A cocoa producer in southern Cameroon
Gaston Bivina lives in Ekali, a village in the forest zone of Cameroon, about 50 km from Yaoundé. In the village there are two systems for arbitration: one for the notability, and another set up by the territorial administration. Like all the local old people, Gaston is part to the council for the notability.
Like many small farmers in tropical areas, Gaston, a hard worker, has planted cocoa trees (called "capital trees") year after year. They brought him a regular income, and allowed him to establish his right to the land with respect to his neighbors. His wife works exclusively on food crops to feed the family (cassava, banana plantain, …)
Until recently, Gaston was able to maintain his farming activity with the support of his family.
From 1956 to 1991, cocoa gathering was handled under the control of the Cameroon administration, which fixed a guaranteed price for small producers. Now, with the free market, small producers face commercial traders alone. Moreover, the present market tendency toward lower prices for cocoa has become for them an additional element of economic fragility.