Cameroon is a middle-income country. In 2012 its growth rate was 4.6%. Between 2013 and 2015 it was estimated at 5.6 and 5.9%. However, the country is still characterized by negative social indicators, high and persistent levels of poverty. Its 2014 Human Development Index, HDI, remains low. Cameroon is ranked 153rd out of 188 countries. Yet, the territory is rich in natural resources. It has an educated workforce and a development potential, but still unexploited.
Poverty is increasingly concentrating in the three northern regions. Insecurity, high population growth rates, environmental degradation, malnutrition, isolation and low productivity rates account for the poverty.
Cameroon is making increasing efforts to diversify its economy. The challenge is to free itself from dependence on the extractive industries (e.g. oil and wood). The country aims at promoting a broader base of economic growth. Government has targeted agriculture and livestock as priority sectors for poverty alleviation and food security. Almost half of the population lives in rural areas. They rely on agriculture for their livelihood. In this like, the agricultural sector (agricultural products, livestock, fisheries and forestry) plays a significant role in Cameroon’s socio-economic development. The sector in question is a supplier of food and feed for livestock, employer and income generator. Cameroon’s agriculture contributes about 20% to the GDP, gross domestic product, and employs nearly 60% of the active population. Agriculture contributes almost 40% of total exports, excluding oil.
Livestock represents 13% of agricultural GDP. It employs 30% of the rural population. One-third of households depend on the livestock sector. It is divided between poultry farming (85.9%), sheep farming (55.1%), goat farming (27.2%) and pig farming (23.3%). cattle breeding (meat and milk: 17.9%). Cattle, poultry, pigs and pups are a source of monetary income. These speculations ensure nutrition and food security. The same speculations are improving the living conditions of rural households. Livestock also plays a role in household savings. It contributes mainly to the production of agricultural commodities through manure and animal traction.
Three main categories of livestock production systems co-exist in Cameroon:
- pastoral systems (extensive: small and large ruminants);
- mixed agriculture-livestock systems (sedentary systems based at the village level, that is traditional)
- commercial systems (mainly semi-intensive peri-urban companies).
The main actors in animal production are small farmers. They have modest livestock farms. It is necessary to include small livestock operators and companies in the same field. Modest, medium or serious, most of these livestock organizations are runned by men (80, 60 and 90.6% respectively). Most often these leaders are primary or secondary school leavers. The level of education of these leaders most often is between primary and secondary schools.
National demand for animal products is higher than national production. The gap continues to widen. Total annual meat production is 265,816 tonnes (poultry: 45%, cattle: 35%, small ruminants: 7%, pigs: 13%). As for milk production, it was estimated at 235,779 tonnes in 2013. Egg and honey production) stood at about 65,116 tonnes and 2,815,800 litres respectively in 2013. Only egg production seems to satisfy and sometimes exceed national demand. The gap could continue to widen for a number of reasons: population growth, urbanization trends and the rapid growth of the middle class.
In all, livestock in Cameroon has the potential to contribute significantly to economic growth, which should help to reduce food insecurity, malnutrition and unemployment. Moving from a predominantly subsistence-oriented livestock sector to more commercial practices offers opportunities to better integrate livestock farmers into the value chains. This will require, among other things, improved species, grading, storage, auction sales, popularise, valoralisation of information on prices, transport and logistics services.
Despite the country’s obvious potential for the development of the livestock sub-sector, a series of constraints have led to low productivity and production among subsistence livestock farmers in Cameroon. Going by the directives of the 2009 Livestock and the 2012 Pastoral Survey, the following constraints among others affect all value chains :
- poor education of farmers;
- health constraints (prevalence of parasites and infectious diseases affecting 70% of livestock);
- the low productivity of local species;
- poor quality advisory services;
- limited access to rural credit/financing and
- limited access to processing and marketing infrastructure that could maximize added value for livestock farmers.