Blog by Botir Dosov, Uzbekistan

botir  
(Botir and Mrs. Dohnji Joyce at CTE,
Cameroon , Phot by Botir Dosov)
 
According to an old Chinese saying: "superior tea comes from high mountains". The altitude and mountain mists provide a shield against intensive sunlight and provide the proper temperature and humidity to allow the tea leaves to develop slowly and to remain tender. I don’t know what Cameroonians say about the tea that comes from mountains, but I and my colleagues from the 7th GFRAS Annual Meeting, who tasted the tea cultivated in the foothill of Mount Cameroon, would agree with the Chinese saying.

One group of participant attended the field trip to Cameroon Tea Estates SA (CTE) based in Tole.  It is one of the main producers of tea in Cameroon.

When we arrived to the tea processing factory at Tole, we met Ms. Dohnji Joyce. She is a coordinator of plants related activities in Tole’s tea plantations. We learned from her that the CTE plantations are spread over three sites Tole, Ndu and Djuttitsa.

Tole is located at the foot of Mount Cameroon, which is 4,100 m above the coast of west Cameroon. Its climate and soils conditions are favorable for tea cultivation. The climate conditions of Tole gives its tea a special aroma, and is very popular among customers. It is the oldest of the CTE plantations developed since 1928.

First, we went to the plantations where we learned about the process of cultivation and that only the upper leaves of the tea trees are collected. Then we moved to the factory to see the processing. The traditional method of processing black teas comprises four steps: withering, rolling, oxidizing and drying. First, the leaves are spread out on racks of bamboo or woven straw to be wilted until they are soft enough to be rolled without tearing the leaf. Next, the withered leaves are rolled to release the chemicals in the leaf that gives the tea its final color and flavor. Rolling also determines the shape of the leaves. The rolled leaves are spread out in cool and humid rooms and exposed to oxygen for several hours, which causes chemical changes in the leaves and turns them from green to coppery red. Finally, the completely oxidized leaves are fired (or dried) to stop oxidation.

CTE final products, the 30kg bags of tea, are sold to wholesalers. They further repack them into smaller bags and boxes. We found that CTE has a variety of tea products, which can be classified as: Broken Mixed (B.M) Red label in cartons and bags; Pekoe Fannings (P.F), Blue label in cartons and bags; Mixed Pekoe Fannings (M.P.F); and Pekoe dust (P.D) for tea bags, cartons and bags.

We conclude that CTE is well functioning entrepreneurship and has well established the value chain from the field to wholesalers. It was interesting to see that process. So, we enjoyed the beautiful landscape of the tea plantations, drinking the tea. But, still I was missing how this case might be linked to the thematic area of the meeting. I needed something that can highlight the role of RAS in agripreneurship.

As I could not find what I was looking for, I was just enjoying drinking the tea, and started talking to Mrs. Dohnji Joyce.

Botir: How many children do you have? (I don’t know why, but I had a perception that she is married and have children.

Joyce: Four

Botir: Oh, that sounds very good, I have only two boys. How old is your elder kid?

Joyce: She is 16. She study in college.

Botir: And what is her future profession?

Joyce: We have not decided; she studies a general subject. But we will see what she wants.

Botir: Will you advise her banking, insurance or IT sector for her career?

Joyce: No, most probably it will be something in the agriculture and food sector.

Botir: Why? (I wanted to provoke her and said:) Many families advise their children to get education and work in high profit sectors, like banking, insurance, law, ICT etc. Why agriculture?

Joyce: Why not!? Agriculture is food, it provides food and incomes for smallholders. It helps people to fight poverty. It provides livelihoods.

To be honest, I was surprised that she thinks so widely. She seems to be well situated, but she thinks about rural people, especially those, whose life and well-being depends on agriculture. I continued  my conversation with her, and asked my next question.

Botir: So, you do think that we can consider that agriculture can provide the opportunities for entrepreneurship?

Joyce: Yes, of course. It provides work, food and if a farmer is not lazy also income.

Botir: Ok. What do you think is the key factor for entrepreneurship in agriculture?

Joyce: Initial capital, inputs.

Botir: So, you think that to support poor rural people in their entrepreneurship they need some investment capital? I would agree with that. Do you think it is enough, so we give money to poor people and they start work and generate incomes?

Joyce: No, it is not enough. They need knowledge. MONEY WITHOUT KNOWLEDGE IS NOTHING! If we want to fight poverty, to help poor farmers, we need to invest not only capital but also knowledge too.

Botir: What do you think is the role of rural extension and advisory services in supporting the entrepreneurship in agriculture?

Joyce: It is a key. It is support. It the way to help poor farmers to improve their work and get income from that.

I started thinking deeply about her words: “MONEY WITHOUT KNOWLEDGE IS NOTHING”. Indeed the best investments are investments in knowledge and skills. This is proven also in the literature throughout the world. I don’t know whether she read them or not, but I know, she has a clear understanding about the importance role of RAS in agripreneurship.

 

 

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