Cameroon: Small-scale farmers lose crops, homes to flooding (by Anne Mireille Nzouankeu, for Farm Radio Weekly in Cameroon)
Date Posted: September 10th, 2012
Aicha Oumar currently lives in a tent in a makeshift camp. Her home is in Magi, a village in the Far North region of Cameroon. There, she grows millet, corn, and vegetables and raises small livestock. But this year she will harvest nothing. Sadly, she has no house to return to either. Her home and crops were lost to devastating floods that forced the evacuation of her village and three others.
She says, “I have nothing left: no field, no house, no cattle, no identity papers. Even my children’s diplomas are lost.”
The floods were caused when a long, heavy rainy season pushed river dams past their capacity. As Ms. Oumar watched the waters rise, she hoped that the problem would resolve itself. However, she says: “At the beginning of August, I noticed that the water was rising. Then one day we were told that we must leave the village because there was a risk of flooding.”
She adds: “At first we did not want to leave our homes. But one night, the village was almost swallowed up and we fled. I was not even able to take any clothing.”
About 350 farming and herding families lived in the four evacuated villages. There are reports that at least 14 people lost their lives to the flood. Nearly 4,000 people were displaced. Most of these small-scale farmers own less than one hectare of land.
According to official statistics, approximately 15,000 hectares of farmland have been washed away, including crops such as cotton, rice, corn, millet, tubers, and vegetables.
The Far North region of Cameroon is part of the Sahel and is extremely dry for much of the year. The short rainy season lasts two or three months. Several small streams cross the region, and they often overflow during the rainy season. As well, part of the region is a basin surrounded by mountains, making it difficult for water to escape.
To protect the population and the agricultural land, the state built dams on the banks of the Logone and Maga rivers. These retain water during the rainy season, and distribute the water to farmers in the dry season.
But this year, the rainfall was heavier than usual. The aging dikes cracked in places and the retention pond failed to contain the excess water.
The state has spent 30 million CFA francs (about 58,000 US dollars) to meet the immediate needs of evacuated villagers. Donations of food, water and medicine have also been distributed. Emergency workers have announced that the cracks in the dams are sealed. But the villagers are not reassured.
Abdouraman Dako is a livestock farmer who lost 43 cattle in the flood. He says: “I am very worried because we have heard that equally heavy rainfalls are forecast. We do not know when we can go home. The hardest part is yet to come. We hope to receive state aid for resettlement. Otherwise, it will be difficult to rebuild a new life without resources. ”
The state has not raised the issue of resettling the victims. Right now, the most urgent need is to contain the flood water, as the flood moves downstream to three other regions of Cameroon.