Burkina Faso: Vegetable farmer tests new pest-resistant seeds

| June 15, 2015

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Many farmers have little to do on their land during the dry season in Burkina Faso. But not Marcel Ouédraogo. He laughs and says, “We cannot rest because business never sleeps. We have to look for opportunities to keep us occupied.”

Mr. Ouédraogo grows cereals in the rainy season, but turns his hand to vegetables during the dry season. His farm is near the village of Makognadougou, 50 kilometres from the city of Bobo-Dioulasso in western Burkina Faso. As the first rains of the season approach, Mr. Ouédraogo’s land stands out against the surrounding countryside like a green island.

The land is green because Mr. Ouédraogo and his family grow vegetables on their three-and-a-half hectare field during the dry season. They plant tomatoes, eggplants, chilis, peppers, and some groundnuts and sesame.

Photo credit: Inoussa Maïga

Photo credit: Inoussa Maïga

This year, Mr. Ouédraogo planted new seed varieties from a seed company based in Bobo-Dioulasso. He experimented with planting a few dozen tomato, eggplant, chili, and okra seeds in a small, 300-square-metre plot. He explains, “I wanted to see how the seeds would do. So I did not use any fertilizer and I have not used any pesticides.”

Despite the lack of agro-chemicals, the new seeds yielded well. Mr. Ouédraogo says, “There’s no comparison, really; the yields from these new seeds are much better.” He adds that most of the new varieties are resistant to the vegetable grower’s main enemy, the whitefly.

Mr. Ouédraogo was one of thirty vegetable farmers in western Burkina Faso who tested the new varieties. Omar Sawadogo raises poultry in Bobo-Dioulasso. Mr. Sawadogo planted new varieties of cucumber seeds on a small plot. He says, “I am harvesting cucumbers after only one month. And they are twice as large as those from local seeds.”

But the farmer noticed something that worries him. He explains, “Harvested cucumbers start to wilt after only a couple of days. This means that you could have problems preserving this variety.”

He continues: “But I am ready to adopt this new seed because of its performance, which beats the varieties we have here. But as I still have not solved the mystery of how best to get them to market, for now I’ll have to keep it small-scale.”

The new seeds were developed by a Dutch company which also introduced highly sought-after rainy season onions to Burkina Faso. The company is partnering with a Burkinabe seed company which had previously produced and marketed only cereals.

Idrissa Sawadogo is the technical director of the local seed company. He says: “The seeds are improved [through traditional breeding] and are not genetically modified. We wanted producers to try these varieties to see the improved performance [for themselves].”

Mr. Sawadogo says that some of the new seeds are more resistant to whiteflies than local varieties. The company is preparing to market these seeds on a larger scale.

Many of Mr. Ouédraogo’s neighbours visited his field to see the new varieties, and they all want the new seeds. He is already thinking about planting more himself. He says: “If the new seeds yield greater than the old seeds without any [agro-inputs], then with a little [fertilizer and pesticide], I’ll produce even more!”

Photo credit: Inoussa Maïga