for mixing, two bags of 50kg are produced per batch of mixture.
A measuring scale is used to confirm quantities and we focus on producing feed only for growing pigs, that is grower mash for pigs weighing between 30 to 60kg body weight. Good performance results without maize.
Left: Feed ingredients
Right: Fish meal 65%
Left: Palm kernel cake
Center-R: wheat bran
Right: soya bean 49%
Center-L: iron sulphate
Center-R: sea shell
Right: ready for mixing
Center: manual mixing
Meeting was scheduled for Thursday 6th June 2019 at 10AM.
With the 5 female farmers present from Bawock, a very brief meeting was held.
It was geared towards encouraging the farmers to keep up with their activity despite the difficult times.
The source of feed was explained and a strong massage of encouragement was sent to those absent from the meeting. The feed was then displayed outside in front of the cooperative for them to collect.
Standing near the feed a prayer was offered by Madame Limen Elisabeth, asking god to bless the donor and also for their journey mercies back to Bawock.
A transporter had been negotiated to come and transport them together with the feed. After waiting for a while, the vehicle arrived and took them with the feed.
Prices of feed ingredients have increased drastically with the on-going crisis.
All Mondays are ghost town days so one day off the week days. Any attempt to violate this ghost town by moving will meet with strong resistance.
Too many police check point on our roads. Both government and separatist forces request for money even if your personal documents are okay, they are asking for support for the struggle.
Kidnapping for ransom is very common with the separatist forces everywhere and seizing of motor-bike to use for the struggle is very common also.
At one time I was a victim and had to pay the sum of 15,000 FRS CFA after pleading on my knees to free my motor bike.
Inter-urban transport has increased drastically with the excuse given by transporters that they have to settle road blocks by control forces of both camps before reaching destination.
Transport fare to Bawock which in normal case is 500frs was risen to 1500frs plus the cost of a bag of feed 500frs CFA brought it up to 2,000 frs CFA on their return to Bawock.
To lighten the financial burden of the few farmers who were brave to answer our call, we had to refund their transport. In all, 20,000 FRS was spent for their transport. They call back on phone to confirm their safe arrival in Bawock.
Left: In prayers
Center: Getting set for Bawock
Right: Safe journey! Bye! Bye!
Without any proper understanding of the currency exchange rate and considering that bank charges were deducted at the time of withdrawal,
we considered 660Frs CFA/Euro and got a feed budget of 198,000frs CFA.
Slightly worked out of the budget because we had a common basket fund at hand but it’s Okay.
14 bags of feed in all were produced.
Besides the poverty alleviation notion of this project, it also helps to re-kindle the interest of cooperative members to the ideology and vision of the pig cooperative and encourages group meeting attendance as everyone will always be expecting to gain something even if deferred for another time.
The on-going sociopolitical crisis is a big threat to the survival of this project and a gesture like this has just come in time to give hope to the remnant beneficiaries of this project.
On the other hand, those who were not able to benefit this time are questioning why it has to be them and not others?
It’s a difficult situation indeed but we succeeded to convince a few farmers to stay resolute and wait for next batch.
The farmers were already very desperate, and so expressed a lot of satisfaction while pleading on behalf of others that God should help the donor to also provide for them.
As a veterinarian who has been successfully operating in the private sector for the past 24 years and have since 2004 been working very specifically with pig farmers, I have resisted over the years to do what others have done to keep away poverty, (like travelling abroad to look for greener pastures) just because in my community many people depend on my freelance veterinary services to succeed in keeping livestock.
I do prophylactic routine treatment of animals from door to door and I am unable to cover the entire territory for which my services are needed.
With the creation of the pig cooperative in June 2004, and the subsequent support form Dutch partners over the years, my attachment to the cooperative as the founder and main correspondent with foreign partners abroad has become so tied and difficult to detach.
Grass route farmers have rejected out-rightly to replace my leadership of the cooperative in democratically organized elections because they feel that no one else can communicate appropriately with our partners abroad as I will do especially as many of these farmers are not computer literate.
What make matters most complicated is the fact that, as founder and vision bearer of the cooperative I am rendering voluntary service to members on no salary basis and this is something that no one else would want to do especially as the income sources of the cooperative are not productive enough to pay salaries and more ?over the crisis have worsen the situation.
The understanding and respect of cooperative norms/principles by members has never been so coherent enough as most members still have conservative mind-sets despite the numerous attempts to train them on the principles and virtues of a cooperative.
The late prince Asobo, the board chair made several attempts to convince members to put in significant shares and patronize the cooperative by buying farm in-puts and selling their farm products (pigs/piglets/pork) only through the structure, such that the vision and mission of the cooperative can be attained and sustained with measurable impact, but he failed.
We wish to recommend that, another consignment of feed be given to others who have not benefited from this gesture if possible, otherwise it may bring separation and bias among members.
We recommend that if another donation of feed is again possible for this year, then we can have a reflection break as we struggle to resist the pressure from the crisis because our field experience with government military and separatist forces on the high-way roads is a very bitter one.
To make things worse, we are already having indications that some animals have started manifesting the annual swine fever syndrome since May and we are getting into June, July which are the peak months of the disease. For this reason, we will have to agree on when action has to take place if it has to be done one more time this year.
It should be noted that the“Pig from Djouke initiative is the heart beat of the pig cooperative and so, we are therefore appealing to any humanitarian donor organization where ever in the world to encourage and support this initiative because it is helping to sustain the lives of many people in so many communities within the north West region of Cameroon.
This project is helping to keep the cooperative busy as people keep hoping to benefit someday.
To say the least, it’s the reason why the Cameroon based project coordinator will not move abroad to look for greener pastures as other have done already, after all he is only offering voluntary services to the cooperative.
When peace and stability returns to our country, I will like to suggest/recommend the training of Community Based Animal Health Workers (CBAHW). We have the policy document and the training manual for these auxiliary veterinary staff who are very useful.
They will facilitate farmers out-reach program in different communities and give the most needed on-farm training and farmers follow-up to ensure good farm practices in many village localities.
We will design a project and we hope to find a sponsor.