Niger: Tomatoes bring women big returns (by Souleymane Maâzou, for Farm Radio Weekly)
Some of the tomato plants in Hourey Sani’s plot already bear ripe tomatoes. Others are not yet mature. But the harvest will be plentiful. The 36-year-old farmer explains, “This is my second tomato garden. In the other one, everything is ripening. I have even started selling baskets of tomatoes at the market.”
Mrs. Sani has been growing tomatoes for ten years. She says, “Here, women are interested in vegetable gardening. We [women] have a large area in the wetlands around Guidimouni.”
Guidimouni is located in the eastern part of Niger. The month of April is famous in this part of the country for its bounteous tomato harvests.
Women sit on the floor of Guidimouni’s weekly market. Each has a basket of tomatoes in front of her, ready for sale. Growing and selling tomatoes makes them a lot of money.
Mrs. Nassirou is another tomato grower. Her husband is a businessman. He says that, because the women of Guidimouni grow tomatoes, they are increasingly able to support themselves and their families.
Some women complain that a lack of resources prevents them from modernizing their business. They lack agricultural inputs such as pesticides, and need more markets for their tomatoes. Tomato farmer Hadiza Boudicar says, “We are forced to sell the freshly-picked tomatoes directly from the garden to the market. And often at very low prices.”
Mahamane Tahirou is an agricultural engineer in the capital city, Niamey, who specializes in fruit and vegetable production. She thinks the women should be organized in a formal group. She says, “The state and other development partners should support them by creating small groups which can process their tomatoes.”
Mrs. Sani is happy that her financial independence allows her to meet the needs of her children. She says: “I managed to pay for my daughter’s furniture [because] I earn between 5,000 and 10,000 Central African francs ($10 – $20 US) per week from selling tomatoes.”