At 35, this young cultivator started with 100,000 FCFA as capital. Invested today in the cultivation of cocoas, watermelons, cassava, tomatoes, vegetables … He achieves more than 12 million F. Cfa in turnover.
“Boss are you going to the field?” Asked the driver of the old car with broken windows and torn seats, parked at the Yassa junction, at the eastern entrance to the city of Douala, the economic capital of Cameroon. “Yes Gabonese, I’m going,” replied the Boss. The driver opens his vehicle and William Kameni rushes in, throwing to the “Gabonese”: “please leave the door open”. Order immediately executed. About 20 minutes later, the car is full. We pay the fare. The doors slam. Four passengers are seated in the back. Two at the front. The Gabonese man drives the engine. In the car, William’s phone rings every time. He picks up, speaks sometimes in French, sometimes in “fefe” (language of the village Bafang, in the West of Cameroon). Each time we hear the words “field”, “watermelon”, “livestock”.
William Kameni is a young 35-year-old farmer. He is going this Monday to his plantation, to the village Sikoum, located a few kilometers from Douala. When the “Gabonese” stopped at Missole II, on the heavy Douala-Yaoundé axis to repair his car whose engine sparks, William’s face crumples. “I always play on time,” he curses, staring at his phone. A few minutes later, the car stops at the crossroads of Sikoum village.
The passengers get off. A goodbye to the “Gabonese”, greetings to the inhabitants. Here is William who already walks the small hill, then the narrow track which leads to his field. The earth stretches as far as the eye can see. In a small hangar where black smoke rises, three young men, naked torsos, are seated on a stool near a wood fire where a pot sits enthroned.
Martial and his colleagues are the permanent employees of the field. They live in the small house built in temporary materials which adjoins their kitchen. This afternoon, they prepare their meal. William chats with his employees. “Did you put the droppings on the watermelons?” He asks. Martial answers in the affirmative. William claims the “marking” notebook which in fact summarizes the quantity of products used on a daily basis. The pleated forehead, he checks the numbers, stops for a moment to question and continues, the air satisfied. After checking the notebook, it’s time to visit his entire four-hectare plantation, a must, which he performs every day, before tackling other rural tasks. “I spend my nights most often in my fields,” he slips.
120 tonnes of watermelons harvested
First stop in front of a cocoa nursery, covered by a shed whose roof is made of straw leaves that he has just acquired. 53,000 in total, he tells us with pride. These plants form a kind of small green garden. William plans to build a large cocoa plantation. “I’m not the only farmer to do it,” he says. As soon as it grows, I will transplant to transplant on the spot ”. William seems to be elsewhere in this vast field which he observes with love. “Be careful where you step. It’s just been three weeks since I planted the watermelons and in two months I’ll be harvesting them, “he said. His phone is still ringing. This time, the family requires their financial contribution for the funeral of a loved one. The conversation lasts almost 30 minutes. He hangs up the phone and continues the visit.
