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Comoros: Older farmer forges partnership with youth to grow profits (by Ahmed Bacar, for Farm Radio Weekly in Comoros)

(Originally published April 29, 2013)

Mouigni Hassan was born seventy years ago in Nvouni Ya Bandani, a village 25 kilometres north of Moroni, the capital of Grande Comore. He decided recently that he was getting too old to farm alone, and decided to go into partnership with younger farmers. He explains: “With my age and my energy, everything became difficult. This is why I am associated with these young people.”

He believes that this decision has worked for everyone involved. Mr. Mouigni says: “My associates do not have enough land to build their farming businesses. My proposal allows them to earn more money.” He is happy because he earns more now than he did when farming alone.

In 2011, Mr. Mouigni joined forces with younger farmers to grow tomatoes and chillies, both of which are highly sought after in the local market. His partners are responsible for the physical work which Mr. Mouigni used to do. They plough the ten-hectare field, sow the seeds, carry irrigation water 500 metres from a well, and tend to the plants.

Mr. Mouigni supervises the production. He is also responsible for marketing the harvest to wholesalers and hotels in Moroni. He and his partners share the profits. Mr. Mouigni explains, “I take 40% of revenues for myself, and my partners share 60%.” There are three harvests per year. Each earns the group between 900,000 and one and a half million Comoran francs ($2,400 – 3,950 US).

Mohamed Youssouf is one of the younger farmers. He admits that growing tomatoes and chillies is hard work and requires skill, endurance and long hours. He says: “We leave the house at six in the morning to get to the field at seven … We get back to the village at six in the evening. It’s tiring, but we work as a team so we don’t really feel it.”

Ibrahim Issa is another partner. Like his comrade Mr. Youssouf, he is satisfied with the arrangement. He explains: “It was Mr. Mouigni who decided how to split the profits. I find it normal that old Mouigni takes 40% of the profits because not only is it his field, but he also manages the business.”

Mr. Issa says he benefits from working with Mr. Mouigni. He says: “For good production, not only do you need a large area, but the financial resources to pay for seeds, fertilizers and so on.” Mr. Mouigni had the land and the resources to purchase the inputs. He says the money he earns from the partnership pays for school fees and other family needs. He is also able to take an active role in his neighbourhood rotating savings and credit group.

Mr. Mouigni would like to expand the initiative into the larger community, and encourage other farmers to form groups to improve their businesses. He notes that many farmers in other parts of the Comoros have successfully formed associations.