The project in 2011 assisted over 500 families in the North West and West Regions.
Dairy cattle farming or the raising of milk-producing cows has been gradually gaining in popularity in North West and West Regions over the years with a growing number of farmers - including those not supported by Heifer Project International, Cameroon. Smallholder dairy cattle development was introduced about 20 years ago by HPI Cameroon, an international integrated livestock development organisation.
At the national level, HPI Cameroon's dairy development initiative has since been extended to the Noun Division of West Region. Initially targeting 400 resource-limited farm families over a period of five years, the project in 2011 supported 522 farm families with 4,176 dependents in the North West and West Regions. Not keeping the acquired knowledge and skills to themselves, assisted farmers in 2010 passed on the gifts of knowledge, horticulture seeds and other production resources to 7,538 people in their communities.
One of the farmers in Noun Division, Njutamvoui Nourdine happily recounted how her family's dairy farm now produces 35 litres of milk a day. In six years, her family's annual crop yields have increased from 120kg to 1,500kg for maize, 83kg to 600kg for beans, 2,450kg to 8,670kg for Irish potatoes, and 170kg to 980kg for vegetables on a 34.5-hectare farm after they began applying compost manure to it. On the other hand, the family's annual income increased from FCFA 75,000 to FCFA 1.5 million over the same period.
At the local level, the Ayembei Bon Mbei Dairy Cooperative Society in Santa Subdivision, located some 30 km from the North West Regional capital, Bamenda, began in 2002 with 12 members and 12 pregnant heifers from HPI. Ten years on, membership of the cooperative now stands at 52. According to Elias Tamansang the pioneer president of the Ayembei Bon Mbei Self-Help Group, the good market for fresh milk tremendously boosted the activity.
Some dairy cattle farmers have since used their earnings to expand to pig and poultry farming as well as running petty businesses. The additional income has helped in emergencies, purchase of supplementary food crops and spices, settlement of medical bills and school bills for their children and loved ones, as well as for constructing or refurbishing homes. "I'm so proud of the hope the animals have brought to my family," explained Christine Ngweih, an HPI-supported farmer.
Seeing the progress made by Heifer farmers and taking the bull by the horns, five independent farmers in Mbei village in Santa have joined the queue. According to Victorine Atanga, 38, there was so much in a glass of milk that she could not afford to miss. Like Victorine, Ateh-Mbah Henry, an Agricultural Economics graduate of the University of Dshang, used all his savings in 2008 to get an animal at FCFA 500,000.