Guinea: Growing tomatoes all year round (by Ibrahima Sory Cissé, for Farm Radio Weekly in Guinea-Conakry)
Aboubacar Sylla grows tomatoes in Koliada, southwestern Guinea. But he doesn’t grow just any variety. For the last two years, Mr. Sylla has dedicated two hectares of land to a variety called Moungal. The impact has been enormous. In just two years, he has earned enough to build a modern concrete house.
Mr. Sylla is not the only one who is impressed by the new variety. Many tomato producers are happy. The income they earn by selling Moungal tomatoes is solving everyday problems such as paying children’s school fees.
According to Mr. Sylla, this variety is more productive than others, is easy to grow, and farmers can grow it in any season. In the dry season, it can be grown in the lowlands. During the rainy season, it thrives on upland slopes. It grows in all kinds of soil. Moungal is new to this part of Guinea.
Moungal was developed during trials at the Foulaya Agricultural Research Centre, in Guinea. It was introduced to Koliada in 2000 through farmers’ associations.
Thierno Hamidou Camara is a researcher at the Foulaya Agricultural Research Centre. He is full of praise for Moungal tomatoes. He says, “We began tests to find the qualities requested by the farmers, and chose the best from 25 tomato varieties.” Five varieties were selected, and Moungal was developed from these. According to Mr. Camara, one hectare of Moungal grown with appropriate farming practices yields up to 25 tonnes of marketable tomatoes.
Before Moungal, tomatoes were only grown on higher slopes during the dry season. But now, growers can plant in the rainy season too.
But Moungal risks becoming a victim of its own success. Overproduction is now a serious concern. The only major market is in Conakry, and this market is almost saturated. There is little opportunity for processing excess production. For example, Guinea has no cannery to manufacture tomato paste.
To protect the farmers from the effects of overproduction, the Foulaya Agricultural Research Centre recommends that growers produce only enough to satisfy existing orders from major cities.
As for Mr. Sylla, he avoids the problem by producing other crops. He explains, “Next to my cherished Moungal tomatoes, I grow maize in April in the lowlands. ” He sells his maize in the local market, and uses the money to help his family through the lean period before harvest. He says, “The drop in sales does not take me by surprise, I always have something in the ground.”