Every day of the week except Friday, Said Bacar travels nearly five kilometres from his village to his banana field. He tells anyone who will listen about his passion for his half-hectare of vibrant green plants with their golden-yellow fruit.
But Mr. Bacar has not always been a farmer. After his father died, he had to take whatever work came his way, including shoemaking and photography. He even repaired umbrellas, radios and watches. But he barely earned enough to feed the four members of his family – his mother, his younger brother and sister, and himself. There was never enough money left over to enrol his younger siblings in school.
Mr. Bacar says: “I was earning a living doing odd jobs, but I knew that I needed more money to support my family in those difficult times. I thought about it for several months before deciding to embrace agriculture, particularly banana production.”
Mr. Bacar justifies his decision like this: bananas are a staple dish, very much in demand in Comoros, and they generate a good income. They also mature quickly. He explains, “We can start harvesting bananas after six months whereas, for example, cassava and yams can take up to a year.”
Mr. Bacar embarked on his new life in 2012. He sought out his mother’s banana-farming brother, Hakimdine Abdallah. Over the course of a few months, his uncle taught him how to grow bananas.
He recalls: “I carried my uncle’s banana suckers and tools from the village to his field. I dug the holes in which we’d plant the suckers, and all the while my uncle instructed me how best to do it.”
Once he had learnt the tricks of the trade, Mr. Abdallah gave him a field to start his own banana farm. Mr. Bacar invested all of his savings in buying tools such as hoes and machetes, and purchasing banana suckers for planting.
Today, the young farmer has no regrets. He used the profits from selling bananas to build a house for his mother. But that’s not all. He says, “I also paid for my little brother to train as a builder. As for my sister, she is learning to sew.”
Mr. Bacar can sell up to 15 bags of bananas a month, and earns 7,500 Comoran francs [$20 U.S.] per bag. He is recognized as one of the most important banana producers in his village. His mother, Hadidja Soidik, helps out the young farmer by selling the bananas in the market. She says, “Today I am better off thanks to the efforts of my son, and I thank God.”
Mr. Bacar faces challenges such as a proliferation of thieves, but is never discouraged. He is committed to his farm and invests all his energy in it. He is very appreciative of his uncle’s role in his success. He says, “I will never forget the help my uncle gave me.”
For his part, Mr. Abdallah is satisfied to have contributed to his nephew’s success. He recognizes that the young man is hard-working and courageous. Mr. Abdallah says: “I am doubly pleased by Said’s success. Firstly, I am happy that my nephew makes his living honestly. And secondly, I’m glad for my sister that her son’s efforts mean that she has enough to eat.”