What drew you to this issue and what moved you to invest in this cause?
As a child, I accompanied my parents to the farm after school. Our livelihood depended on that. Every Wednesday, my mother would take the harvest to the local market. If she sold some, then we would get soap, pencils and books. We spent long hours in the market waiting for buyers to come. Sometimes our waiting paid off, and at times we abandoned the unsold crops in the market, too tired to take them home or because the cost of transporting unsold products home was just economically unwise. I never knew what happened to the cassava and vegetables we abandoned until one evening in 1996. While on a visit to my grandmother, I passed through the same market where farmers had abandoned their crops. What did I see? Stray goats and pigs feasting on the crops that farmers had worked so hard to cultivate and bring to the market, then had spent hours screaming to attract unwilling buyers.
I felt the need to do something to solve this problem, which I hadn’t fully grasped as a child. When I enrolled in a MS program in Electronic Government, I kept thinking about what contribution I could make to help these farmers who work so hard but get little or nothing for their efforts. I focused my research on the use of information technology tools to connect the demand and supply for agricultural products in Cameroon. My findings spurred me towards implementation.
Therefore, in 2009, after some consultation, I launched AMIS-Cameroon. We conducted early trials within a restricted local area (Ekona, South West Region) and were met with enthusiastic responses from farmers. This feedback motivated my team to sacrifice more time and energy to expand the concept to include a wider geographic area. With the launching of our website, we have received positive responses from people all across Cameroon. As daring as it may sound, we are convinced our project will benefit over 50,000 farmers within five years.
What is your specific plan of action to create and deliver the long-term outcomes you envision and to foster the change you seek?
AMIS-Cameroon operates two complimentary programs. Our primary program involves broad information dissemination targeting farmers, consumers and stakeholders in the agriculture sector. Our secondary program is designed to educate farmers about sustainable farming practices and pest control. Coupling information and education allow both farmers and consumers to make wise economic decisions.
Our long-term outcomes include promoting sustainable farming practices, boosting production, finding new markets, and alleviating poverty and famine. We intend to achieve these in two ways:
- Training Seminars: Through partnerships with both agribusiness experts and key players in the agricultural industry such as the Institute of Research for Agricultural Development (IRAD), we will regularly organize educational seminars for farming communities. These seminars will be hosted directly within these communities, so farmers are not burdened with transportation costs. The seminars will be video recorded and delivered to communities that cannot directly participate.
- Support: We will offer support to both consumers and farmers. We will create delivery services for consumers who cannot access certain markets, while support farming communities tackle issues that make sustainable agriculture difficult to practice. We will also organize farmers, encouraging them to pool their resources together and engage in cost-sharing arrangements to broaden the potential scope of their investments.