Conflict Puts Remineralization Project on Hold in Cameroon

Map showing the region where FESCAM operates and where it sources its rock dust.

Due to political conflict in Cameroon, FESCAM’s successful remineralization project is now on hold indefinitely. We have previously reported on the ongoing development of this project, including Remineralize the Earth’s (RTE) partnership with FESCAM. We hope to see the project return and thrive in the future and that the conflict in Cameroon will be resolved soon.

Cameroon is a sub-Saharan country with about 60% of the population engaged in agriculture, which contributes approximately 40% of the Gross National Product. Cameroon suffers from serious soil pressures caused by unsustainable environmental practices (i.e., slash and burn agricultural practices, intensive shifting cultivation, cattle rearing in fragile ecosystems, soil erosion due to heavy rainfall) and increasing population growth.

Politically, Nigeria and French Cameroon became independent in 1960, but the British Cameroons were divided between Nigeria and French Cameroon. The result was a divided Cameroon, with different legal systems and a complex bureaucracy.

There is now a movement among the English-speaking citizens of Cameroon seeking to secede and become an autonomous republic, due to discrimination within the dominant French-speaking culture. Since 2016, there have been many protests and harsh responses from the government, with the level of violence escalating.

Dr. Valentine Nzengung of the University of Georgia, founder of FESCAM.

In the midst of this, FESCAM has halted its project. FESCAM was founded by Dr. Valentine Nzengung of the Department of Geology at the University of Georgia. It was created to seek and implement innovative and sustainable solutions to solve food and energy challenges in developing countries.

The project was established with the goal to reduce greenhouse gases emissions by minimizing poor agricultural practices, educating the public on the health effects of these practices, and boosting the local economy and reduce poverty through increased farm yields. The use of rock dust and biochar soil conditioner would increase the crop yields of the poorest farmers the most, reducing poverty and improving food security.

To this end, FESCAM developed a local organic soil amendment called QwikGro. QwikGro has helped to cost-effectively rehabilitate nutrient depleted tropical soils and sustain higher agricultural productivity. FESCAM invested $300,000 in infrastructure, rented land, equipment and operations.

Bagging QwikGro.

Until recently, FESCAM was supplying QwikGro in 50 Kg bags for use in banana plantations operated by the Cameroon Development Corporation (CDC). While artificial fertilizers have to be applied each month, QwikGro is cheaper and remains in the soil for many years. The bananas that received QwikGro in the nursery out-performed bananas grown with artificial fertilizer. The bananas were exported to Europe and also sold in Cameroon and Nigeria. FESCAM was just beginning to sell to the public and small holders, but the production capacity had not been enough to sustain the demand, creating the need for a rock grinder.

Applying QwikGro in the field.

Remineralize the Earth (RTE) chose to partner with FESCAM to scale up its already successful project because of QwikGro’s unique and innovative combination of the use of remineralization and biochar, which is a promising technique for agricultural land in Africa. RTE has been looking for funding for an innovative portable rock grinder that works with biofuels or a solar array or generator to produce more QwikGro and increase food production.

The population in the area served by the smallholder farmers is about 500,000 people. As a socioeconomic outcome, the increased food production would also create other small businesses and jobs in the transportation, distribution, packaging and processing sectors.

FESCAM’s work serves as a successful demonstration of the use of remineralization and biochar in tropical climates. We hope it will be able to establish itself once again in the near future. We will keep you informed.

 

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