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Nkol-Evodo Women Nursing Eru Against Climate Uncertainties 

By Leocadia Bongben

Farmers could get consolation from the cultivation of gnetum africanum, locally known as eru, or okok as a way of forgetting poor harvest occasioned by climate uncertainties, if properly harnessed.

It is against this background that women of Nkol-Evodo, a community of 5,600 inhabitants in the Lekie Division, about 80 km from Yaounde, are nursing eru with great expectations, hoping to grow this wild vegetable in their backyards soon. Thus, a project known as the Congo Basin Forests and Climate Change Adaptation, CoFFCA, seeks to encourage farmers to grow eru within a shorter period.

The project falls under the Centre for International Research Programme, CIFOR, that seeks to help communities in Cameroon, the Central African Republic and the Democratic Republic of Congo to adopt eru cultivation against global warming. Jean Baptiste Ongolo Modo, CoFFCA consultant, and also consultant of the National Support Programme for the Promotion of Eru Cultivation at the Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Development, identified three methods of eru cultivation, but says the pruning method is ideal to have plants within a period of about three months.

Ongolo Modo said first, the germination boxes are constructed with local materials and covered with plastic. Stones, gravel and sand form the first layers while black soil or wood ash is the level closer to the plant.  The plants that have been trimmed to ensure that vapour escapes from the leaves are planted, and kept in the germination boxes for four weeks, Modo explained. These are then transplanted in an acclimatization unit which serves as a weaning area for the plant, preventing it from stress. The hot and humid temperature in this unit favours the development of roots.

After four weeks, the plants are transferred to an ordinary nursery and watered for two weeks prior to their transfer to the farms. The expert advised that it is better to plant when the rains arrive than during the dry period, adding that it takes one year to harvest mature eru leaves. Modo estimated the construction of a germination unit at FCFA 10,000, and to nurse 1000 plants, it is estimated that a farmer would spend FCFA 50,000 and can sell the seedlings for FCFA 300,000, each at FCFA 300.

Drawbacks

Although eru cultivation might uplift the nutritional spirit of farmers and women in particular, sourcing for funds to build the structures to grow eru is still a nightmare for most women in the villages. Juliette Ongolo is one of such women who laments that she has no means to start up a nursery of her own.

Notwithstanding, CoFFCA is encouraging eru cultivation because this forest product is not affected by climate change, and would provide a source of income for farmers for them buy other food crops that continue to dwindle due to poor harvest. Denis J. Sonwa, a CoFFCA expert, argues that climate change constitutes an additional burden for the Central African region where the livelihoods of the population especially women is dependent on agriculture.

Jean Marie Assougena, a farmer, is aware of the violent rains and longer dry seasons for the past two to three years. "I had to spray my cocoa farm with insecticide this year in November, what I have never done at this time of the year, because the cocoa beans are being attacked by insects as a result of too much rainfall," Assougena said. Odile Ekelle, another farmer attributes the rotting of their cassava to too much water in the soil resulting from heavy rainfall.

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