Restoring lost land in Cameroon
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CTA. 2004. Restoring lost land in Cameroon. Rural Radio Resource Pack 04/03. Wageningen, The Netherlands: CTA.
Permanent link to this item: http://hdl.handle.net/10568/57316
Researcher Oscar Eyog Matig explains how intercropping of trees and cereal crops, combined with water harvesting, has restored degraded land in north Cameroon.
Restoring lost land in Cameroon Cue: In much of north Cameroon the clay soils are very sensitive to erosion. With the pressure of increased population, fallow periods have shortened and land degradation has become severe. An estimated 30% of land in the area is degraded, and nearly 20% has been abandoned. So, in a joint venture, soil scientists and foresters have for some years been working with farmers to try to find ways of regenerating the lost land. And by combining tree and crop species, and using existing water harvesting methods, they appear to have developed a sustainable system that can restore productivity to these abandoned fields. Tunde Fatunde recently spoke to one of the researchers, Oscar Eyog Matig, to find out how a simple intercropping of crops and trees could bring lost land back into production. But Oscar began by explaining that their initial efforts had not been successful. IN: ?The first step was that scientists tried to use very heavy machinery.? OUT: ?. Are needed? Yes.? DUR?N 6?57? BACK ANNOUNCEMENT: Oscar Eyog Matig on a research project that has been helping farmers to restore degraded farmland in north Cameroon. Transcript Matig The first step was that scientists tried to use very heavy machines to plough the land, to allow the land to increase its water holding capacity. And after two years we discovered that the soil will come back at the initial level of degradation. Fatunde So two years of wasted effort? Matig Because you have a very good yield of cotton or rice the first year but later on, two or three years after the yield becomes as it was at the beginning. Fatunde Then what was the next solution to that? Matig The next solution was how to sustain this. To sustain it we need to continue to harvest water and secondly to provide people and the land with crops which will continue to provide products to the farmers. Fatunde Yes and what are these? Matig And the practice that we used was farmer practice. The way they are harvesting water in that type of land and they are digging small dams, with all of those practices which can harvest the maximum of the rainfall. The species that we planted was tree species that have available water all the time and because of a lack of amount of water we decided also to make inter-cropping. Fatunde Inter-cropping between what kind of trees and what kind of crops? Matig As the water was in a very huge quantity we decided to use rice. Fatunde Rice. Matig And for the trees, we used two types of trees. The first one is what we call Acacia senegal, which is producing Gum Arabic. Fatunde So Acacia senegal means Gum Arabic trees? Matig Yes and the second was a fruit tree, local fruit trees which is called a marula but the scientific name is Sclerocarya birrea Fatunde Two trees? Matig Two trees. Fatunde Now how did you marriage, through inter-cropping, these two trees and rice? Matig You have the rice in the middle because the trees are planted 4 metres by 4 metres and in between you have the rice. Fatunde What purpose do the trees serve? Matig With this system we have three advantages. The first is that we have almost lost 20% of the farmland in the region which we have now recovered. The second benefit is that we have planted a crop. Even if you are planting it only the two first years they can use it as additional, add value. Now for the third benefit, is the trees. You have Gum Arabic which is well known in the world, used to produce this chewing gum, used to produce coca cola. And you have also Sclerocarya birrea which is a fruit, a local fruit tree. Those ones will continue providing a product for the farmers. Fatunde While at the same time rice production is going on seasonally? Matig Yes. Fatunde After two years or three years of this experimentation what was the reaction of the farmers who were working on a pilot project? Matig The farmers were very surprised because for them this land was lost completely and they have noticed that we have regenerated the land. So for them it?s a very? even if it was the only success of the project it was enough. Fatunde But that was not the only success of the project? Matig But it was not the only success, they were producing crop as inter-cropping and it was another success for them because they were involved, it was they who were planting those crops and harvesting it. Fatunde Did they also go ahead to multiply, reproduce this experiment on their own farms? Matig Yes. Let me tell you one thing which is a major concern for the farmer to implement the same system by his own. There is a problem of land tenure. Whenever you have to plant a tree you should be the owner of the land. It is only those who are owners and mainly the chief who are able to implement the same system. Fatunde Were they also able to have enough money to also build wells and so on? Matig Yes because as I told you the system we use was learned from the farmers. Even the well or the small dams they are doing it themselves for other purpose. They are doing it for what we call a very specific variety of sorghum, we call muskwari. We are doing it already. Fatunde Oh, they were doing it. What you people did was to do inter-cropping now? Matig Now it?s only awareness, to tell them that what you are doing with the sorghum you can sustain it by putting very very important species and permanent species which can provide them incomes. When an Acacia senegal is well managed you have the Gum Arabic forever. Fatunde I see. Now going back to the farmers, since you?ve visited some of them, how did you evaluate the progress you saw from what they learnt from your pilot project? Matig The progress in the farmer when you have a new technology is very slow because the farmer was very happy to implement it as soon as possible. As I have told you they have the land constraints but this can be solved because it?s a problem of meeting local authorities and also it?s at policy level. So this can be solved. Technically what we found was that few farmers have started planting their own trees within the farmland. So when they started planting trees within the sorghum land it was an improvement. What we noticed was a very big demand of tree seedlings by farmers. Fatunde So how do you see the future of this inter-cropping system you have introduced among the farmers in northern Cameroon? What is your own evaluation based on what you saw in the ground? Matig What I saw on the ground is that this technology can quickly take off but they need some assistance, a policy support by the government and technical support by the scientists in the region. Fatunde Are needed? Matig Yes. End of track.