Cameroon graft could trigger food crisis: govt

Cameroon faces a food crisis this year as corruption in the impoverished nation’s Agriculture Ministry worsens a shortfall in maize supply, according to the findings of a government investigation.
Some 2 billion CFA francs of state subsidies aimed at raising production of maize, a staple food for Cameroonians, was embezzled by ministry officials through fictitious farmers groups, the government anti-corruption commission said in a report leaked to the media, Reuters reports.
The findings confirmed assertions by local non-governmental organisation ACDIC late last year that graft in the ministry might trigger a crisis.
“After investigations on the ground, it appears to the inquiry commission that the assertions made by ACDIC were for the most part founded, laying bare a vast scandal around the financial management of the (national maize subsidy program),” Cameroon’s National Anti-Corruption Commission said.
“The consequences could impact the food balance in our country and trigger social upheaval and unforeseen consequences,” the commission added in the report.
The report demanded criminal proceedings against 47 individuals in the Agriculture Ministry (MINADER).
Authorities at MINADER refused to comment on the findings, but Bernard Njonga, the president of ACDIC (Citizens Association for the Defense of Collective Interests) welcomed them.
“I am still appealing to the government to take special measures to boost maize production this year so we avoid another severe food crisis worse than the February 2008 one,” he said.
Soaring food prices last year triggered riots and protests in poor nations around the world.
Maize is the most consumed cereal in Cameroon, used for food, animal feed and beer-making. It is cultivated mainly by small-scale farmers on less than 1 hectare.
Annual demand for maize is expected to hit 1.5 million tonnes in 2009 compared with estimated production for the year of 1.38 million tonnes, ACDIC said in a report last December.

Pic: Poverty in Africa