admin | August 27, 2018
A group of women stand around a wooden table, slicing countless bright red tomatoes, preparing them to be processed into tomato puree.
The women belong to a women’s group called Neerwaya. The group is based in Donsin, a community 30 kilometres from Ouagadougou, the capital city of Burkina Faso.
Since 2002, the women have been turning tomatoes into tomato puree.
Amina Ouédraogo is a member of the group. She says, “This work is very important for us. Thanks to this, we are able to do what we want, without the help of others.”
The group has been processing vegetables since 1995, and started out by drying tomatoes, onions, and leafy vegetables.
But drying vegetables was not very profitable, so they turned to tomato puree.
A local NGO called the Song Koadba Association helped the group bring an Italian couple to Donsin to train them on making puree. Now, the women have perfected the process.
Wearing standardized blue coats, face masks, and protective head wraps, the women sort and wash the tomatoes, then cut them to prepare for processing. Machines hum in the background as they work.
The women boil then strain the tomatoes, pushing the puree through mesh to separate the seeds. Then they scoop the final product into clear jars.
Mrs. Ouédraogo estimates that the group produces 600 to 700 jars per day. Their maximum capacity is 1,000 jars per day, but market demand isn’t strong enough for that. In 2017, the women produced more than 16 tonnes of tomato puree.
They sell their products in shops and supermarkets in the nearby city of Ziniaré, as well as in Ouagadougou. Since 2005, a restaurant called Verdoyant in the capital has purchased 500 jars per month. The women also market their products at fairs, expositions, big marketplaces, and meetings.
With this income, many of the women can support themselves.
Mrs. Ouédraogo explains: “Before, we were coming to work on foot because we did not have the means to buy a bicycle or motorbike. But since we started processing the tomatoes into puree, all the women have bicycles. Some even have motorbikes.”
She adds, “At home also, we are able to pay our children’s school fees. We can take them to the health centres for care, and buy new clothes for our children and ourselves.”
The women also contribute to their households. Mrs. Ouédraogo says some women help their husbands when the men are in financial difficulties. They buy maize, millet, and rice to provide food for their households. Other women use their income to cover family expenses and care for their children.
By buying fresh tomatoes from local producers, the women of Neerwaya also support the local economy. After they make the puree, they resell the seeds to tomato producers.
The women have high hopes for their business. Mrs. Ouédraogo says: “Our wish is that all Burkinabè consume our tomatoes—the authorities, the school canteens, the military canteens, the hospitals, the restaurants—everyone. Because it’s cheaper and it’s natural.”
This story was adapted from a video titled, “Tomato puree that changes lives” published by Agribusiness TV. To see the original video, please see: http://agribusinesstv.info/en/burkina-faso-tomato-puree-that-changes-lives/