Market gardening, that employs more than 80% of the rural population of the Mt. Bamboutos area and contributes greatly to the country’s per capital income, has been causing social insecurity in the rural communities. These mal practices include nocturnal harvesting of crops on farms, stealing of farm inputs, burgling of storage houses for cash crops, and land conflicts. These practices stem from degraded agricultural soils, lack of wetland positions to cultivate during dry seasons, livestock grazing, price hikes in farm inputs( such as fertilizers and manure) and poverty. These have led to a decline in production volumes (food insecurity), destruction of livestock, crops, houses, and loss of human lives in villages such as Nkongle, Pinyin, Mbelenka, Atsualah, Maghah, Mbei, Njong, all at Mt. Bamboutos area.
Market gardening is a farming practice which entails the cultivation of highly perishable crops that are consumed and or transformed within a relatively short period of time. The farming system , which has been practiced since the 1980s and is now practiced in the Mt. Bambutous area, is responding to the decline in prices of coffee and the resulting economic crisis in Cameroon. It is practiced all year round mostly around the high lava plateau during the rainy season, as well as in wetlands, during the dry season. During the rainy season, market gardening is economical and less strenuous as it requires minimal inputs and labor. A major that attributes to less stress to market gardening during the wet season is the availability of water for crops ; thus requiring farmers to not need watering cans, sprinklers, and water pumps or hired laborers. Due to this, most farmers participate in farming practices during this wet season. The dry season however, is characterized by intensive application of inputs such as pesticides, fertilizers, and the use of genetically modified seedlings, to increase production alongside widespread use of irrigation waters. Consequently, only rich farmers are able to participate in farming during the dry season while those who cannot afford to are excluded from production and become vulnerable to crime. The communities involved in this farming practice include: Pinyin, Njong, Baligham, Mmuock Leteh, Fosimondi, Bamumbu, Santa Mbei and Lebialem at the Mt. Bamboutos area. Some market garden crops which are grown include; carrots (Dancus carrota), irish potatoes (Solanum tuberosum), cabbage (Brassica Oleraceae), Leeks (Allium porrum) and celery (Apian graviolens).
The farming system is highly beneficial to the livelihoods of the communities involved. Research shows that market gardens employ 80% of the rural populations on a yearly basis. It is mostly practiced by youths between 18-35 years of age. The committed communities in the farming practice have won major prizes in potatoes (first), carrots (first), and cabbage (second) amongst others during the 2011 edition of the National Agro-Pastoral shows in Cameroon. Production is executed in large quantities and sold all over the country, with some exported to many other countries in Africa. Examples of the latter are Irish potatoes which are exported to Gabon, Equatorial Guinea and Ghana.
Market gardening, being the most surviving farming practice in the area, has recently been regarded as a target for crime and insecurity of the 30000 people living in the area. This correlation is due to the high population density and the ongoing pressure on land. For instance, there are about 325 persons per km² in Mmuock Leteh, 295 persons per km² in Fosimondi, 385 persons per km² in Pinyin, and 305 persons per km² in Santa which have aggravated tension over land and opened confrontation between villages. It is important to note that insecurity in these areas is mostly caused by unemployed youths who act out their frustration, stemming from the economic situation of the country (unemployment rate of 9.3 per cent, underemployment rate 68.8 per cent) by participating in theft and the fight for farm lands. Thus, the high insecurity rate at Mt. Bamboutos is attributed to poverty.
Introducing Agro-forestry techniques will promote food security and employment, thereby economically sustaining at least 75% of market gardeners at the Mt. Bamboutos area.
By A. Tengem