Antoinette Lamana is a Cameroonian PhD. candidate in rural sociology. Her dissertation is on: The mobilization of socials cadets in response to the “jacqueries” in the SEMRY perimeter in the Southern Basin of Lac Tchad-Cameroon. She holds a Masters’ Degree in sociology on peasant movements and another in Economic and Social History on peasant uprising. She is committed to the question of peasants and social cadets in sub-Saharan Africa and to the sustainable and equitable development in the rural milieu.
The mobilization of rice farmers in response to the SEMRY reforms around the Southern Basin of Lake Chad
The Government of Cameroon established SEMRY (Rice Expansion and Modernization Company) in 1976 to boost rice production in the Logone Valley to meet national and regional consumption needs. SEMRY’s interventions included training farmers in rice farming techniques and providing them with state land on which to cultivate. The State suddenly withdrew this support and introduced new measures including reforms: performance contracts, policy of twinning and equalization, and the contract plan from 1987 to 2006 as part of its Structural Adjustment Program (SAP). For more than 3 decades these reform efforts were punctuated by violent local uprising called “jacqueries” in French. Since 2007, these jacqueries have been replaced by an increasingly diverse set of formal and informal initiatives deployed especially by young and female farmers aimed predominantly at surviving the socio-economic crisis that gripped the country for decades. Among these strategies: the practice of market gardening and rice outside SEMRY spaces, fishing, raising large and small livestock, conquering new markets. Combining ethnographic research, archival work and the analysis of established data bases, I explore the following questions: Why did a company that was intended to enhance local development, fail to contribute to rice production and descend into a crisis that has dragged on for more than three decades rousing local resistance. In what ways has the reform of SEMRY been located in local and national socio-economic processes? I adopt a Foucauldian approach in focusing not just on the ways in which SEMRY failed, but how its failure and subsequent reform fit into local and national political economies. I go beyond exploring the familiar story of economic crises, conflicts and social injustice, to use the story of SEMRY and rice cultivation to tell the story of the Far North of Cameroon, its interactions with central state authority in -away capital city Yaounde and its participation in regional networks in the Lake Chad Basin, which is now the site of the Boko Haram insurgency.
Affiliation: University of Maroua