Burkina Faso: Women parboilers union helps rice farmers (by Inoussa Maiga for Farm Radio Weekly / Jade Productions Burkina Faso)

| March 12, 2012

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Last December, the women of the Banzon parboilers union opened a new centre for parboiling rice. The centre is a complex of four buildings in this western Burkina Faso community – three sheds and a drying area. The centre means a great deal to Salimata Sanou, who is secretary of the union. She says, “For more than three years, we dreamed of having a centre.”

The opening of the centre has also delighted hundreds of local rice farmers. Seydou Sawadogo is president of the Rice Growers Co-operative. He says, “For a number of years, these women have rescued us by selling our rice. The inauguration of the centre for parboiling reinforces the partnership between the parboilers and rice farmers.”

Since the withdrawal of the state from the agricultural sector in the 1990s, the parboilers’ union has kept rice farmers’ heads above water. After harvest, the union buys the growers’ rice and parboils it, then sells it to consumers and restaurants.

Ms. Sanou says that the union was born when the women saw crops rot because there were no buyers. She explains, “In 2001, women had the idea to parboil and sell the rice on the local market. But today, we sell in the domestic market and even outside.”

At first, the women worked individually, each in her own home. But over the years, they organized themselves into groups. Today there are 14 groups of parboilers in the union. Their work is critical to the rice growers. The union pays cash for paddy rice, either immediately or within a short time. They often pre-finance crop inputs for the farmers.

For years, the rice growers were cheated by unscrupulous traders. These traders took rice on credit and disappeared without paying. Mr. Sawadogo says bitterly that some traders have taken tens of millions of FCFA that growers will never recover.

But those unpleasant days are now over. The rice farmers’ co-operative has made the parboilers’ union a preferred partner. Growers reserve three quarters of their harvest for the union. For its part, the union is committed to improving the rice through its activities.The price for a kilo of rice this year is 150 CFA francs. the women agree to add 20 CFA francs to the price of a kilo of rice every year to encourage rice farmers to sell their rice to the union.

To ensure that the union can afford to pay cash for the growers’ rice, a credit fund of more than seven million CFA, or about $14,000 U.S, has been established by the Barzon credit union.

Thanks to parboiling, the women in the union have dramatically improved their families’ lives. Seydou Sawadogo says, “In the family, everything changed. Today, the grower has his money, and women are also conducting income-generating activities. Children are happy because mom and dad can give them what they want.”