It’s been over a year now since Smart Globe International, LLC, entered into agreements for the purchase of 2 plots of land in Cameroon, each about 15 hectares/37 acres.
Most of this year was spent preparing the company for field operations. It included the extensive negotiation and administrative processes to acquire land (much more complicated than expected). It also included creating the business entity of SGI in Cameroon, research projects, and building management systems for the field operations, required standards, human resources, and finance.
At the end of 2016, Patrick, CEO, traveled to Cameroon to advance the projects with the team in Cameroon. He spent time with the agronomists, visiting the farms, aligning the Field Management teams all to the company vision, strategy, administration, and standards of operation.
Now, we are excited to share what is happening on the ground!
Arabica coffee farming
Our sustainable organic Arabica coffee farm is being developed on the plot consisting of savannah land, grasses, and brush in the high-altitude mountainous Northwest Province.
We hired an agronomy consultant, specializing in coffee. With his help, we hired a small team and began a coffee nursery. We now have thousands of coffee saplings under our care.
The team prepared the land for planting of food crops which will be intercropped with the coffee, when the saplings are mature enough. Food crops such as beans, potatoes, and chili pepper, are being planted now.
Some of the challenges we met were finding a reliable tractorist for land preparation and finding enough women to hire. We also had difficulty doing any business on Mondays & Tuesdays (strikes) in response to civil unrest in the country and the subsequent shutdown of the internet in this region.
Our sustainable organic cocoa farm is being developed at lower altitude, in the Center Province, which is more humid and forested. We hired an agronomist, specializing in cocoa to run the operations. With her help, we hired a Farm Supervisor, and together they have been managing the preparation of the land for food crops to be grown in an agroforestry system.
Current projects include the development of chili pepper nursery, acquisition and transport of food crop seeds and cocoa saplings to plant into May, and building an encampment, since the site is quite remote.
Some of the challenges we met were poor telecommunications & physical access to the site due to it being remote and off an unmaintained dirt road. We also had difficulty communicating between the farm and management due to civil unrest in the country and the subsequent shutdown of the internet in some regions. As a result, we have had a hard time finding reliable contractors and laborers, paid higher prices for work, and hired an agronomy technician to manage the operations more closely. [Our agronomist is currently on maternity leave and will continue to consult with us going forward.]
Irrigation & Infrastructure Projects
While visiting Cameroon in December, Patrick met with a former professor of his, Dr. Monkam, at the University Institute of Technology of Douala, to further develop the plans for an irrigation system he drafted. Dr. Monkam helped set up a co-operative education arrangement with 3 undergraduate students and one doctoral candidate, who are now working with us to finalize the design and construct SGI’s combined Aquaculture and Drip irrigation systems.
As the irrigation team moves ahead, the SGI operations teams are planning to build physical structures on the farms that support the operations. We’ll be digging wells and building basic restrooms, storage areas, and camps.
To date, we have encountered nearly every kind of obstacle you can imagine, and those you never thought to imagine…
– from complicated colonial land laws to prevalent political corruption;
– from impassable washed out roads to employee health challenges;
– from communications challenges to cultural differences;
– from labor shortages to civil unrest that led to labor strikes and 93 days without internet service.
Doing business has been challenging, but we learn from every move and continue to persevere toward our vision of making a positive impact upon people’s livelihoods and empowerment through sustainable agriculture.
Thank you for your support of our work. We’ll report back again next quarter.