At farm's hand

Monday 30 June 2008

Down to Earth
Si vous avez des problemes en agriculture ou en elevage.
Call Allo Ingenieur for farm problems
What does a poor farmer in Cameroon do when he wants to modernize his farm? Knowledge in this west African country is passed down from generation to generation but that has limits, particularly for an enterprising farmer. The solution is to pick up the phone and call Allo Ingenieur where an agricultural expert is always on call. "If we can't answer your question on the spot we get back to you," says Marie Martine Yobol, the director of the Documentation Centre for Rural Development in Yaound which is part of the agricultural ngo Service d'Appui aux Initiatives Locales de Dveloppement (saild).

The documentation centre gets about 7,000 requests for information every year. "If the expert on call can't answer the question then he or she calls a specialist," Yobol says adding that Allo Ingenieur not only provides answers for farmers but helps agricultural experts plug gaps in their knowledge.The centre has produced hundreds of papers on subjects addressing farmers' concerns.

Economist Hozier Nana Chimi, associate director of saild, says "Higher yields require innovation and that requires risk. Farmers often end up taking short cuts that fail. That's why they call Allo Ingenieur." "Sometimes farmers call when it's too late. Then all we can do is tell them to start again. It's not what they want to hear," Yobol says.

Around 90 per cent Cameroonians rely on locally produced food to meet their nutritional needs. According to saild, agriculture employs 60 to 70 per cent people in the country, but only 20 per cent of fertile land in Cameroon is being used.

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