West Africa: Feeding The Future With Homegrown Rice and Cassava
Dakar and Cape Town — The United States African Development Foundation (USADF) is celebrating a decade of its Feed the Future campaign, which enables partner organisations to target the root causes of poverty and hunger. Projects in Burkina Faso and Benin have produced expertise and economic stability for local agricultural producers.
Growing rice in Burkina Faso
In Burkina Faso, the Cooperative Mitiiri Rice Production and Marketing Project led local rice producers to grow an increasingly sustainable supply of the grain while lowering dependence on imports from China.
Established in 2009, Mitiri – then named Association of Young Dynamics for the Development of Bagre – faced financial difficulties. Help from the USADF helped it to secure production equipment, storage and and funds to buy rice.
One of the challenge of rice agriculture in the country is the lack of productive investments and adequate training, and the USADF worked to provide working capital, capacity building and business advisory assistance to modernize, provide training to members on post-harvest techniques, and improve business operations.
As a result, young farmers in the cooperative are seeing higher domestic sales and revenues and contribute to youth employment.
Challenges and the Reduction of Chinese Imports
KRE Daouda, the accounting manager of the Simplified Cooperative Company Mitiiri of Rice Producers of Bagré (SCOOPS Mitiiri), shared some of the trials and successes that come with rice agriculture.
One of the biggest challenges is insufficient production due to the Covid-19 outbreak. “We have noticed that with the pandemic, the demand for rice at the local level increased, and rice production to be adjusted. The shift in the training schedule on agricultural entrepreneurship did not benefit producers. There was also an absence of manpower the work in the fields,” Daouda said.
But the travel restrictions brought by the pandemic also meant that SCOOPS Mitiiri sold more products. “The reduction in rice imports from China had a great impact in the sale of local rice. it must be said that we no longer have the difficulties as before in selling our products,” Daouda said.
The co-operative aims to continue making gains in improving agricultural technique and providing employment in the coming years, believing that this path to success is something achievable for the entire continent.
“We believe that Africa as a whole will be able to produce rice without importing because it is not the land that is lacking but rather the technical and financial means. At the rate things are going, with the interest of our governors in agriculture and the support of projects and NGOs etc., agricultural yields are improving and we are sure that Africa will meet these challenges.”
“USADFs contribution has helped make us a leader among the co-operatives in our area.”.
Between 1 October 2010 and March 31, 2020, USADF invested more than $10 million in Burkina Faso, producing 157 enterprises and entrepreneurs.
In Benin, the Gbenondjou Cassava Production and Commercialization Expansion Project saw the development of the Ajahonmè’s Manioc Transformation Cooperative, a project which aims to feed the population of West Africa.
The majority of the 25-member co-op are women – 21 of them in fact – and they produce a variety of gari or cassava used in many dishes in West Africa.
The goal of economic empowerment of women is a cornerstone of the Cooperative. While a challenge, Gbezounke Sylvie, president of the Adjahonmey “Gbenondjou” Cassava Transformation cooperative, believes this is achievable.
The organisation’s efforts secured them a three-year deal to deliver gari to their newest client, in Senegal. Sylvie confirms that a first delivery was already made from Cotonou to Dakar, the Senegalese capital.
According to Sylvie, this new dynamic was boosted thanks to the support of the USADF, which granted Gbenondjou much-needed funds between 2017 and 2019.
The Gbenondjou Cooperative used these grants to build production capacity and purchase equipment to process cassava into gari while also investing in training its members in financial management, marketing, improved production techniques and hygiene practices. and sanitation for production. This, says Sylvie, made it possible to strengthen the competitiveness and professionalism of the co-op and contribute to food security, advancing the economic status of the rural women and improve their quality of life.
From Producers to Successful Women Entrepreneurs
The lives of the women involved in the co-op are certainly improved.
A transformation that its president links to the impact of American support on their activities and their daily lives. For Sylvie, the support of the USADF has completely changed their lives and the co-op. “It is thanks to the USADF that our members have started to organize their activities well and managed to double their production.
“This support has enabled them to make their products competitive while respecting the health and commercial standards required on the market. “In the market, our products are sold first because they are now better presented,” Sylvie says proudly.
Profits made have enabled the co-op to acquire its own land and expand cassava farming areas which, over time, will help boost the level of yield and production.
“Since this new situation, the women members of the cooperative have spent less time in the fields and find time to take care of their household and their children.”