Awa watched her son leave 7 years ago from Burkina Faso to pursue better economic opportunities. When the 28-year-old Adama was forced to return, he found that members of the farmers’ cooperative of his community were calling on him to join. What opportunities did mother and son find in collaborating for a more professional farmers’ organisation?
Awa Boundane is the President of the Simplified Cooperative Society (SCOOPS) Nong Taaba – meaning “Let us love each other” in the Mooré language - located in the Boulgou province in the Central-East region of Burkina Faso. The cooperative is dedicated to the production and commercialisation of sesame.
“To bring Adama back, we had to send him money. He couldn’t find a decent job,” says Awa. “It is a common story in Burkina Faso,” she says.
In Sub-Saharan Africa, Burkina Faso is one of the largest suppliers of migrants, mainly to Côte d’Ivoire. Emigration mainly originates from rural areas and moves to other rural areas to engage in agricultural activities. The United Nations Department of Economic and Social Affairs (UNDESA) counts 1,011,682 Burkinabe living abroad, the majority in Côte d’Ivoire.
“At the cooperative, we are organising meetings to reflect on migration”, says Awa. “It is a problem that not only leaves us anxious but also without more support to develop our farming family business.”
Sesame production is an opportunity for economic and social development in Burkina; agriculture accounts for 35% of the country’s gross domestic product and 82% of its labour force.
However, the farmers and cooperatives are challenged to professionalise and play a more active role in the agricultural sector.
Nong Taaba is part of the Production and Processing for Economic Resilience of Women and Youth in the Centre East Region (PTRE-FJ) project, supporting cooperatives and agribusinesses so that they become more inclusive, and opening up production and processing opportunities for women and young people and hence increase their resilience.
Since 2020, Rikolto is running the project together with Trias, the Agence pour le Développement et l'Innovation du Monde Agricole (ADIMA), Belgische Raiffeisen Stichting (BRS) and Interprofession Sésame du Burkina Faso (INTERSEB), with funding from the Belgian development agency, Enabel.
According to Ludovic Yigo of Rikolto, 38% of the members in the cooperatives involved in the project are women and 35% are young people. Then, our goal was for both groups to have access to resources and knowledge leading to an improvement in the production process, thereby enabling them to get a better price for their produce.
The collaboration between young people and older members became crucial when adopting new technology or new processes in the organisation.
This was evident in July 2022, when the cooperative received equipment to professionalise its sesame production and processing. The young people were engaged to learn and coordinate the use of this equipment.
“Although the problem of migration is serious in Burkina, we would prefer our children to work in agriculture. With the equipment obtained, we were able to fine-tune this opportunity,” says Awa.
“The young people are responsible for the maintenance of the equipment, working the fields with the power tillers, and the adults are in charge of the financial management because we can no longer go out into the fields.”
Awa says that they have already planned to carry out a balance sheet every 6 months to analyse the benefits.
“During my time away, I could not find jobs that provided a decent income.” Adama came back 3 months ago. When he returned, he found the cooperative fully ready to adopt the new equipment provided by the project.
Adama participating in one of the workshops on capacity-building session on marketing and negotiation facilitated by the project.
“When I came back, I found a more dynamic cooperative. I was surprised that several producers invited me to join as a member of Nong Taaba.” Adama is now working in the field, but also driving the power tillers and a motorbike taxi.
“When we leave home, it is possible that we will come back again and not have found what we were looking for. But being here and having the opportunities and support, even with a small chicken farm, it is possible to invest in yourself and your family.”
According to Adama, young and old must accept that they do not think alike. “We need to understand that our ideas will not be the same, coming from different generations and experiences.”
“I believe that young and older people need to be patient with each other. Older people should listen to what we have to say and we young people should listen, too, manage our eagerness and take in the knowledge and guidance of our elders.”
Since 2017, Rikolto has been supporting the Union Départementale des Producteurs de Sésame de Niangoloko (UDPS-N) in the Niangoloko area to improve the quality and volume of sesame and to establish sustainable business relationships between farmers and exporters.
By 2021, from zero (0) contracts, 100% of the sesame is now being sold through group contracts. For farmers, group sales allow them to avoid price dumping and fixed prices.
At the policy level, Rikolto together with the Interprofession Sésame du Burkina Faso (INTERSEB), supported an advocacy strategy which allowed the adoption of export specifications, such as the setting of a fixed price, and finally the tax of 10 CFAF/Kg of exported sesame to fund the development of the sector.
Through our 2027- 2021 programme we reached 2,500 farmers of which 750 are young people. Also, the income of sesame farmers from the sale of quality products through the cooperatives increased by 60%.