Cultivation and Sustainable Management of Eru (Gnetum spp) in the Buffer Zone of Korup National Park - Page 2

In total 5 communities were trained and their community nurseries established. 215 farmers participated in the training. Details are presented in table 1 below. In addition to the farmers one local NGO and 8 staff of the Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Development (MINADER) were also involved in the training workshops. The objective was to build capacity of local development agents to continue the domestication work when CENDEP leaves. Technical support was provided on a monthly basis by CENDEP staff. MINADER staff in the course of executing their routine activities did monitoring of the trained groups. Outcomes of this exercise were discussed with CENDEP technical team on a monthly basis.

Table 1: Participation at Training Workshops
Village Male Female Total Agricultural Extension Workers Farmer Groups
Dikome 14 23 37 2 3
Ikiliwindi 16 23 39 1 7
Ikondokondo 14 23 37 2 0
Meka Ngolo 21 41 62 1 1
Mundemba 16 24 40 2 1
Total 81 134 215 8 12

Through the technical training workshops farmers were organized into groups in the villages of Dikome, Ikiliwindi, Ikondokondo, Meka Ngolo, and Mundemba. The five groups were assisted to elaborate their constitutions and articles of association. In 2008 we began legalizing the created groups. These groups were:

  • “Dikome Eru Farmers” of Dikome
  • “Ekindi Eru Farmers” of Ikiliwindi
  • “Uchum Unne Unwey” of Ikondokondo
  • “Eya Sumene” of Meka Ngolo
  • “Together We Share” of Mundemba

Out of the 215 farmers trained only 87 became active members of the groups created. Several reasons were identified for this drop in membership in groups. First, a bitter experience in common property management dissuaded some members from adhering to the created groups and secondly the slow growth rate of Eru, the unfavorable environmental conditions that led to retarded growth and a delay in obtaining the desired economic benefits that farmers expected from the crop. Last, but not the least, was the inability of CENDEP to deploy field staff on her project sites on a permanent basis to promote the adoption of the Eru domestication technique by willing farmers. Notwithstanding, there was high enthusiasm in communities where Eru cultivation was already providing economic benefits.

Apart from organizing the farmers, efforts were made through a series of meetings and workshops to organize harvesters into groups and eventually into a union. This could not be followed to an end because of the long distances separating the villages, inaccessibility of the area especially in the wet season and absence of permanent field staff.

Roads were sometimes impassable

The rapid market appraisal on Eru conducted at the beginning of the project highlighted the constraints of Eru marketing and amongst other things recommended processing to reduce post harvest losses. In order to address this recommendation CENDEP embarked on trial processing and the search for market avenues. The primary aim of this intervention was to establish a training facility for Eru processing and/or commercial component within CENDEP to collect Eru from farmers, process and market it. Trial processing was done followed by trial sales. The objectives were to:

  • determine if processing would really enable farmers to gain extra revenue from the sales of dry Eru as compared to the fresh type, and to
  • identify opportunities and constraints in the marketing of processed Eru both nationally and internationally.

Since no sources of information existed CENDEP had to learn by doing. Trial sales were carried out in the South West, North West and parts of the Littoral Regions of Cameroon. In addition to these regions trial sales were done in New Jersey in the United States of America. These trials proved that if better market outlets were identified, adding value to Eru through processing would be more profitable than selling it fresh as is currently done in the export trade to Nigeria.

The preliminary results indicated that there is potential for the development of a value chain for Eru. In addition through the trial sales an external market venue for dry Eru with contact details was identified. It was however not possible to get detailed information on sale prices in the identified market as CENDEP depended on email correspondences.

An indication was also got as to the necessary transactions, documentation that farmers/entrepreneurs would require in order to embark on processing and marketing especially if the external market were targeted.

Also the project was able to identify elements of a cost efficient processing unit to undertake the processing. It also sensitized a pilot community on the advantages of embarking in such a venture or collaborating with any entrepreneur that had the financial and technical know how.

Through this initiative, 11 women (shredders) were employed on a temporal basis for over three months. This enabled them to gain additional income. The initiative also contributed to national objectives of the Cameroon forestry policy which include:

  • The rational and sustainable management of forest resources,
  • An efficient processing industry producing value added products, and
  • The creation of revenue and its equitable distribution

The trial processing and marketing was discontinued because of the local availability of fresh Eru, low consumption of dry Eru near the Eru producing sites. There was therefore the need for a market study to identify market avenues for dry Eru far off the Eru producing sites. In addition there is still need for research to design low cost shredding equipment to reduce the hard work and high cost involved in manual shredding.

In the absence of economic operators in this sector CENDEP management considered the option of creating a Commercial component to handle the processing and marketing of Eru. In preparation for this a draft business plan was elaborated. In 2008 this plan was submitted for the BID Nature Challenge competition (click here to see it) even though the outcome was negative and so CENDEP Enterprise never fully took off. Despite the potential risks of this venture the business offers enormous benefits for the local population. These include the creation of direct jobs as was the case with the women recruited on temporal bases to undertake shredding during the trial processing exercise. The harvesters also had a market for their product which resulted in less product spoilage.

The major constraint remained the difficulty to convince local consumers to buy dry Eru when they can easily get the fresh type. This meant that the market for dry Eru remained external.

The training on processing and marketing earmarked for farmers was not conducted because none of the farmer groups that were created had the means to implement the training. Also no economic operator was identified. Read the full project report.

The project implementation was flexible and this permitted us to deviate from some of the planned activities. For example the rapid market appraisal conducted at the start of the project constituted a useful tool for informed decision making as far as production and marketing of Eru is concerned in the area. The question that followed the survey was: “What next?”. Would this report end in drawers in the project office? What about the recommendations? Who would care to address them? Based on the capacity of her staff CENDEP agreed on the revision of the project action plan. This led to the introduction of new activities and the dropping of some that were deemed not very necessary for the project. Amongst the new activities was workshop to present the results of the market appraisal to stakeholders. This workshop led to the organization of meetings that brought about the organization of harvesters in five villages. Instead of a trial marketing of fresh Eru previewed in the project, trial processing and marketing was adopted to address the problems of post harvest losses identified along the Eru production and marketing chain. The establishment of a processing unit that was supposed to precede this activity did not materialize due to the failure of CENDEP to obtain funds for the project. However trial processing was done using project office and nursery space. Because of this deviation the project successfully introduced dry Eru in local and international supermarkets/food stores albeit for a short while.

Impact assessment programmed for the end of the project was dropped in favor of an internal evaluation to identify the strengths and weaknesses of the project. Funds intended for the impact assessment were reallocated for the workshop to present the market appraisal report. At the close of the project ICCO expressed satisfaction that the project had been implemented according to the mutually agreed contract. Click here to read the full project report.

A baseline survey was however conducted at the start of phase II of the project (read the report). Activities earmarked for this phase were:

  • Awareness raising to educate farmers on the economic potentials of key NTFPs;
  • Organization of resource users to facilitate production, training and coordination of interventions (encourage individual farms, bring together individual farmers into groups to be registered as legal entities and empowered to enhance performance, interventions and coordination);
  • Technical training (seed multiplication techniques, nursery management, farm establishment and management, harvesting techniques, monitoring, etc.);
  • Institutional capacity building.

Our plans for the period 2008-2010 are elaborated on our strategic plan.

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Nursery Construction
Ex-Situ Cultivation
Organic Farming