Nelly Bassily | June 28, 2010
Atse Mathurin noticed his yields of kola nut were dropping sharply. “I could not understand why my production almost halved in the last two years,” he says. He grows kola nut on a plantation in Yakassé-Me, in southeastern Ivory Coast.
A nearby farmer, N’dri Germain, also saw his yields drop by half. “I thought a curse had been put on me,” he said. The two farmers turned to local agricultural advisers for answers. They discovered that their trees were simply getting old and could not produce the bountiful harvests of previous years.
So, action was needed. Mr. Atse is busy planting new kola seedlings among his big, old kola trees. By June this year, he had planted five hectares. He aims to plant a total of eight by the end of the year. He says, “In two to three years, I should enjoy the first harvest. But the most important thing is that my production will increase with time.”
Both growers bought seedlings from kola nurseries recently established by the National Centre for Agronomic Research and the Association of Producers and Exporters of Kola.
Dramane Fondio is president of the producers association. He says that the Ivory Coast produces 100,000 tonnes of kola nut annually. But this is not enough. The Ivory Coast could export more. Demand is high from consumers in the United States, India, and North Africa.
Rooted in many African traditions, kola nut plays an important role in society. Mr. Fondio would like local authorities to pay more attention to kola nut production and processing. “We want to create more than 1,000 hectares of plantations each year. We want to process kola nuts and dried kola powder for export,” he says. Daouda Traoré, from the Ministry of Agriculture, agrees that the kola nut industry has potential to grow. Progress has been slow for various reasons.
Mr. Atse understands that his kola nut will always be in demand. While the ministry and the three kola producers’ cooperatives discuss the future, Mr. Atse plants his kola seedlings in preparation.