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The Dumbo Ranch | Bongmbam Justin

Agriculture and Livestock in Cameroon account for about 15% of the country’s Gross Domestic Product (GDP). To promote these sectors, the government of Cameroon created the Livestock Development Corporation (SODEPA) in 1974 with the creation of ranches in three regions; Adamawa, East and North West regions. We shall look at the ranch in the North West region located in the village of Dumbo in Misaje Subdivision in the Donga-Mantung division.

Dumbo Ranch is surrounded by Mashi Village and Lebo Village of Menchum Division, Kwei Village, Kimbi/Mungong Village and Dumbo Village where the Ranch derived its name. All these villages had their land expropriated for the Ranch and a total of 38,000 hectares was handed to the Company.

I have been working in Dumbo Ranch since March 2017, as an Accountant, occupying the position of Chief of Administration and Finance. This position has put me in a sphere where I have to facilitate and ensure that the corporate responsibilities of the ranch are upheld and that our impact is felt by all our stakeholders. The stakeholders here are the Head Office located in Yaoundé, administrative organs in the Division, Livestock grazers in the Region at large and local animal grazers we share boundaries with. We also have our workers, the local villagers, farmers, and some non-governmental organisations.

I work in close collaboration with my boss, the manager of the Ranch with my colleagues in charge of production and most recently pasture development. Since 2016, the ranch has not been left out of the setbacks of the socio-political crisis in the North West and South West regions of the country. Since my arrival in 2017, we have revived several activities that have impacted the ranch and its environs both in the short and long term. The following actions below are some of our undertaken to increase our social corporate responsibilities;

1 - Job Creation

We have increased the number of local villagers we recruit first as herdsmen, a job which is dominated by the Fulanis and also, we have increased the number of locals into technical positions and the number of women too, all from the subdivision. We tried to get more locals from our neighbouring villages who initially had no interest due to historical factors. We have engaged a number of capacity development programs for locales to greatly increase their interest and the benefits of working on the ranch.

Regarding female employment, we have successfully recruited 2 female technicians to our team of 5 male technicians. One is a local from dumbo Village and the other is a female Fulani so as the promote education among the Fulani to whom the education of the girl child remains a great problem.

In collaboration with Livestock and Fisheries Development for Bamenda (LIFIDEB) organised workshops with local graziers and herdsmen. These 2 workshops in 2022, led to an increase in applications for jobs as herdsmen from locals and consequently the recruitment of 11 local villagers into jobs they had traditionally rejected as low-status jobs.

2 - Infrastructure development

We have engaged and continued the development of buildings and livestock infrastructures. I successfully added to the maintenance 2020-2021 plan of rehabilitating all fences in and around the ranch. Due to financial constraints, we were unable to get our bulldozer fixed. Still, despite these, we have mobilized our workers and villagers on Mondays since 2022 to come out fixed our roads with local materials since it increasingly became difficult to work normally on Mondays as we had tried to be doing since the advent of the crisis.

LIFIDEB also accepted the building of ultra-modern Dip (Livestock infrastructure to soak the animals completely with acaricides against tics and flies) and put our disposal for its management and sustainability for proper use by the local graziers around dumbo village.

3 - Economic growth

We have successfully maintained a credit union in the ranch to cater for the financial needs of our personnel and many villagers who have accounts with the credit union. From October 2018 to August 2021, the credit union could no longer get access to cash as easily as they had in the past. Due to this complicated situation and the dire need for us to maintain this lifeblood financial institution, I had to negotiate with security and defense forces for safe transit of cash into and out of the ranch so that the credit union maintains her liquidity and stays in business and our workers' wellbeing and savings maintained.

We have also encouraged our workers to have additional sources of income by expanding their sources. The population of sheep and goats by personnel has more than doubled since I came to the ranch. I back up a good number of loans at the credit union when the loans are to purchase animals to graze, reproduce and sell in the future.

Sheep herd of 3 workers who benefited from production loans

The number of farms has also increased greatly. Many Fulanis do not encourage their spouses to farm and with those in the Ranch, a good number do not farm because they have salaries. Faced with this situation, I had to reject consumption loans. These moved many to create farms and reduce their heavy dependence on their salaries which is insufficient and worsened by the galloping inflation.

Our primary school had to open up its own farm so as to sell its harvest and enable them to raise finance to assist in the payment of their teachers.

4 - Educational Development

With the creation of the ranch, a school was created to encourage workers to keep their families by themselves and avoid them displacing themselves almost all the time. The teachers of this primary school were usually recruited and paid by the ranch. In 2011, our board of directors put an end to this way of doing things halting this great financial assistance to the government school and the unwillingness of the Fulani and Muslim population with the highest number of children of school-going age. Since 2018, we have assisted financially in topping up the amount of the PTA levy to enable the payment of the PTA teachers.

With the dilapidation of the school structures, I successfully had an NGO, SHUMAS, assist with the building of 2 Classrooms with local materials. Our collaboration with LIFIDEB also provided the school with a 2- classroom building to increase the literacy levels of locals and especially the Fulani population for whom education is still far from being a priority.

5 - Social Inclusion

We have also increased our social interactions and assistance to the local villages. In 2022, we assisted in the building of Kwei’s Fon Palace and assisted the Islamic school of Dumbo Village in the completion of their 2-classroom building. The training we organized with LIFIDEB also increased the skills and capacity development of local graziers.

We also maintained the assistance to animals graziers in the whole region especially livestock basin areas in the dry seasons by continuing to receive their animals on Transhumance. Due to this activity, we do not occupy half of our space and one of the reasons we continuously maintain this situation that way so that the local grazers continuously have an interest in the ranch being safe cause they benefit from us when their animals need pasture most.

6 - Farmer Grazer Conflict

This has always been a problem and in our small way tried to reduce the destruction of farms by our cattle. We have encouraged neighbouring farmers to build fences around their farms so as to discourage cows from easily entering and destroying their produce. We have stopped the payment of compensation to farm owners whose farms are not well-fenced after we investigate the state of the fence before the animal destruction. This has greatly reduced the compensations we pay out and also the frequency of destructions registered during the farming season.

Lastly, despite all the above operations, our continuous engagement with local communities and their involvement in some of our decision-making processes cannot be over-emphasized. We have to continuously conduct our activities in a sustainable and environment-friendly manner to minimize some negative impacts and perceptions of some of our stakeholders and promote efficient use of resources that targets overall community advancement.

- By Bongmbam Justin L.

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