On the vast surface, we observe cassava stalks, avocado trees, papaya trees, plum trees, mango trees and banana trees. William never tires of browsing. He pauses for a moment to clear a tree trunk that blocks the way, another to control a row of growing watermelon leaves. “I sowed these watermelons on more than three hectares. I expect to harvest between 110 and 120 tonnes, “he said. When asked how he watered his plants? William shows the three water trays he has. These tanks have respectively 5,000 liters of capacity and 1000 liters for the other two “I draw the water with the motor pump from the river located at the limit of my field to pour in these tanks before watering the plants”, details the young farmer with a smile on his face. William Kameni’s passion for the land began in his early childhood. His father, a civil servant in Bafang, practices farming to make ends meet and feed his family. Young William, who has not done long studies, he says, observes his sire and takes a liking to field work. In 1997, he really got involved. “The beginnings were not easy. I had to have the brainpower and the techniques, which meant that when I started out, I invested in documentation, knowledge and information, “recalls William. Since his family does not have the financial means, the young man finds a way to make some money. He trained in marketing and found work in the sector. The money earned is invested in agriculture, especially in “information” which he calls practical phase. William, accompanied by his wife, goes to engineers in Douala. He pays their fees from 3,000 F. Cfa an hour to find out. He takes lessons from them and returns to his village for the “experimental” phase. Each time, William fails the experiment. It resumes, fails again and returns to agricultural engineers. “It cost me a lot of millions. I can’t count the fields of watermelons and tomatoes that I failed, remembers the young man. But, I always tried to know well, to master what I do because, if I spend a million Cfa Francs to have knowledge, even with 10 000 F, I can succeed on this subject instead of having a million and engage in a subject that I do not master. ”From 100,000 F. Cfa to more than 12 million
Despite these failures, young William has only one goal: to acquire agricultural knowledge which will give him the assurance that he will put it into practice whatever the time taken. In short, he wants, by all possible financial means, “to have a full head”. “If I know that 1 + 1 = 2. Even in the middle of the night, if you wake me up, I will tell you and if you tell me that it is 3, I will tell you that it is a lie”. Besides, this stubborn man as he defines himself, never liked working for someone. He always wanted to be his “own leader”. Between his round trips to the engineers and his experiments, William ends up mastering certain rudiments of the earth. Having noticed that the culture was successful in Douala, the cultivator disembarked there, with wife and child.
William starts with 100,000 F. Cfa in his pocket and less than 3,000 m2 of area in the Ndogpassi district in 2007. He and his wife work from 6 am to 8 pm, sometimes without rest. Even the birth of their six-year-old daughter does not prevent them from continuing to work hard. The two young people put their child in the shade, under an umbrella, to sow, botch and harvest. “Some people have nicknamed the child” baby umbrella “. We grew vegetables, peppers and corn, ”says the farmer. Which specifies that the harvested products were sold to the surrounding population and to market traders. With the profit from the sales, the two spouses buy new land. They take another portion of land in the Nyalla district.
As time went by, the Kameni bought four hectares from the village Sikoum and others from a place called Pendaboko, not far from the town of Souza. “We have 10 hectares today. Seven belong to us and we rent the remaining three hectares to private individuals, ”says William Kameni. This father of six, who believes in God and entrusts to him all his problems and his hopes, is today a multimillionaire. Besides, when asked about his turnover, he thought for a moment before launching: “my land and everything else (hear plantation products, note) are worth more than 12 million today”. This man who learned a bit of Management and Accounting also relies on the profits from sales to also pay his permanent and seasonal employees whom he takes during the harvest.
Pioneer in tomatoes in Douala
A cultivator’s confidence: whether it is the watermelons, tomatoes, vegetables and condiments that he grows, if he invests a million Francs for example, he expects “always to get double” during the harvest. “The earth hardly deceives, recognizes William. We must dare and innovate. When I arrived in Douala, we were not growing tomatoes because it is a crop grown in the West and in the Southwest. I consulted agronomists, took lessons and started in 2008 “, he relates, before continuing:” You have to master the texture of the soil because here, the soil is much more clay and sandy unlike the West where the soil is compact. It is therefore necessary to feed the soil with elements such as droppings and organic fertilizers which play the mechanical and nutritional roles, which compensates for the deficiency of the soil ”. Nowadays, he grows tomatoes twice a year.
Despite these successes, William did not hesitate, during fairs and agropastoral shows, to educate young people and provide them with advice. He wants to teach them in “no time”, which he has learned for over 10 years. “Farming doesn’t mean you’ve been to school. All you need is health and physical strength. Going from success to success, we get lost without realizing it. Difficulties shape man. I trained a hundred young people. Some have abandoned mototaxi to work with me. Others have their own field today, “he says. William also intends, in the coming years, to export his products outside Cameroon. Before the end of 2015, he will start farming, with a farm of around 10,000 broilers. It’s still just a project. But, William knows that with the road traveled, he will resist against “winds and tides”, the difficulties he will meet.