Africa is very wealthy with vast amounts of territory for agricultural produce. Despite such wealth, the continent continues to lag behind in the agricultural sector. Countries in Central Africa like Cameroon, Gabon, Equatorial Guinea and Chad still face difficulties in feeding their ever growing populations. As a result of this mêlée, African Heads of State have amplified upon measures to ensure that the continent benefits commendably from the agricultural sector.
The Prime Minister of Cameroon, Philemon Yang officially signed documents on the 17 of July 2013 confirming Cameroon’s adherence to the Comprehensive Africa Agriculture Development Programme (CAADP). African Heads of State established the CAADP as part of the New Partnership Agreement for Africa’s Development (NEPAD) in July 2003, during a reunion in Maputo, Mozambique with aim of improving and promoting agriculture across the African continent. They agreed to apportion 10 per cent of their budget to the improvement of agriculture in Africa.
Following a report in Cameroon Tribune dated the 18 of July 2013, Prime Minister Philemon Yang, after signing the CAADP agreement, called on government officials to partner with the private sector to ensure that Cameroon’s agricultural sector is a success. On the 13 October 2011, Prime Minister Yang had addressed an administrative correspondence to NEPAD’s Executive Secretary, assuring him of Cameroon’s adherence to the CAADP initiative.
Cameroon’s Minister of Agriculture and Rural Development, Essimi Menye in an interview with the local press, was optimistic that the CAADP initiative will assist government create the National Programme for Investment in Agriculture. He added that the government of Cameroon will ensure that by December 2013, the National Programme for Investment in Agriculture is tabled before the Head of State for his approval. The National Programme for Investment in Agriculture is supposed to boost agricultural production from the current 4 per cent to 10 per cent by 2020, added Minister Essimi Menye.
Other parties of the private sector who signed the CAADP agreement expressed their commitment to collaborate with government to ensure that Cameroon benefits from its agricultural sector. The representative of the African Union (AU) and NEPAD, Mariam Sow Soumare assured the Prime Minister that the AU was going to give Cameroon all its support to ensure a success of this initiative. Mr. Tchoungi Roger, Deputy Secretary General of the Economic Community of Central Africa States, ECCAS, added that ECCAS was also going to assist the government of Cameroon in this initiative.
The CAADP initiative in a laudable initiative and would be instrumental in the alleviation of poverty in Cameroon. The only fear is that similar situated programmes in the past have not yielded any fruit. Some of the past initiatives have either been hijacked by corrupt government officials and the money squandered or siphoned without any account. Poor farmers, who are supposed to benefit from such programmes have not benefitted much. They continue to benefit less from their produce, while corrupt officials embezzle funds destined for them.
It is imperative for NEPAD and ECCAS to ensure that the CAADP initiative does not remain entirely under central government control. There is need to ensure that the private sector also has a say especially in the financial management of this project. For sure a lot of foreign assistance shall be pumped into this initiative and if care is not taken, this money will be embezzled as before. If the government of Cameroon is serious about attaining some of the Millennium Development Goals, if not all, by 2015, then it is germane for a change of policy and state practice. Without this change of strategy which is of utmost importance to agricultural development in Cameroon, then the CAADP initiative will remain futile.