Back in June our friend in Cameroon, Matti Foncha, who we buy our Cameroon Boyo coffee from, uploaded a video to YouTube where he talks about how the coronavirus has affected him and coffee production. We have also included a transcript for people who would prefer to read rather than watch the video.
Impact of the Coronavirus Crisis
on the production & direct trade of coffee from Bamenda
Transcript (11 June 2020)
My name is Mattie Foncha. I’m a farmer and I’m in Bamenda (Cameroon). We grow coffee as well as many other crops which we take to world markets. I organise and coordinate the work of so many other farmers in this region but when the government banned travel and closed the borders because of Covid 19, I found myself at home with my elderly mother. She’s in her nineties. So it places both her and me in the high risk category for Covid 19.
In Bamenda most people have not really felt the true impact of Covid 19. We haven’t seen the dramatic deaths that they’ve seen in other countries around the world. People go through the motion. We wear masks and we try to keep our distance but people don’t really truly understand what it’s about so I am glad that I happen to be home with my mother when this travel ban was imposed and I’m going to continue to be here until I am absolutely sure that she can be protected and kept safe. So yes in a way Covid 19 has affected me and my life but it’s in a way for me it’s a positive effect because it gives me a chance now to be sure that I’m giving my mother the best protection she can get at a time like this.
Our main production is coffee. I’m in the farm here where you can see a lot of coffee trees but we also grow beans and other crops along with the coffee. So when we were faced with the issue of Covid, my own work professionally got a little bit disrupted because typically I’ll go to market areas mostly in Europe and the United States. We also have customers in Asia.
I will visit our customers and make arrangements for pricing. We sell our coffee directly to the world market and directly to farmers. That was directly to coffee roasters. So not being able to travel we had to restructure how we work and so now we mostly use online channels to communicate. We use social media as much as possible but we also use direct emails, phone calls and that way we can keep ourselves going.
Why we were able to do this and not feel too much the effect of Covid is because we built up very strong relationships. Direct sale relationships, direct trade relationships. For the roasters who handle our coffee and then the roasters for us who they trust to do the right thing to give them quality.
It is mid- August … the daily rains have stopped, but only for about a week – our “small dry season” – time to harvest and replant supporting crops. Let’s hope that that the rains resume soon – good for our farms, good for our coffee!
Our hometown Bamenda is still functioning pretty good because again the dramatic effect of Covid hasn’t really hit home yet so we go through the motions when you go to the bank they keep a social distance . When you go to churches they are also like that but the markets are still open and people enter crowded buses and crowded motorcycles so we have some ways to go but again were fortunate that the rest of the world has experienced Covid and they’re able to give us some pointers for what to do to take care of ourselves.
Were obviously looking forward to what people call the new normal that’s going to be coming up post Covid but I somehow think were already living the new normal when you look at sister city relationships like Bamenda and Dordrecht and you look at the potential for direct connection in that way that is how trade should have been and that is how were developing our trade. Intimately connecting the partners one with the other and in the spirit of mutual respect and trust that each party will do whatever it can do to empower the other one and were very very grateful for the people of Dordrecht for being our partner and our sister city.
You can also find out more about what the country of Cameroon is going through right now then we recommend the following:
Video by the Washington Post:
Cameroon, divided by two languages, is on the brink of civil war: