From the first look, one would mistake it for a farm razed by fire. Trunks of trees standing without leaves are what welcome visitors to the farms. This is what is left of over 50 hectares of cocoa farms in five villages of Konye, Meme Division of the South West Region, hit recently by ravaging pests (caterpillars). The Minister of Agriculture and Rural Development (Minader), Essimi Menye, was at the disaster site last Thursday February 2 to appraise the damage caused by the caterpillars with the view to seeking lasting solutions to the perennial problem. The area, inhabitants said, is frequently hit by the pests and each time it happens, it would take not less than four to five years for the trees to produce again. This is a big blow to the population for the cash crop is their main source of livelihood.
Although the damage caused to the farmers of Bolo, Weme, Kurume, Essam and Mbu villages was irreparable, Mr Essimi Menye gave insecticides worth FCFA 20 million to pre-empt future disasters in the localities and other pests-prone areas in the region. “We got the information late in order to be able to fight the caterpillars. However, we would be ready if any attack occurs again,” the Minister told the people. To succeed in averting any future disaster, Mr Essimi Menye opted for a joint effort. “We need to work with technicians and schedule the start of the fight. Fighting caterpillars is a national programme. Some money will be put in place for this exercise and other problems of farmers. We don’t just need money for chemicals but also money for machines and training of people,” he told the crowd that turned up en masse. In song, speech and dance, the population of the affected areas praised government for the gesture. “The minister’s visit is timely. The insecticides given will help also in averting the caterpillars,” Chief Iyambe E. Balemba of Bolo Moboka said.
The Minister was taken round some parts of the 34-hecatre seed multiplication farms, 10 hectares of which is functional for cocoa and coffee production. Statistics disclosed by the administration of the centre show that cocoa production in the centre evolved from 15,679 pods in 2006 to 73,427 pods in 2011 while coffee seedlings moved from 56,790 seedlings in 2006 to 314,990 in 2011. Marvelled, the Minister promised two tractors to boost the centre’s activities. “As you know we have many tractors in Ebolowa. Let’s say in the next three weeks, when we start distributing them, we will send two for the Seed Multiplication centre,” he announced. Training is also in view. “We need also to start training people on how to use the tractors. This will take place early March for over 200 people because we do not have well trained and skilled people who can handle the tractors. The State will henceforth take up the training of farmers and their follow up so that we can hit 500,000 tons annual production of cocoa soon,” the minister disclosed.
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