Cameroon: The ‘Grass’ Threat

Pictures of some administrative officials visiting cannabis farms in Noun Division in the West Region recently left many thinking it was the rehearsal phase of some film under production. But those pictures were real just the volume of the harvest and the size of the farms – some covering three hectares!

This is a clear indicator of the fact that this part of the country is virtually taking over the images of intractable crime activity in some notorious Latin American country where drug lords control large expanses of territory and even set up rival administration. The area in question has carved out a notorious reputation as fertile ground for the production of cannabis and other nefarious grass. And such activity has been carried out with wanton impunity to the extent that production has tended to rise rather exponentially.

In the past, we were used to smaller quantities intercepted in passenger luggage in vehicles heading for Douala or Yaounde. A few days ago, a rather impressive quantity of nearly 10 tonnes was discovered, meaning that the activity is in full bloom and that the marketing circuit has been well studied. Otherwise, how can a truck load of cannabis with over 30 well-stuck sacks hit the road with such impunity without the connivance of some public officials? This is especially as the nation’s major roads are strewn with numerous checkpoints – official and unofficial. And then, knowing fully well that the area has such a reputation, how could the various security agencies and the local administration be so reactive rather than exhibiting the necessary proactive posture?

There are many causes for cannabis farming, least of which is not the generalised unemployment situation which sometimes pushes even the most docile and law-abiding youths into it. This probably explains why several other cases have been reported in other parts of the country. It could even be possible that activity in those areas is more intense. The habit seems to be well entrenched if one goes by the reactions of some of the arrested “farmers”. Some told investigators that they were doing it to earn a living and even pointed to the fact that the herb is used for medicinal purposes, hence their many customers in the medicinal and beauty care milieu.

The solution to the growing phenomenon is not only going to be hard-fisted, but will have to take into account the fact that many caught in this illegal practice are not going for any mea culpa because of their belief that it is “normal economic activity.” This means there has to be an all-out effort to educate and sensitise because one can envision the real threats of this ‘grass’ invasion and the toll it can take on national social cohesion.

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