Strong Family Farms Ensure More than Food Security in Cameroon
By Ataba Jude Fonsah, CISEGD Cameroon
Family farming has been the mainstay of agriculture in Cameroon. Family farmers in my community constitute a majority of the small holder farmers who are made up of husband, wife, and children that work full-time on the farm but not necessarily living on the farm. However, full-time family farms are becoming rarer, as more and more members of families have to supplement farm income by seeking employment off the farm, as well as education for white collar jobs.
Family farmers are making critical contributions in feeding a growing population in my community and in my country Cameroon, despite facing environmental degradation, poverty and child labor. Family farming is the only realistic hope for building a sustainable agriculture that will feed the world because the farm and the family are inseparable; they own the farms, make most of the important management decisions and provide the required labor to grow food.
Providing these farmers with the support they need to thrive in this challenging environment is essential if they are to increase their production capacity, strengthen their resilience and care for the earth. Farmers take good care of their land, their crops, their animals, and their workers, because they are all part of the farm’s family.
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Family farmers have long fed their families and cared for the natural resources on which their lives and livelihoods depend. Their knowledge is integral to increasing productivity while caring for the earth. But their ability to produce more and to become competitive market suppliers is limited by their long-standing lack of access to the resources needed to enhance productivity: credit and other financial products, improved seeds, education and training, secure land tenure, access to markets and more powerful partnerships with private and public entities. Family farmers are very important to food security, and makes vital contribution to the local and national economy as well as protecting the earth.
As a child that was born, raise on a family farm and sustained by family farming; I can remember that farmers in my community knew when the rainy season will begin as well as the start of the dry season just by observing nature, the birds singing, the arrival of the grass hopper, the wind, the sun and the tress. But today, humans have gradually lost this natural instinct as technologies have been imposed on them, destabilizing the local economy, putting food sovereignty at risk and destroying natural resources.
Agricultural methods such as mono-cultivation, intensive livestock farming, slash and burn, have caused deforestation and the disappearance of water springs and wildlife in my community and beyond. Poverty and Man’s greed have put the lives of all living beings at risk. All this endangers the lives of poor families because these practices are not sustainable. Thousands of years ago the Earth’s top soil was darker and harvests were abundant and farming was done without necessarily using chemical fertilizers and pesticides.
Now, because of man’s intervention with unsustainable farming practices, soil fertility is low and needs more investment for it to produce crops. If we don’t start to protect natural resources, in very little time we will not have any soil that we can grow crops in and hunger will increase globally. The book of Genesis in the Bible says that God commanded the Earth to produce trees, bushes and plants to feed all the living creatures that live on the face of the Earth, whether they be creatures of the land, sea or sky. But man has mistakenly taken an attitude of greed for economic power that has led him or her to convert the earth into a desert and a hostile climate for his/herself and other living creatures on earth.
Climate change is manifesting itself through natural phenomena such as drought in some places and floods in others, as well as an increase in plagues and illnesses in plants and human beings. Nature is wise and is making sure we pay the price for the damage we have done. People resist changing attitudes but human beings can recognize good from bad. Man knows that he/she commits sin by destroying natural resources. For thousands of years, he/she has been intervening in the Earth to produce food. But now the planet is being destroyed because of bad practices in terms of soil usage. We must all stop and recognize the wealth of nature and empower family farmers to live in harmony with nature if we really need to build a sustainable agriculture that will feed the world.