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Poverty on the decline in eastern Côte d’Ivoire
The African Development Bank is ramping up the pace of its work in the agriculture sector. Its new strategy to transform African agriculture, approved in May 2016, aims to eradicate extreme poverty, hunger and malnutrition in Africa and to transform the continent into a net exporter of food products.
This approach is much in evidence in Côte d’Ivoire, where the Bank set the tone in 2012 and 2016 by funding the Agricultural Infrastructure Support Project in Indénié-Djuablin Region (PAIA-ID) and the Value Chains Development Project in the same region (PDC-ID).
In 2008, eastern Côte d’Ivoire’s poverty rate was 53.5% – the highest in the country. But women and young people worked hard to reverse that trend, cultivating vegetable gardens under food projects launched after the crisis in 2011. In 2012, the African Development Bank gave the projects a major boost with US $30.2 million in financial support to PAIA-ID and US $5.6 million to PDC-ID.
Canada’s Minister for International Development, Marie-Claude Bibeau, who was in Côte d'Ivoire at the invitation of the Ivorian Government and the President of the African Development Bank, visited the project on August 16, 2018 and spoke with its beneficiaries in Abengourou. The Minister also met with the Bank President and discussed new opportunities for partnership between Canada and the Bank of which Canada is the fourth largest shareholder among non-regional countries.
Akoua Rosalie Adou, a rice farmer from Niamien-Dissou village in the Indénié-Djuablin region of eastern Côte d’Ivoire, is now a happy woman. After supporting her husband’s work on the farm over a long period, she has assumed a key position and takes initiatives, including providing for her family’s needs.
Now the family is well fed and can afford more than two meals a day, compared to a decade ago when it had to make do with one.
“The practice then was to follow the men and make do with cultivating small plots. However, things are changing as we now cultivate significant plots of parcelled lowlands. Part of what we produce goes to meet our everyday household food needs and we have produce to sell as well. This is enough to send our children to school,” Adou asserts.
The challenge: sustain production
For the Niamien-Dissou group, with its 38 members, (eight of whom are women, including Adou), each day comes with a new challenge. Adou is proud of her output and for good reason:
“In the 2017-2018 season, we harvested 42 tonnes of rice on the 14 hectares at our disposal. We were able to sell half of this crop. We are going to redouble our efforts for next season, to increase production. We have brought 30 hectares into use and the goal is to quadruple our harvest.
“Our objective is to position ourselves as major rice producers, able to supply markets in other regions. We have seeds, production equipment and a warehouse. The one thing we do not have is threshing equipment. Therefore, we sell our rice at low prices. Had we been able to thresh it, we could have sold it at the same price as imported rice, and earn more,” she said.
Ten years ago, there was no sign of such optimism among the region’s residents when the country was hit by a political crisis. Through a lack of investment and having to cope with flows of migrants from the Centre, North and West, the people of this area were plunged into extreme poverty, the rate jumping from 44% in 2002 to 53.5% in 2008. Yet, paradoxically, this part of Côte d’Ivoire has huge agricultural potential capable of ensuring its food security.
In order to give agriculture a new start, the Agricultural Infrastructure Support Project in Indénié-Djuablin Region (PAIA-ID) reorganized farmers in the region with financing from the Bank. In all, 561,000 people in the three departments of Abengourou, Agnibilégrou and Béttié were involved.
The project is at 80% implementation, yet it has made it possible to develop 566.3 hectares of lowlands, restore 566.4 kilometres of rural laterite roads, build three rural markets, and supply 22 rice-growers’ groups with 64 power cultivators, 64 power harvesters, 32 thresher-cleaners and 365 tarpaulins. The figures speak for themselves: 1,661 hectares of irrigated rice and 211 hectares of non-irrigated rice produced 4,975 tons of rough rice.
The initial results are impressive: 4,214 farmers from 95 farmers’ groups have been trained; 247 hectares produce 2,910 tonnes of cassava per year; 173 hectares of restored banana plantations produce 1,055 tonnes of plantain; 527 hectares of land produce 900 tonnes of maize per year; 100 developed hectares produce 90 tonnes of peanuts; and 43.4 hectares provide 397.5 tonnes of market garden products.
Barakissa Nanzanga is among the many beneficiaries of the project supported by the African Development Bank. She represents the Binkadi Espoir (Binkadi Hope), group from Akoikro, which has a cassava and plantain farm. The group of seven members including two women, are doing interesting work on their five-hectare maize plot, three hectares of plantain, 2.5 hectares of cassava and 0.8 hectares of eggplant and cabbage.
“We harvest several times a year, and when we sell our produce, especially maize, each of the men makes at least 50,000 CFA francs (about US $90). The women make about 30,000 CFA francs (about US $54) each,” said Nanzanga. “With this money, we eat to our fill and we meet our children’s needs, including education and family health care.”
PAIA-ID project coordinator Véronique elaborates: “The different training courses delivered to these producers have been transformative. The women, especially, are devoted to their work and, with their earnings, they’re able to manage their budgets,” she said.
According to Ehouli, production was high in the previous crop year and the restoration of tracks between the villages had led to growth in inter-village trade. She optimistically predicted an upturn: “This will help boost economic activity in the region a little more.”
Water and bridges provide support
Under the project, the Agricultural Infrastructure Support Project in Indénié-Djuablin Region (PAIA-ID) has made it a priority to provide potable water for the people of the region and to restore several bridges, making many agricultural areas more accessible.
It has repaired 100 manual pumps, put 40 new ones in place and built eight improved village water systems. One of these systems was built in Zinzénou, a village of 3,000 inhabitants, 48% of whom are women.
“Our village used to get its water from the water tower in a neighbouring village. But the tower stopped working a decade ago. That forced us to risk our lives going to the ponds for water early in the morning, because the region was very unsafe back then,” explained septuagenarian Bénié Marguerite Ettien.
“Now, we have our own water tower. It doesn’t cover the whole village yet, true, but it does help us avoid the drudgery of the past and the water-related diseases that sometimes used to cause children’s deaths,” she said.
Thirty kilometres away, Manprossi’s inhabitants are all smiles. The village, located on the Ghanaian border, was regularly cut off from the rest of the country, by a river that flooded regularly, preventing travel across it. They were unable to go to Abengourou for supplies and their only option was to sell their crops to Ghanaian traders.
“Every cocoa harvest we produced was at risk of rotting. We were hungry and had no choice but to turn to buyers from Ghana,” said Kouadio Maizan Kra, a cocoa farmer.
“Now that we have the bridge, we have renewed contact with the wholesale buyers from our country. We can now go to the hospitals in our regional capital. We are glad to be able to meet again with our brothers from Djangobo, just five kilometres away,” Kra said.