BAMENDA, CAMEROON – Agweig Pauline, 28, is a budding poultry farmer in Bamenda, the capital of Cameroon’s Northwest region. She says that unlike other young people her age, she has always had a passion for agriculture and has decided to pursue it in a unique way.
“Growing up, I had a passion for agriculture,” she says. “However, I didn’t want to operate like the other farmers in my community."
Pauline started her poultry farm with no formal training. Instead, she relies on Internet research to find information on how to sustain her farm.
Pauline says that too often, she hears farmers complain of poor harvests and of poultry farmers losing all their stock to diseases. She adds that society regards farming as a dirty job for illiterate people.
”I am a farmer, and I don’t want to be a reflection of this poor image people have of farmers,” says Pauline, who was trained as a journalist and still works as a copy editor for a local magazine. “That’s why, before venturing into it, I got all the information I needed. And I constantly update my knowledge by learning online.”
She says she saved 200,000 francs ($400 USD) and then started her own farm. She named it Cielo Farm, which means Heaven Farm, to reflect her desire to practice agriculture without the normal constraints that her peers face.
“Thus far, my farm is doing great,” says Pauline, nodding with a confident smile. “And other farmers even come to me for advice.”
A growing number of farmers in Cameroon are employing information and communication technology to revolutionize their work. Technology experts say that advancements in technology offer farmers an array of options to improve their businesses. Still, challenges exist, such as a lack of access to technology, ability to use it and awareness of how it to apply it to agribusiness.
“Growth in Africa begins with agriculture,” Donald Kaberuka, president of the African Development Bank, said last weekend during a visit to Washington, D.C.
More than 2.6 billion people around the world directly depend on agriculture for their livelihood, according to SNV Netherlands Development Organisation, an international organization that promotes sustainable development to combat poverty. Global food demand is also expected to rise by 50 percent during the next 20 years.
“But the productive potential of many smallholders and pastoralists remains untapped,” according to the organization.
In Cameroon, the agricultural sector employs more than 60 percent of the active population and accounts for more than 40 percent of the gross domestic product, according to a document from the prime minister’s office.
Information and communication technology is emerging as an attractive way to improve this dominant industry in Cameroon.
Tantoh Dieudonne Nforba, 33, is a farmer in Nkambé, a small city in the Northwest region. He says that he employs various forms of information and communication technology on the job.
With his mobile phone, Nforba exchanges strategic information with customers, other farmers, agricultural authorities, government figures and extension workers – field workers who serve as a link between the agricultural experts and researchers who develop new technologies and the farmers who implement them. He also participates in talk shows on the radio and TV to disseminate information about his produce and services.
The Internet quickens communication.
“Email allows me to communicate quickly with people all over the world,” he says. “For example, I interact with stakeholders around the world exclusively through email.”
Email also enables him to contact volunteers.