More than a year ago, SOWEDA set its sights on diversifying the South West Region's agricultural landscape, aiming to promote a lucrative new crop to its fertile volcanic soil and vibrant cocoa industry; white pepper. This vision is the driving force behind SOWEDA's White Pepper campaign, an innovative initiative that aims to empower farmers and cooperatives to excel in the cultivation and transformation of white pepper.

In the South West Region, where white pepper production is still relatively new, farmers encounter various challenges stemming from the lack of deep-rooted knowledge and skills necessary for proper processing techniques. Traditional methods often fall short, leading to inconsistent quality and reduced yields. Additionally, weak integration within the supply chain limits their access to valuable information, resources, and fair market prices. These challenges threaten to stifle the potential of the crop, hindering individual productivity and the overall profitability of this promising endeavor. 

However, SOWEDA is actively tackling these obstacles, empowering farmers with the know-how and tools to unlock the true potential of white pepper in the region. In order to address these challenges faced by farmers and bolster their ability to compete in the market, the South West Development Authority (SOWEDA) has organized a two-day training workshop in Loum. The capacity building session which unfolded over the course of February 1st and 2nd 2024, was designed to enhance the production and processing proficiency of  over 30 farmers and cooperatives in the South West Region, with a focus on the art of white pepper transformation.

Throughout the course of the training, participants were guided by seasoned experts through each integral stage of the white pepper transformation process. This encompassed a thorough examination of the berry retting process, an essential first step in the metamorphosis of pepper berries into the highly valued white pepper. The retting process, which involves the submersion of the berries in water for a predetermined duration to instigate the fermentation process, was elucidated in great detail, with a particular emphasis on the divergent methods of retting, such as submerged and aerial retting. Farmers were also given insights into the selection of the most appropriate method based on their unique regional climate and available resources.

Subsequent to the retting process, the drying phase was considered with trainers underlining the paramount significance of employing apt drying methods to effectively forestall mold growth and safeguard the premium quality of the final product. Washing the berries, the trainees were told is a vital step that follows drying and must be done meticulously. They were taught the proper techniques for washing, which are crucial for ensuring that the berries are rid of any residue from the retting process and adequately prepared for the subsequent stages of the transformation process.

In the final part of the training workshop, participants were drilled on the final stage of the transformation process, namely sorting and packaging. The trainers highlighted the critical role of proper packaging in safeguarding the quality and freshness of the white pepper and ensuring its compliance with international market standards.

Mr. Teba Abel Kemba, Sub-Director of crop production at SOWEDA who leads this activity, emphasizes the importance of the training in improving the livelihoods of farmers and their families in the South West Region. He says, "We are dedicated to supporting our farmers in the region by helping them to maximize their earnings from white pepper production. By equipping them with the knowledge and skills necessary to produce high-quality white pepper, they will be able to establish a sustainable farming practice that yields greater profits. The benefits of this enhanced production are manifold, as white pepper has become increasingly popular in the global market. In fact, it is currently selling better than cocoa in many areas. This growth in demand presents an opportunity for our farmers to expand their earnings, increase their standard of living, and contribute to the overall economic prosperity of the region."

One of the participants, Mr. Atanga Sylvester, a farmer from Tiko expressed his joy after acquiring new skills at the training. He states, “By gaining this knowledge and understanding, we are now equipped with the skills and expertise to produce high-quality white pepper that can compete in the global market, meet the expectations of international buyers, and command a higher price, thereby resulting in increased earnings for us farmers.”

Through this comprehensive training session, participants have gained a better understanding of the white pepper transformation process and acquired the necessary skills and knowledge to produce high-quality white pepper that meets not only local, but international standards.

Part 2 of the capacity building workshop included field work and practical demonstrations, allowing the participants to apply their newly acquired knowledge in a real-life setting.

Mr. Kufong Joseph, a farmer from Tombel, expresses his appreciation for the training, stating, "I previously produced white pepper using local methods of planting and selecting the berries. However, the training has been enlightening, as it has equipped me with the skills to produce high-quality white pepper through optimal processing techniques." Mrs. Mbouka Judith Flore, another participant, also shares her gratitude for the training, stating, "Last year, SOWEDA began providing us with essential training on white pepper production. Prior to this, I lacked formal training in this area. Today's session has been particularly informative, as we have learned the best practices for processing white pepper to achieve superior quality. I am truly grateful for this opportunity."

By providing comprehensive training programs that address the challenges of white pepper farmers in the South West Region, SOWEDA empowers  farmers with the ability to enhance and adopt more efficient and effective processing methods, and ultimately improve their competitiveness and sustainability in the white pepper market. This recent training marks a significant milestone in the promotion of this emerging crop in the South West Region. 

As a follow-up to last year’s training on white pepper cultivation in the region, this year's initiative builds upon that foundation, with a specific focus on equipping farmers with the knowledge and skills needed to create high-quality, competitive white pepper products from excellent processing methods.

SOWEDA's drive demonstrates its dedication to fostering the growth and success of the white pepper sector in the region. By providing continuous learning opportunities and promoting improvement in production techniques, SOWEDA is supporting farmers and producers in achieving their goals and contributing to the overall development of the sector.

Category: News