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History Of Coffee Farming In Bui Division 

By Peter Adi Fonte

The Nso Area Cooperative Union Ltd, formed in 1959 by 25 Cooperative Produce Marketing Societies, CPMS, with an Arabica Coffee annual tonnage of 349 tons, reached its peak production of 3 303 tons in 1976, but dropped until it got to a bare 70 tons in 2008. The Nso Union Ltd was registered under the Southern Cameroons Cooperative Societies Law No 171. It later gave birth to the Nkambe and Oku Area Cooperative Unions in 1969 and 1976 respectively.

Permanent workers that stood at a total 70 in 1982, have now dropped to a minimal four, including the 15th manager, Hypolitus Fonbanla, who spoke to this reporter on July 7. As of now, the 21 CPMS that make up the union have a total registered membership of 5 736.
According to Fonbanla, when the Nkambe and the Oku Area Cooperative Unions broke away in 1969 and 1976, respectively, the tonnage of Arabica Coffee dropped from 3 303 tons to 1 725 tons and today stands at 73 tons.

Arabica Coffee was discovered as an economic crop by some Nso sons who travelled to Nigeria in the early 1940s. They took the initiative to study the methods of growing it. They bought the seeds and brought them to their native village where they were nursed and later on planted.

Some of the early coffee farmers who planted the coffee in large scale, included Fai Kofi of Kumbo, Shufai Takkumkui of Kimbo, Shufai of Sop and Andrew Tata of Nkar. Because the coffee farmers made a lot of money, many Nso people scrambled for the seeds and started growing coffee.

At first, when the production was still negligible, the farmers harvested the coffee beans and ground into coffee flour and transported it on heads to Jos in Northern Nigeria for sale. The coffee farmers then consumed very little of it with sweet palm wine, as a substitute to sugar which was very scarce in those days. The need for the creation of a cooperative union came when the number of CPMS increased in Bui.

Late A.B. Fegha was the first manager of the Nso Union from 1958 to 1962. Fai Kofi, who later on became Fai Banka, was elected the first President a five-man Board of Directors. When the union was formed and registered in Buea, personnel from the Department of Cooperatives in Buea, like the late S.K Kilo, S.P.D Tita, M.E Makia and S.S Shang, used to come and supervise its activities.

Foubanla, who took up the post of manager in 2009, has attributed the drop in the tonnage of Arabica production from 170 tons to 73 tons in 2010, to the delay in the arrival of finances for the purchase of coffee.

He revealed that most of the members of the cooperative union, who escaped have now come back because the government has provided the union with high yielding Java Coffee seeds that starts produce after two years. He said the farmers hunt for the Java seedlings and encouraged youths to take up Java Coffee farming.

He averred that, with the government giving subsidies like fertilisers, other chemicals and farm equipment, he is sure that this will go a long way to boost coffee production in the union by 2011.
 

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