Like most parts of Africa, WhatsApp is arguably the most used messaging and social media platform in Cameroon given that more than half of citizens of the central African nation own a smartphone, according to studies by a French outfit.

Far from being just a platform to exchange pleasantries among colleagues, friends, and family, the network is increasingly being used as a medium for businesses, enterprises and even socio-professional groups to conceive, share and promote business and income-generating ideas.

This is the case with a group of actors in the country’s agroforestry, livestock, and fisheries sectors who are using the Facebook-owned messaging application to boost their agriculture-related activities and grow their income.

The group gathers professionals of the agriculture value chain in Cameroon

Claude René Kana Kana, publisher of ‘Paysan Elite’ - a French-language monthly tabloid that focuses on agriculture news and analysis – is the administrator of a WhatsApp group created in February 2020 which brings together more than 200 persons of different sectors of the agricultural production chain. They are sharing ideas and experiences on agricultural best practices as well as business and investment opportunities.

The newspaper publisher, who is based in the port city of Douala, said members of the WhatsApp group are drawn from different parts of the country, with different agricultural backgrounds.

“This group has more than 200 persons made up of farmers and professionals of other fields related to agroforestry, livestock, and fisheries. They include agricultural researchers, seed farmers, producers, manufacturers of agricultural produce transformation and processing equipment, distributors of farm inputs and crop protection products, distributors of fertilizers, traders, teachers, and experts…,” the group administrator said.

“Our objective for creating this group is to sensitize, to the best possible extent, actors in the agro-forestry and fisheries sectors in the country on the litany of opportunities which these sectors offer. My goal was to create a forum for these professionals to share useful ideas and expand their activities”, Kana Kana explained to iAfrikan.

Kana Kana said the group has now gone beyond just a virtual platform to a physical entity where there are plans for members to meet from time to time to discuss issues with experts related to their field of interest.

“With the high enthusiasm I have seen among members, my next plan is to see how to organize workshops, seminars, other training forums, and exhibition fairs as frequently as possible,” he stated.

Agri-business WhatsApp group administrator, Claude René Kana Kana, visits the cattle farm of one of his group members in a mountainous area of Western Cameroon.

How the WhatsApp group is impacting members

With barely five months of existence, Kana Kana’s WhatsApp group is already creating an impact for its members. One of the members of the platform, Kamgang Malieje épouse Bobda Suzanne, who is into cocoa transformation, told iAfrikan:

“Belonging to his group has given my business a lot of visibility. Many people have been able to know what I do, and how they can benefit from it. Through this platform, I have had many customers, and one thing I greatly appreciate is the exchange of very useful ideas which make me aim for higher heights.”

To Serge Lumiere Ngambou, another member who works with a company fabricating equipment for the transformation of agricultural produce, the ideas shared on the platform are simply amazing.

“I am greatly impacted through the information I read on the group. I have been able to understand the major transformation needs of the sector, so as to be able to refocus our market research. It’s a good initiative because it allows us to see many business opportunities and also to know all the actions that the government is taking with regard to the agricultural sector,” Ngambou attested.

“With interesting debate topics every month, it has been a great experience. It feels like being in an amphitheater and receiving lectures. Also, I have been able to meet and work with producers and suppliers of certain items such as products transformed from cassava. I have also been able to attend a number of agricultural shows thanks to this group,” Sorelle Tchatchouang, an agro-economist, explained.

There can be much more to just a messaging application

Like Sorelle Tchatchouang, another member, Adeline Toukam - a senior agriculture technician - has acknowledged that her belonging to the WhatsApp group has proven that there can be much more to just a messaging application.

“I have been able to improve and reorganize my work plan. In the group, there are many people who know more than I do, and when we cross views, I retain a lot of things which help me to improve. This is a laudable initiative for which I hail the initiator,” said Toukam.

The brain behind the idea, Claude René Kana Kana, says despite a number of difficulties so far encountered, his dream is to fully accompany participants in the agro-forestry, fisheries and livestock sectors in their efforts to make agriculture the mainstay of the economy of a country that is yet to modernize its agricultural landscape.

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