By Aaron Yancho Kaah*
There is a buzz of excitement in the air for some 35000 coffee family farmers’ in the North West Region of Cameroon who now constitute an extended network of Hope and Self-reliance under the North West Cooperative Association (NWCA).
This cooperatives recent tireless crusade to build the capacity of these coffee farmers and to improve their lives through incentives with basic farm inputs and better financial remuneration has provided new safety nets to lift the production capacity of this Association from almost zero tons of coffee in 2013 to 850 ton’s in 2016. “2017 promises to be another year of progress and success” Recounted Fonguh Peter marketing manager of this cooperative.
The new general manger of NWCA – Waindim Timothy Ntam, has proven that the simple but powerful act of collecting, processing and marketing of cocoa and coffee can benefit farmers and their communities if well articulated. “Working to bridge the long standing gaps between our member’s and cooperatives we have proven that sustainable development is possible” Remark the GM.
Working and doing business with some 12 Secondary Unions and 43, Cooperative Producing and Marketing Societies across the region, NWCA is braving the storms to tactfully manage the obsolete equipments at its disposal to meet its needs and demands. “We are determine to keep moving step by step in building the formidable value chain of taking coffee from the farm to the cup despite all the odds” said Timothy. And true to this endeavor, at least 96 packets of coffee are processed a week form organic green Arabica coffee beans farmed across the Region.
NWCA was built with the sweat and pennies of farmer’s in the 1950, as the only leading farmer organization in the NW Region of Cameroon. This association is accredited for having helped its member’s source income for their personal emergency needs and development. “This was the hope of farmers”. Recounted the- GM.
Waindim Timothy who had work for this association in various portfolios in the last 16years also recalled that it was thanks to this association that the first sheets of corrugated zinc were nailed in houses across the Region. “Things were shaping up well but the liberation of the coffee sector in the early 1990’s changed the farmer’s involvement with the Association” The GM lamented. The resulting consequence led to a decline in coffee production. The lack of land, limited resources and the sensitive nature of the Arabica coffee to the climate changes made a bad situation worse. Hardship rocked the Association to financial debts. “Not wanting to give off, desperate times called for desperate measures” He added. So without hesitation the cooperative went into some structural internal reforms and the global marketing of some of its finished products.
KOLA –COFFEE TEA
With enough action, this Association began processing and distributing the beans of the green Arabica coffee into powder-rich in flavor and aroma. Processed with care and craft, every crisp and a mouthful of tea coffee celebrate not only one of Africa’s mountainous coffee beans but kola tree shade grown coffee in Cameroon. ‘To identify with our region and our coffee farming system we opted to name this final product as KOLA coffee” remarked the GM. According to Achu Frederick, the coffee roaster of this cooperative of cooperative -The adage that he who brings kola brings life has summoned up the taste and sunshine in kola coffee tea. The credibility in handling this venture successfully saw NWCA breaking into the US market in 2008 under the kola coffee company LLC. “Our principal objectives were to invade the US markets with this kola tea and to enhance our cooperative visibility”. The GM added. To say the least this dream was nibbled in the bud due to limited financial means. In keeping the steam afloat, recent quality controls of the coffee bean’s and modernize processing techniques which involve the processing and packaging of this Africa’s indigenous tea has continuously kept Kola –Coffee a trump card for resurrecting cooperative. “For the moment NWCA has plans to take this product to the wide world and they are visible plans to improve the production and marketing capacities” added The GM.
NWCA AND LAND
Some NWCA projects are specifically designed to help NW farmers adapt to the climate changes. “Seasonal uncertainties had long obstructed the coffee growing season the high prevalence of pest and diseases also became a big worry for us “the GM said.
These climatic changes, brought in by high temperatures also distorted the metabolic process in coffee beans bearing. Form statistics 1*c rise in temperature led to approximately 137kg lost in production for one hectare of coffee farm land. . All these evidence gave rise to the Agro-forestry strategist which NWCA now propagates across the region. “High canopy kola nuts trees are cultivated side by side with the coffee plants to help reduce the high day time temperatures” the GM said. This shade grown coffee projects also benefitted ecosystems and biodiversity as these shade trees save as habitat for birds and wildlife. Through this shade grown coffee, farmers benefit high food crop yields in areas like Oku, Belo and Donga Mantung as the leaves of these kola nut trees are rich food crop and plant fertilizer. “This Kola trees also provide kola nuts for food and extra additional income for these farmers” remarked Mbah Linus a farmer in Boya division and an active cooperatives member.
This method portrays a site specific adaptation strategy to help mitigate the effects of climate change on the coffee sector in this region of Cameroon. No doubt this has curved a unique niche for NW coffee. According to North West Cooperative Association management grevilea is another tree species which is highly encouraged to be cultivated. All these integrated tree planting projects will boast land security and care for the earth in this region
This cooperative dreams for a better future on the coffee business sector is very interesting according to its Waindim Timothy Ntam. He proudly opines that the future will be very engaging at the national and international levels. “Owing to the fact that most NWCA farmers fall between the 58-60 age brackets across the Region, more dynamic ways are being introduce to get youth into the sector and to boast production” he recounted. . This is a magic wand the cooperative is counting on to sustain its business around its cherished farmers across the seven divisions of the region. Though private buyers and middle men have not helped matters for the farmers and for the cooperative in the past years, NWCA is more determine to help every farmer to enjoy the sweat of his labor through good pay according to the General Manager. “While our dreams are wide we are more self-confident to build a stronger vibrant Association of NW coffee farmers and to continue to thrive in cooperative and in synergy with the Cameroon government” He added.
There is already good news in the making. NWCA has signed (MoU) Memoranda of understanding with the Italian Farmers Union to assist it articulate projects that will better and lift the aspirations of the association in the near future. “At the heart of this partnership will be the creation of Micro-Financial Institution that will serve as a bank for our farmers”. The GM said with a smile.
The North West Cooperative Association is looking to the world with open arms to solicit for partnerships and grants that could help steam up good life around the coffee farming sector in this part of Cameroon. Mr. Waindim Timothy Ntam and his team of collaborators are also in a notable struggle to get the NW green Arabica coffee beans certified at the world market as part of its Foot steps Towards Progress.