(180126) -- HARARE, Jan. 26, 2018 (Xinhua) -- A farmer checks his wilted maize crop in Selous farming area, about 60km west of the capital Harare, Zimbabwe, Jan. 26, 2018. Zimbabwe's dry land crops have begun showing signs of moisture stress, with some reaching permanent wilting stage due to erratic rains and high temperatures. (Xinhua/Shaun Jusa)
INTERNATIONAL - Farmers in Cameroon struggling with the effects of prolonged drought are finding relief through a government-supported initiative to give them access to better crop seeds.

The Southwest Development Authority (Soweda), based in Buea, has partnered with farmer organisations to create seed farms that now supply small-scale farmers in the region with seeds built to stand up to harsher weather.

Since the project began in 2014, Soweda has established more than two-dozen seed multiplication farms for crops including maize, cassava, beans, yams and plantain.

Agriculture authorities say the farms are not only helping Cameroon's farmers grow more to feed their families, but also increasing crop production enough to support processing and export jobs.

“For agriculture to be successful, it starts with quality planting material,” Christopher Ekungwe, regional delegate of agriculture and rural development for Cameroon’s Southwest Region, said in an interview in Buea.

Officials said the seed multiplication farms now cover all six divisions in the Southwest Region, with Soweda selling seed to farmers outside the region as well.

Ekungwe explained that farmers traditionally have saved seeds from their harvests to plant their next crop, but that often such saved seed could not produce yields as large as the more resilient seed varieties offered by Soweda.

Some farmers say the project has helped stop their harvests falling as a result of climate change and improved their incomes.

“We now get a regular supply of quality and adapted seeds at affordable prices,” said Divine Nkeng, a 33-year-old maize farmer in Buea.

Nkeng said Soweda’s maize variety matures in 90 to 100 days, much faster than the seeds he used before, which took 130 to 150 days. Some farmers say they have almost tripled production.

So far, 63 farming groups with over 70000 members from across the Southwest Region have made use of Soweda seeds.