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SG Sustainable Oils Cameroon Gaining Grounds, Changing Lives In Nguti 

By Ernest Sumelong

After an initial period of mistrust and resistance, SG Sustainable Oils Cameroon, SG SOC Limited, an oil palm plantation corporation run by an American company, is giving a new lease of life to the people of Nguti, a Sub-division in the outskirts of Kumba, along the Mamfe road.
Hidden in this enclave area, is a multi-billion oil palms project that started in August 2010 amid initial fears and resistance by the villagers and some chiefs in the area.

SG SOC worker mulching young palm plant

However, the project kicked-off with some 115,000 palm seedlings, of which about 95,000 are growing luxuriantly in the main nursery farm at Talangaye Village, having survived the stages of what field workers term culling. This, The Post learnt during a recent trip to the project site, is the beginning of a gigantic project, which will eventually cover some 100 hectares of land and employ hundreds of Cameroonians in the process.

According to the Development Manager of SG Sustainable Oils Cameroon, Emmanuel Bamu, a retired Pamol worker, the project currently has close to 40 workers, majority of them from the villages in Nguti. Most of the workers are women who carry out various tasks including mulching (using material such as saw dust or bunch stock to protect roots of the plant), topping up nursery bags with soil, fertilizing the young plants, watering and sweeping of nursery beds.
These workers are paid weekly, with most of them earning between FCFA 50,000 and FCFA 80,000. For the villagers who, prior to the project, found it difficult to come by FCFA 10,000, this is great financial relief.

Bamu, the Development Manager, admits that the project has brought life and employment to the people of Nguti. But, to Bamu, what contributed in the success of the project was the enthusiasm and hospitality of the people. "The people of Talangaye are so warm and accommodative. When the project was about to be launched, the community assisted in clearing the site for free and has been very cooperative since then.

It was thus in the light of this and considering the sacrifices the workers have been making to ensure its success that the SG SOC Management slaughtered a cow and provided bags of rice that was shared among the workers on Saturday, January 15. Earlier, in a bid to fete the Christmas period, management also shared what they termed a communal lunch with the workers.

Bamu said the sharing of the meat and the rice was to thank and recognise the effort of the workers for their contributions since the start of the project. Meanwhile, while receiving the meat and rice, the workers could hardly hide their joy. A worker, Samuel Sokem, said even though there were initial misgivings they are now benefitting from the project, since most them working there come from neighbouring villages. Besides providing them with finances, it is keeping them employed and helping them to learn a trade, he said.

Talangaye palms nursery

To Jacob Ayuk, the Secretary of the Talangaye Village Traditional Council, it is more than that. He has been able to use the money to renovate his house. He said it is difficult to evaluate the effect of the project unless one had stayed in the village before it commenced. On his part, the Chief of Talangaye, Dr. Atem Ebako, esteemed the project to be one that will transform his village and the entire Nguti area. He told The Post in Buea that the SG SOC project will eventually cover over 100,000 hectares of land and bring enormous development.

Challenges

Besides the huge optimism about the project, the road network to the area is posing a major challenge. The road from Kumba, the nearest town to the area, is impassible most times of the year, especially in the rainy season. Besides, The Post learnt that some self-seeking chiefs who had clamoured in vain to get certain positions in project have been doing all to tag the company as fictitious and in bad repute.

But a strong team manned by Dr. Isidore Timti, the Project Coordinator, Emmanuel Bamu, Development Manager, John Fru Mukete, Nursery Manager, Benjamin Nkianwi, Logistics Officer and Augusta Njung, the Project Accountant, have been along side the other workers surmounting the odds to see it record the success the said it is having. They are battling pests and plant diseases such a blast.

Two Million Seedlings In 2012

After the first phase, which started with 115,000 oil palm seeds, the second phase will take off in 2012, with some 2million palm seeds to be nursed and planted by 2013. It would be recalled that in March 2010, the General Manager of the Institute of Agricultural Research for Development, IRAD, Dr. Jacob Mbua Ngeve, and the General Manager of SG Sustainable Oils Cameroon PLC, Bruce J. Wrobel, signed an eight-year partnership deal. According to the agreement, IRAD had to supply the company with high quality oil palm seeds.

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