Tebonsso Nantia Valery in charge of production, SERAPH.
What is your take on the alleged extinction of raffia bushes ?
I would say it is not an overstatement. If absolute care is not taken, raffia that is gradually disappearing will completely go extinct. Most wetlands where raffia used to occupy have been transformed into tomato farms and other food crops while others have cleared it for the construction of houses. The destruction does not only affect tappers, but the community at large especially as ecosystem is concerned. It has also led to the increase in prices of raw material for handicraft and a reduction in the items produced using raffia raw materials. Even the raffia fruits that used to be sold at 10 FCFA for a stick of up to eight of the fruits during the 90s is now sold at between FCFA 50 and FCFA 100 in some villages. We are here to say no to the deforestation of raffia and yes to reforestation. We teach by example and that is why for three years now, we have been producing pasteurised raffia drink loved by many Cameroonians who are reminded of their roots each time they sip a glass of the ever fresh pasteurised wine. What are the challenges SERAPH faces in the production process. The challenges are enormous but we are doing our best to surmount though we can’t go up to a certain level without the intervention of the authorities. To begin with, packaging is a huge problem that needs intervention. Getting bottles is really a difficult task. We have been to a certain glass packaging production company but they turned us down. Getting the crowns is equally a problem. We import crowns from Belgium though a bit expensive. We import seven cartons of crowns with one carton having up to 49,000 making a total of 343,000 crowns that we can use for many years. Getting people to know about our product and having a market is one of our greatest worries. Advertising in public and private media is quite expensive and we don’t have enough resources to do so. Reason why we resorted to sensitisation especially during trade fairs. Having a shelf in some supermarkets is a problem though our product has the backing of the Standard and Quality Agency, ANOR.
Given the numerous huddles you go through, what would you wish the government do to better up production ?
Advertising our product on State owned media houses like CRTV and Cameroon Tribune will go a long way to create awareness of the product. Once the product is advertised, it will give it more credibility and once we conquer the local market, it is only then that we can think of going international. Another huge problem small and medium-sized enterprises face is that of packaging. If the government can create an enterprise that produce only packaging, it will be of great help and benefit to the companies and the State since the importation of packaging will reduce.