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Nature’s imposed rejuvenating green scenery, red lush tomatoes, the quick slice of the farmer’s machete as he brings down his matured ‘ebanga’ plantain, the sound of the silver hoe cutting through thick willing soil and the inviting smell of pineapple farms. Sounds, sight and smell of everyday life in the region of the proud Mount Cameroon. Yes, it is a known fact that the South West Region, is predominantly agrarian in nature. Regardless of the growth in other spheres, agriculture and allied sectors still remain the major areas most families depend on for their daily bread. Another established truth is that agriculture and good roads are undeniably interconnected. Roads linking rural areas, which are the physical setting for smallholder agricultural production, and the markets where agricultural produce are sold, are decisive in the advancement of agriculture in the region.
However, in the South West Region, the lack of proper road infrastructure is still a major concern. This has been made worse by the ongoing socio-political crisis. Many roads have been damaged and as a result of insecurity, most construction and rehabilitation works have been suspended. The vandalism of heavy duty equipment by separatist fighters and the kidnapping of field workers, only contributes more to this unfavorable state of things. The consequence is that some farmers remain cut off from the rest of the region. This is especially so in the rainy season when roads are almost impossible to use. Farmers cannot transport and market their goods, leading to a reduction in income and eventual decrease in productivity as well as food availability.
Clearly, rural roads connectivity is one of the key components for rural development in the South West Region. Understanding the prime role this plays in promoting and increasing agricultural development in the region, SOWEDA is accentuating on the construction and rehabilitation of farm to market roads as well as other routes that benefit rural communities. This will make it possible for farmers to transport their farm produce to markets and to their consumers.
It comes as great news then to the population of the South West Region that SOWEDA is making the right call as far as rural roads are concerned, in the form of a recent decision to partner with local communities to open up as many roads as possible. In the final quarter of 2020, the management of SOWEDA resolved to give communities which are ready to participate in the development of their area, the opportunity of enjoying a partnership on a 50-50% basis for the cost of hiring heavy duty equipment for the purpose of constructing or renovating community roads. What this means is, communities will be required to pay only half the actual price of hiring bulldozers, graders, excavators and other heavy duty equipment required in road works.
Since taking off in October 2020, five communities have already benefitted from this partnership with roads cutting across 10 villages in the South West Region. The roads have been constructed taking in to consideration the specificities suited for the different areas. These unique requirements are determined during the study phase of each project. Several other communities are in line to profit from the same partnership.
The South West Development Authority, continues to invite communities to take advantage of this opportunity. To do so, the first step would be to prepare and send a request to the management of SOWEDA carrying important details about the community and the stretch of road they need work on. Secondly, the community will be expected to guarantee the safety of equipment once they arrive on the construction site and then be ready to see the project through.
This scheme falls in line with the mission of SOWEDA which remains to raise the standards of living of the rural population of the South West Region through agricultural development and the improvement of infrastructure like roads, markets, water supply schemes and electrification projects amongst others.
It is the sincere hope of SOWEDA that hundreds and why not thousands of kilometers of road will be constructed and renovated and a better road network established during the course of the year 2021, with the goal of expanding the distribution of agricultural goods as well as opening up additional opportunities for agricultural trade.