While a bottom-up approach to identifying problems affecting food production among small-scale farmers has been urged as an appropriate means of finding sustainable solutions, few studies have determined the practical process of doing so and measured the outcomes of such an approach. This paper uses information gained mainly through focus groups with small-scale farmers and semi-structured interviews, to identify farmers' perceptions of reasons behind low yields and low agricultural production in three communities of Cameroon's North West region. Three biophysical factors are identified as the main reasons of low production: the long and more frequent dry spells and late start of the start of the rainy season. Three socio-economic reasons are identified as most important: land scarcity, money to invest in agriculture and labour scarcity. Farmers rank their reasons based on the importance to their agricultural production in their local area. Some of the important claims made by farmers are tested using field data and statistical analysis. These include the claims that: (1) the rainy season is increasingly starting later than it used to; and (2) the length of dry spells are increasingly longer than they used to be. The results of these statistical tests are significant, showing that farmers' knowledge of some of the local problems affecting their activities can serve as an important input into formal research and policy design. Peoples' understanding of a problem affects the way they will act on it-in terms of searching for solutions and implementing change. Farmers can therefore provide useful insights on why they think there are large yield gaps within their local production environments. The current agricultural development policy of the Cameroon government is advocating greater public-private engagement and can benefit from farmers' inputs and opinions in the design of relevant policies. In the same light, nonlocal based researchers and research institutions can draw on farmers' knowledge to create and accumulate knowledge on sustainable solutions to problems of low yields and low food production in Cameroon.
- Tvärvetenskapliga studier