Cameroon: micro-organisms revolutionize agricultural productivity

BiofertlisantAMFNSince 2013, the African Model Forest Network (AMFN), in collaboration with partners, has been producing organic (or “bio”) fertilizers based on mycorrhizal microorganisms. Starting with a bio-fertilizer production center in Abong-Mbang, East Cameroon, this green social enterprise has increased food security, climate change resilience and community economic development for local stakeholders and now seeks to extend to other regions of the country, and beyond.

Chemical inputs root cause of soil infertility

In Cameroon, the use of chemical fertilizers is the main way for farmers to increase agricultural production. However, high input costs create access issues for low income farmers. As well, the overuse of chemicals is, in the long term, a threat to the environment and food security, as much because of the lack of training for farmers in the handling the chemicals as for the acidity of ferralitic soils, which eventually become infertile.

Producing bio-fertilizers is a response to the problems of access to inputs for small producers. There is also a need to develop non-polluting inputs that are compatible with the organic certifications of larger producers.

Further benefits are to help in tackling the problems of adaptation to climate change, of soil fertility, limited access to arable land, optimization of agricultural production and preserving their living environment.

SDGsSDGs in this Story

#1 No Poverty
#2 No Hunger
#5 Gender Equality
#8 Decent work & Economic Growth
#9 Industry, Innovation & Infrastructure 
#10 Reduced Inequalities 
#12 Responsible Consumption & Production 
#13 Climate Action
#15 Life on Land

Exciting results growing demand

The bio-fertilizer project involved 2000 smallholder producers from Campo Ma’an and Dja et Mpomo Model Forests who benefitted from training in the use of the locally produced inputs.

In this initial phase, the number of households producing enough foodstuffs to meet their own needs throughout the year, or producing enough surpluses to sell, increased from 38% to 78%. The number of farmers who struggled to meet their harvesting targets was reduced from 22% to 3%.

Based on these exciting results, the Centre increased production from an initial 200kg from March to August 2014 to 2 tons between September and November of the same year. Demand from farmer associations, individuals and agro-industrial producers was on the rise.

An increase in demand from agricultural producers in other regions of Cameroon, as noted by the agricultural publication ‘La Voix du Paysan’, helped garner support from the Cameroon Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Development (MINANDER) to encourage private partners to set up organic fertilizer production plants.

Since 2014, the African Model Forest Network has been tirelessly promoting the project in the regional forums, workshops and conferences. Consequently, neighboring countries, such as Senegal, the Democratic Republic of Congo, the Republic of Congo, Central African Republic and Nigeria, have demonstrated interest in developing their own bio-fertilizer centres.

To that end, the AMFN facilitated development of a joint Senegal-Cameroon project proposal with a view to further promoting the adoption, control and popularization of agricultural production techniques based on mycorrhizae. The AMFN remains hopeful to receive the green light on for project. Meanwhile, national and cross-border demand is undiminished.

Bio-based expansion planned as new partners come on board

As part of the World Bank's Agricultural Investment and Development Project (PIDMA), a first order of 21 tons of bio-fertilizer was delivered to project cooperatives in 2017. An additional 30 tons are on order for March 2018.

Along with impressive soil fertility and food production results, with the latest PIDMA estimates indicating a 50% productivity increase, the Centre is also providing jobs; it now employs about 30 people of which 60% are women and more than 80% are young people.

The Abong-Mbang Bio-fertilizer Centre plans to produce 50 tons of product in 2018 in order to benefit an even larger number of agricultural producers in Cameroon. Diversification into  bio-pesticides and bio-insecticides is planned.

The project was initially supported by CUSO International through the B-ADAPT Ecoagricultural Enterprise Project for Adaptation to Climate Change (2013-14), an integrated project in which Cuso International volunteers worked with communities to help them meet the challenges of climate change.

Campo-Ma'an and Dja and Mpomo Model Forests, along with the AMFN, played a key role in developing partnerships and expanding the markets for micro-organism agricultural production techniques. By conducting training, coordinating with civil society organisations, NGOs and private micro-credit lenders, and the project successfully built capacity, raised awareness, and influenced national policies in terms of rural development and agricultural innovation. 

Story Published 4 December 2017

This Story is a follow-up on a April 2015 Story