The collection, verification, treatment and broadcast of information seems to be a very easy job to many but today's experience reminded me of my first days in the journey of journalism at the CRTV Littoral sometime in 2006 under the management of Valery DIKOS Oumarou. Conducting research on the production, selection, transformation and exportation chains of Cameroon's cocoa cupboard met me with some challenges and unspeakable realities. And yet, not all is to be said in the information cuisine.
About a fortnight ago, I thought of the plight of the cocoa farmer in Cameroon who happens to be at the bottom of the cocoa pyramid, whereas much of the work in terms of hard-work, patience, investment and risk resides on his shoulders. What is the problem? Is the cocoa farmer not informed about advanced technologies to step up quality production of cocoa for an international competitive market? Is the technology so far from the local cocoa cultivator in the suburbs? Is the farmer headstrong to use knowledge passed on by the older generation for fear of adopting new and strange trends that may not be of any good to his yields? Why is the cocoa farmer at the bottom instead of the peak of the value? amongst others, are questions that boiled in my mind.
I could not possible provide answers to all of my technical worries by practicing armchair journalism and so I rushed to the field to meet competent quarters to feed me with traceable statistics on the evolution of the cocoa industry.
My first stop at the National Cocoa and Cocoa Board met me with a blend of ignorant and knowledgeable people. Despite the technical know how, resource persons needed the permission from hierarchy to talk. Believe me you, from the NCCB to the Littoral Regional Delegation of Agriculture and Rural Development, to the Littoral Regional Delegation of Trade and even specialized and specific departments of cocoa and coffee, information was a rare germ to find. Everybody scared to move a muscle, i get even more curious to understand why such an information should be hard to get where as the outright display of necessary data can edify both prospect investors and the farmers of the innermost parts of the country. And then I dug deeper, the more I went on with the digging, I felt a sense of fear and insecurity looming in the competent quarters. But who is afraid of what? Why is the fear so overblown like the ebola viral disease claiming lives only in the continent? I pressed on with information charges and then I realized that the Ministry of trade is preparing to launch the 2014 Cocoa Season at Bot-Makak in the Nyong and Kelle Division.
What you don't know is the procedure to obtain accreditation papers for the media coverage, expected to portray a positive image of the industry to the interested foreign investor. I visited sites after site and fell on the Trade Ministry where I learnt of Economic and Trade Days, Fairs organized to sell Cameroon's wealth in terms of resource, potential in terms of domestic trade, external trade, consumer space, competition and prices. My visiting http://www.mincommerce.gov.cm/ nourished the mind with the existence of a National Competition Committee charged with the responsibility of setting specific standards for an international space. At the end of the day, I had relevant information from the internet that needed adjustments and cross evaluation with technical facts and figures from qualified personnel ready to talk only with the approval of hierarchic structures.
And now the question of decentralization dawned on me: Is it only on paper or actually practiced on the field? How could I meet available and ready-to-use information assets blocked by a systematized strategy?
How can one guess facts when available resources have updated statistics? Why do I have the impression there is still an acute lack of information resources? Or is it still a taboo (in the age) to give out useful information for the economic and agricultural growth of the nation? Could it be that the reporters usually cut the facts and broadcast only what the resource persons fear to reveal? Why the mystery on the information chain?
These are still unanswered questions hours to the official launch of the 2014 Cocoa Season and one thing I am even more certain of, is the fact that actors and stakeholders of the cocoa chain should have necessary information on the evolution of the sector.