The extraordinary journey
With Saveurs & Nature, we had a new project, this time in the western part of Cameroon.
It was not just a matter of collecting cocoa beans.
The project was much more ambitious!
In the village of Bandoum (not seen by Google!), everything seemed to grow easily. This was a paradisiac place. Some majestuous baobabs etched from the primary forest which was lush: it was just wonderful!
The village of Bandoum was 800 metres above sea level and cocoa plantation were up to 1,000 metres (coffee grew well there too). However there was an enormous paradox upon arrival to the village! The village seemed so poor. Each family lived in simple houses made of terracotta bricks. Inside there was virtually nothing: a table made of recycled wood planks and some small stools. Cooking was made with wood fire between 3 stones. Electricity was supplied for short periods so no one got it installed. Running water came from the river that flew through the village.
They were the average of 10 per family with an average of 8 children. Fortunately they all went to school thanks to the school funding by the association EKANIDOUM. A health center had just opened in the village, again thanks to this association which was led by Euphrasie Kouemini.
The question that logically arose from us, coming from the West, was “what do they do for a living?” Anyway they could not live from coffee anymore and now it was cocoa’s turn!
To simply explain: production costs were 25% higher than purchase price charged by traders who sold on to cooperatives… “All the money goes back to the fields!” said Roland, one of the cocoa farmers in the village.
« All the money goes back to the fields! »
Pesticides and chemical fertilizers were what cost the most. Everybody would have liked to stop buying all these poisons but they needed money for their children in particular for the school year.
Cocoa farmers were compelled to accept the price offered by the trader because he did not show up twice. “We don’t have much choice!” told me Roger. “Then we make it through by selling fruits and vegetables on the markets” he added.
In a few words, here was what happened in Bandoum. “If it continues this way, our children will never stay at the village” concluded Roger.
« If it continues this way, our children will never stay at the village ! »