- In a first agreement of its kind, Cameroon's local authorities have agreed to join forces and play a more active role in combating food insecurity in the country. In particular the flow of agricultural products was to be improved, thus paving the way for lower prices on basic food staples.
In the so-called Douala Declaration, Cameroon's local authorities last week stated their determination to play a more active role in enhancing the food security of their local populations and improving the efficiency of food supply and distribution activities by private sector operators.
The Cameroonian declaration was celebrated as a "landmark" decision by the UN's food agency, FAO, which had facilitated its signing. Cameroon's provinces "play an important role in initiating and executing food security strategies and programmes," said Olivio Argenti, an FAO expert on urban food marketing working on local approaches to food security.
- They can create better conditions for the everyday operation of formal and informal supply and distribution activities, Mr Argenti added. "For example, by eliminating the obstacles faced by the transporters and the merchants, local authorities can facilitate the flow of agricultural products and drastically reduce marketing costs," the FAO specialist explained.
Among other things, the agreement between Cameroon's central government and its provinces emphasised that creation of work opportunities - particularly for young people in rural areas - was needed to fight poverty, improve food security and slow the rural exodus.
It also emphasised the need to strengthen hygiene at food production, storage and processing sites, as well as commercial spaces, to assure food safety. An improvement of the Cameroonian food sector's hygiene standards could also facilitate the growth of a commercial food production sector aiming at exports from this fertile land.
Cameroon, which spans from the southern rain forest climate to the northern dry Sahel, is not among the most drought and famine affected countries of the region. The northern provinces, however, from time to time experience food insecurity due to poor rains or locust infestations. Central and southern parts can be affected by floods and pests.
FAO holds that these problems can be best addressed by local authorities. Direct involvement of local authorities in food security matters at local level had been the aim of a number of initiatives by FAO in developing countries in recent years, the UN agency revealed.
FAO said it had initiated the Douala agreement following ten years spent promoting this issue globally and locally. "If funding permits similar initiatives in other countries will follow," the UN agency announced.
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