Growing fish without natural lakes, an unexpected success
05 / 2002
The North-West province of Cameroon has no sea and all her lakes contain toxic gases. The fish coming from the coast do scarcely reach the area, and when they do, it is in very small quantities, at an expensive cost and without any hope of preservation since there is no electricity. In this part of Cameroon, the land is almost exclusively used for crops and sometimes to rear cows or pigs. Consequently, the population experiences often hunger and poverty. To solve this problem, fish ponds were dug. The idea belongs to Mr James Balibum and was immediatly supported by United States’ peace-corp in Cameroon, the Ministry of Animal Breeding, Fisheries and Industry of Cameroon, the Japanese Ambassador and the farmers themselves. The initiative began in 1985 in Mbengwi (Momo Division) and covers now the seven divisions of the province, under the management of the North-West Fisheries Project (Nowefip). Most of the rural farmers who formerly practiced coffee farming and experienced unemployment as a result of the fall of the coffee rates were easily convinced. They first attended seminars, organised in various villages, then selected suitable areas (close to a source, airy and exposed to the sun), and finally constructed dams. A normal pond should be 300 square metres and about 4 meters deep to welcome Tilapia, Israeli carp and Crowdies. The fish are then fed with grower(an animal food also used for pigs and fowls, with pig and fowl droppings, or with blood mill (pigs bloob cooked and dried). Rapidly, the farmers constituted themselves into groups of about 30 members (some villages count 3 to 5 groups), and the province now has 580 groups. The project is an obvious success on many grounds: the establishment of a ready and steady market for fish, the improvement of their living standard, the opening of small retail stores and the building of good houses. Moreover, the ponds, constructed near the houses, have often eased the availability of water for the inhabitants, the farm animals and the gardens. Thoses successes and the consequent growing of the population though engenders new challenges, among which a cruel lack of fundings for the digging of new dams and fish ponds and the maintenance of the old ones; the acquisition of a new drainage system; the buying of driers for the preservation of the fish; the buying of wood tanks to transport dry fish safely.
North-West province of Cameroon has proved once again that the farmers themselves would be able to fight against poverty. Working hand in hand and sharing ideas and know-hows prove to be the key to their salvation.
This file was written during the World Peasant Meeting in Yaounde, Cameroon, from the 6th to the 11th of May 2002.
Contact : BALIMBUM, James Achu, Nowefip, Bamenda, Cameroon - firstname.lastname@example.org
Interview with BALIMBUM, James Achu