The coronavirus pandemic that broke out by the end of 2019 has seemingly come to stay. Five months after the first case was diagnosed in Cameroon, the number of positive cases has risen exponentially (over 16000 presently). Cameroon seems to be the epicenter of the virus in West and Central African sub region. The most disturbing aspect is that there seems to be no solution in sight. And the hazard keeps eating deep into the social economy. In fact, the impact of the pandemic is multifaceted as it affects the social wellbeing and the economic activities and potentials of the people.
The effects of the health crisis appears to be harder on the farmers and traders. Since most of our farm products are perishable, COVID 19 has made things worse with restrictions on movements. It is important to mention here that Cameroon had been the bread basket of her sub region in Africa. But with the coming of Covid-19, traders no longer come in from Gabon, Equatorial Guinea and Central African Republic. Consequently most of the farm produce remains in the hands of farmers who cannot consume all. For instance, a bag of plums that used to sell at 20,000 frs is now sold at 3,500frs because of the absence of buyers especially foreign ones as was the case before. A basket of fresh tomatoes that used to sell at 8,000 – 10,000 frs at this period of the year is now sold at 1,500frs or 2,000 frs. This is suicidal as most farmers are unable to recover huge amount of money that they burrowed for farm inputs. The situation is not better with fresh maize farmers whose products have also suffered drastic fall in demand.
The impact of this situation is unimaginable. The incomes of these farmers as well as traders have tremendously dropped, leading to a fall in their standard of living. They are now unable to afford for their basic needs or meet up with societal expectations. The situation calls for more attention as Covid-19 is apparently not leaving us any time soon. In effect, this suffering will persist indefinitely. Feeding, health care and education of the children remain the most challenging of all the difficulties imposed by the pandemic.
The impact is even more suffocating on the people of the two English speaking regions of Cameroon – North West/South West who have to bear the excruciating weight of the two crises affecting them – Anglophone crises and Covid-19. One can imagine the pain of farmers who defy the thundering sounds of gunshots to go to farms but at the end cannot sell the produce. Worthless risk!!!! Some struggle to cultivate but cannot even harvest.
This situation calls for an urgent need to make processing opportunities available so that instead of facing this unwarranted market situation, they could reduce the perishability and diversify the forms of the products. This will certainly go a long way to stabilize the incomes of these suffering farmers.