By BALIMBUM, James Achu, EKOI, Ashu Epemi (July 2003)
There was enough land to rear cows but presently, must the land is used for faming of food crops and there is a drastic shortage of meat to support the growing populations of the North West province of Cameroon . The North West province of Cameroon has no sea and all her lakes contain toxic gases, fish meet from the coastal part of Cameroon does not reach in time and usually in a small quantity which is very costly and never reaches must of the rural areas; and even if they do there is no means of preservation especially in the rural areas where there is no electricity and has to be sold only on market days which are once weekly. So all the fish will go bad and business people can't risk that kind of business. Also, meet from bush animals cannot be hunted because of forest , environmental and biodiversity conservation.
To resolve this meet problem, fish ponds were dug in order to obtain meet that can be consumed within the means of the rural population an as a mean of alleviating poverty. Also by digging fish ponds, there will be water to water the gardens during the dry season, protect the environment and foster tourism.
The initiative was started by Mr BALIBUM James and supported by United States of America's peace-corps to Cameroon, the Ministry of Animal breeding, Fisheries and Industry of Cameroon, Japanese Ambassador and the rural farmers themselves. The initiative began in 1985 and the first experience was conducted in Mbengwi (Momo Division) and has now covered all the seven Divisions of the North West Province with the association called NORTH WEST FISHERIES PROJECT (NOWEFIP).
Most of the rural farmers practiced coffee farming which lost market, unemployment and as a result, they were easily convinced to carry out fish farming. To begin with, seminars were organised to educate the farmers on this strange farming in their various villages .Dams had to be constructed first so that they can hold water. Digging of fish ponds consisted of selecting a suitable site that can hold water, airy, and exposed, to sunlight (in most cases in the valleys ). A normal pond should be 300 sq. metres and deepness should be about 4 metres deep. To get water, there must be consideration of the source and must be a running stream all year round. The types of fish grown are Tilapia, Israeli carp and Crowdies. Feeding of the fish constitutes three types of feed such as
Concentrate feed from GROWER ( an animal feed) and it can be used for pigs and fowls
Feed from pig and fowl droppings
Blood mill - collecting of blood from slaughtered pigs which you cook and dry before feeding the fish.
Farmers come to groups so as to ease cost of construction of pond and dam and funds are gotten from sales of fish. Groups constitute about 30 members and some villages have 3 to 5 groups which has promoted the number to 580 fish farming groups in the North West province of Cameroon.
The farmers have been succeeding at the local level but faces challenges from the growing demand of the growing population.
They lack enough capital to build new dams and fish ponds for storage of water and maintenance of old ones.
Lack of capital for building of monks which is the drainage system
Lack of capital for spurning which is rearing offspring
Lack of drugs and capital to buy materials to construct driers for preservation
Lack of capital to buy transportation tanks made of wood for preservation
Despite the above big problems , NOWEFIP fish farmers has registered quite a commendable number of success such as: ready and steady market for fish, farmers are now able to send their children to school, living standards have improved. Also most of the fish farmers have opened small retail stores as a result of fish farming, and have constructed good houses. Again, fish ponds constructed nearer the homes have facilitated the availability of water for themselves, pigs, fowls and gardens. Farmers compete amongst themselves so as to be the best producer and benefit a scholarship that is yearly.
To conclude , there is the need for farmers to come together all over the world to exchange idea , opening of fish farming schools for better education and improvement on methods so that rural population can develop.
This fils was written during the World Peasant Meeting from 6th-11th May in Cameroon