Cameroon Human Rights Report 2013: Yaounde, Douala Traders’ Artificial Ripening of Plantain Causes Cancer

Photo Ripe Plantain

Traders in Yaounde and Douala have allegedly been using “Mat”, a growth regulator acting on the colour of fruits to ripen plantain and sell to the population. The chemical, approved for farming and not for use after harvest, has a long term effect such as cancer, after consumption. A report on the state of human rights in Cameroon in 2013 has disclosed.
The report published by the National Commission on Human Rights and Freedoms, NCHRF, was presented to the public on Tuesday, November 12, 2014 during an event at the Conference Centre in Yaounde.
“Mat is a product approved by the Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Development in the cultivation of pineapple and the phytosanitary treatment of certain plants” partly reads the report.
The report states that the NCHRF, during the months of September and October 2013, observed the phenomenon of artificial ripening of plantain in the cities of Yaounde and Douala.
This phenomenon poses a serious danger to the health of consumers and is a major cause of the deadly cancer disease.
According to the NCHRF report, Trade Minister had published a press release on October 29, 2013 for distributors of food products including Buyam sellam – retailers notably those involved in the sale of agricultural products – prohibiting the use of phytosanitary products containing “ethephon” to stimulate the ripening of plantain, because of the danger it poses to the health of consumers.
“This phenomenon however, persists” states the report.
“It is true because I know women in this market who use chemicals to make their plantain ripe faster. It is not only plantain, they also use those chemicals to make fruits like pineapple, water melon and pawpaw to ripe and we know them here” a trader at the Mokolo market in Yaounde, who chose not to be named, told this reporter, Saturday, November 15, 2014.
Traders in Markets across Yaounde told stories of how their colleagues use chemicals acting on the colour of fruits to change the colour of beans from either black or red to the highly demanded white beans.
“You know people will do everything to make more money. They change the colour of the beans because white beans, is very expensive but scarce and its demand is high in Gabon and Equatorial Guinea where some of it is sold” narrated a foodstuff seller at the Mfoundi market in Yaounde.
The Human Rights Commission report recommends the increase of uncompromising monitoring teams on the field in order to suppress the misuse of the product, in respect of the laws and regulations in force.
The report also highlighted the right to life with numerous ritual killings and frequent road accidents registered in 2013, forced disappearances with the kidnapping of foreign nationals in the northern regions, transboundary insecurity caused by incursions from neighbouring countries, arbitrary arrests and detention which are still rampant in Cameroon, the right to justice especially concerning the enforcement of court decisions and freedom of worship which was affected by the closure of some revival churches.
The 219-page document in English and French, also presents business and human rights as a problematic area with the violation of many work related rights and the right to property with the issue of land grabbing especially in the South West Region.
Other areas of concern mentioned in the report include environmental problems caused by pollution and poor waste disposal conspicuous in urban areas.
In a speech, the Chairperson of NCHRF, Dr Divine Chemuta Banda, said being unable to investigate and document all human rights violations, the report could not be exhaustive in recounting the human rights issues in Cameroon.
“However, we are aware of what is left to be accomplished in the area of human rights in Cameroon especially if we have to maintain a culture of peace in our country” said Chemuta.
According to him, apart from addressing human rights challenges in the field, they had hoped that most of the human rights violations were going to be addressed through a large scale of the country’s human rights commitments and recommendations coming from both the national and international area.

By Jude Fuhnwi

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