The ominous signs of a famine in the Northwest and Southwest war prone regions are now there for all to see. Television propaganda by regime lackeys and other position seekers purporting to donate food to starving internally displaced people now constitutes the staple of the news. Elsewhere, truckloads of imported food items are routinely shared by government interests to IDPs against loud and vulgar propaganda. International organizations like the Red Cross and ‘Doctors Without Borders’ have already pitched their camps in the two regions and can be seen distributing relief material that includes imported food items.
The snag in all of this is that big time farmers in the two regions whose harvests practically fed the rest of the nation are today stretching begging bowls, soliciting food handouts. They too are collateral victims of a senseless war. In effect, many of them are homeless, their homesteads and villages having been razed to the ground by military goons out to deal with separatist fighters. They live in the bushes, and even if they still carry out farming activities there, transporting their harvest to the townships for sale is cumbersome, practically impossible. They are hemmed in between regular soldiers and ragtag militias called Amba boys, executing a separatist agenda.
As it stands, pundits are already predicting that if urgent steps are not taken to end the war, the famine that once befell countries like Ethiopia, Sudan, Nigeria and Sierra Leone would be replicated in the Northwest and Southwest regions in particular and Cameroon in general.
Both parties in the war of attrition are intransigent. The government is hell bent on crushing what Mr. Biya describes as an end product of extremism, perpetrated by secessionists, while the separatists are angered by what they see as nearly 60 years of Anglophone subjugation. Both parties don’t appear to consider the human toll being taken by the intransigence, insisting only on fighting to the finish. Billions of tax payers’ money is injected into the war project by the regime even as the country bleeds economically. A giant agro-industry like the Cameroon Development Corporation, CDC, has gone under. So has PAMOL Plantations that employs about 30,000 Cameroonians between them. Yet, the regime is not blinking, as long as there is something still to be found in other accounts to nourish the costly war.
And so Cameroon being a predominantly agric economy is, to say the very least headed for ultimate doom as a corporate entity. The CDC rubber, banana and oil palm plantation sectors are comatose, losing billions of francs CFA monthly. What with some 20,000 workers either unemployed or underemployed on account of the shooting war.
Thousands of both commercial and peasant farmers, who depend solely on food crops for home consumption and commercial purposes, have been caught in the crossfire. They are seriously complaining about the insecurity that looms all over the two territories and which prevents them carrying out their farming. The marauding Amba boys have commandeered farmlands in which they have set up camps. Livestock farming is not left out. While Amba boys are at it stealing from ranches, military goons are in the townships stealing livestock like pigs, goats and chickens. Not to talk of crops like plantains and yams. The more innovative of the affected farmers have resorted to other subsistent activities. But they find it difficult to adapt or the activities are simply non-productive and sometimes risky to carry out.
A peasant farmer who spoke to us anonymously noted: “I have been farming since 1997, and solely depend on vegetables cultivation for commercial purposes and home consumption. I have been facing some difficulties like; inadequate fertilizer, bad farm to market roads and climate change for 22years. But the outbreak of the crisis has created fear and brought starvation to my entire household.”
Another peasant farmer aged 52, who produces cassava, corn, cocoyams and plantains in Lysoka village said that, this activity has been a source of livelihood to her and her family. She was however sad that the crisis has reduced the rate of cultivation and harvest of more crops, although she still bears the risk of venturing to the farm. She noted that, whenever she encounters separatist fighters, she negotiates with them, in order to have access to her farm.
“In the course of harvesting and taking the products to Muea market, it gets rotten due to lack of vendors as many potential buyers fear for their lives given the frequent crossfire between the separatists and the military,” she stated.
Apart from the farmers who experience this unveiling negative effects of the crisis, consumers are bitterly complaining of increase in food prices, inadequate foodstuff in the market and the spiraling effect on other goods and services.
It should be recalled that not only the agricultural sector has been hard hit by the needless war. The brewing industry that hitherto provided direct and indirect jobs for tens of thousands of English speaking Cameroonians has also been very negatively affected. Not only are restive separatists preventing the sale of products produced by some brewing industries which they have targeted. Cases have been recorded of the criminal targeting of trailers loaded with such products being sadistically set on fire. Not to talk of robbing millions of consumers the right to beverages of their choice.