Mystery of Cameroon Banana Sector

The Cameroonian banana industry was among the world top producers. It had ambitions of posing as a major banana exporter in the Africa – Caribbean – Pacific (ACP) region. This sector was one of the main providers of employment in Cameroon. In 2011, close to 297,210 tons of bananas were exported while the business generated about 170 billion CFA francs per year for an average production of 300,000 tons.

Emmanuel NGOTA

At the heart of the activity of the banana sector in Cameroon are land concessions exploited by major agro-industrial groups operating in the Mungo Division in the Littoral region and Tiko in the Fako Division of the South West Region of Cameroon. The implication of these regions in the banana industry was motivated by their fertile volcanic basements, mild climate, availability of plantation labor, as well as a long entrenchment of culture of plantation economy that was installed since the colonial era. These areas were the chosen lands of the banana agro-industries in Cameroon: both have a long and rich economic history for banana cultivation with major plantation activities.

For several decades, Njombe-Penja and Tiko have served as host to many operators engaged in the cultivation and exportation of bananas. The main actors in this sector were the Cameroon Development Corporation, with plantations in Tiko and Plantation de Haut Penja (PHP), which is an affiliate of the french fruits giant, Compagnie Fruitiere with plantations in Njombe-Penja. While this activity has generated a lot of benefits to the multinational corporations that operate the plantations, and the communities in which these plantations are found have suffered injustices in the hands of the companies. It is against this backdrop that this paper sets out to make an appraisal of some sustainability issues that have gone a long way to affect the lives of both the workers and the communities.

To understand some of the sustainability issues in the Cameroon banana industry, this study will rely on oral interviews documentaries like, The Big Banana that critiques the human and environmental impact of banana plantations in Cameroon. The documentary begins by presenting an aerial view of the Njombe-Penja community where the banana wealth goes to the multinational company, Plantation du Haut Penja (PHP), while most members of the community remain poor. PHP workers are shown as they labor to cut down the bananas and transport them to the processing station.

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