Since we last reported, our first growing cycle has advanced and many of our long-term crops, coffee and cocoa, have been planted. It has been a time of rapid learning and growth in all our people for all our plans and objectives.
Coffee cultivation in northern Arabica
The team received seed potato and planted 2 hectares of potato just as the rainy season began. Two varieties are growing: Cipira and Dorsa. The initial lot suffered too much precipitation and moisture, and has shown signs of plague. The last batch benefited from the application of an antifungal treatment. We are seeing that Cipira is superior to Dorsa in disease resistance.
The team also planted 3.5 hectares of white beans. They are growing, have flourished, despite significant competition with weeds. We hoped our workforce would be able to keep the fields clear, however, the team’s efforts focused on potatoes, which cost more as seed, and offer a potentially much higher return on investment.
Our chili nursery is also progressing. We are testing several varieties (SOME improved varieties developed in France, sold in Cameroon), SOME local varieties, and selecting those that seem to be the most healthy and most suitable for our geographical location. These peppers are being transplanted into the field as we speak. We are also investigating the feasibility of growing tomatoes, carrots and cabbages as cash crops.
Coffee seedlings are progressing on the young trees in our nursery. In June and July, the fields were arranged for proper placement and spacing of coffee to be interspersed with banana and pepper. The first batch of approximately 8,000 has been planted on 5 hectares! This is an exciting achievement that brings us to our long-term goals. The second lot of approximately the same size will be planted in April 2018.
The challenges we face include:
- Livestock wandering around the property: Remedy by completing our fence at a higher level to avoid this and making arrangements with the neighbor who owns them to compensate us for them, when he had the oversight he promised instead.
- Workforce: Our team members have never been part of an operation of this magnitude, so we advise and train them to better plan and optimize the use of the workforce to achieve our farm-level objectives.
- Achieve a full scale on our site: we have not yet been able to plant on all the land (1.5 hectares not yet ploughed / raked). While the site is accessible by dirt road, we have had difficulty aligning all operating parts as needed. For example, making the land swept away and weeding requires hiring a tractor driver, having all the mechanical supplies, transporting the tractor and having good weather. We face similar challenges in accessing and transporting other supplies.
Cocoa cultivation centre
Preparing the land as an agroforestry system remains a major challenge.
Ten of our 20 hectares are converted to agroforestry with cocoa / banana. The other 10 hectares will be prepared and planted next year when we have some income to invest. We are doing a continuous cleaning and planning to add cocoyam, tomatoes and chilies.
However, recent months have seen significant progress. The field team is somewhat stable, composed of Emmanuel, Desmond and Ruphine who moved from the Northwest and Manga and Florent from the southern part of the Center. The camp shelter is built, and the equipment can stay there and work, with a rotating start time. Bathroom construction is underway. We are using bottled water for drinking and cooking and using water from a neighbor’s well for other activities until we can invest and build our own.
These developments mean that agriculture has also officially started. The design and spacing advanced so that in one part of the land we planted 10,000 cocoa shoots along with 1,000 banana shoots. The development of the tomato nursery is underway.
We still face poor telecommunications challenges and difficult physical access to the site because it is remote and off an unmaintained dirt road. Talks with the village chief are under way to find a solution for the road. This environment requires that a manager be exceptional; we made a change to staff in that role to better support the field team and support our ability to support the Cameroon team in the USA.
Irrigation and infrastructure projects
SGI’s cooperative education agreement for the design and construction of SGI’s combined Aquaculture and Drip irrigation system is shrinking. The 3 undergraduate students and a doctoral candidate provided us with a high level design of the windmills (to feed a pump) and the water needs estimates. A complete system design will be carried out at a later date when further investment in infrastructure is feasible. We hope to implement the designs in the future.
Additional infrastructure plans, such as digging wells and building processing (drying station) and storage areas, are being considered and prioritized.
Each farm has a 12-month plan with a timeline for when to apply treatments to crops, approximate harvest, processing and sowing cycles. Further research can be carried out to select high-market value food crops for cultivation and the use of more sustainable or environmentally friendly treatments. Preparations are being made for the next harvests, food processing, sales and transportation.
We continue to learn from every movement and perseverance towards our vision of having a positive impact on people’s livelihoods and empowerment through sustainable agriculture.
Thank you for your support of our work. We’ll report back next quarter. Smart