How can cocoa farmers become successful business persons? I am asking this because as a small farmer and cocoa buyer in the outskirts of Kumba, most farmers live in poverty. Is it that the activity is not profitable? As an agent for an importer in Douala, we are most of the time wrongly blamed for cheating farmers. I think many farmers with their reckless spending are the cause of their problems. Majority of them spend without planning and sometimes depend entirely on debts. Please your newspaper has done a lot in educating farmers, can you help us?
Samba Clarkson, Kumba
Cocoa farming is a lucrative and profitable business. We have observed, like you said, that many farmers do not keep records, so in most cases they do not know whether they gained or lost during the year. This explains why in peak seasons some farmers spend so much without separating their profit (balance between cost of production and amount put into the farm that year including depreciation of investments). Some farmers think the farm is always available, without thinking that the farm needs maintenance, labour, input cost and many other factors that affect production.
Some even fail to save for rainy periods during bountiful harvests and sells against periods when there is no cocoa to sell or even years that cocoa doesn’t do well or prices fall. Without investing, they are forced to depend on unscrupulous buyers who will lend them money at very exorbitant interest rates. Some do not even want to get to cooperatives that could provide cover and training for them. This negatively affects production because the small cocoa farmers are behind the high tonnage in Meme Division where you are based.
The ministry of agriculture in partnership with GIZ offers Farmer Field School training to farmers but this is done to groups. So it is imperative for farmers to belong to cooperatives so that they can solicit this useful training that offers them the basics in cocoa business.
As for a business plan or technical information on profitable cocoa production, farmers can contact SAILD documentation centre, CDDR at Elig-Essono, Yaoundé.