Comoros: Sweet success for a strawberry farmer (by Ahmed Bacar, for Farm Radio Weekly, in the Comoros Islands)

| November 19, 2012

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In the Comoros, it is rare for a self-taught farmer to market a new product. But Ridjali Abdou has succeeded in doing just that. For three years now, Mr. Abdou has been growing strawberries on a five hectare plot. He is the only strawberry grower in the Comoros. Mr. Abdou lives in Nvouni Ya Mbadani, a village 25 kilometres north of Moroni, the capital of the Comoros. Mr. Abdou has been a farmer for 30 years. He is fifty years old and has seven children.

Few people in the Comoros are familiar with strawberries. Mr. Abdou learned about this crop from a documentary film. He explains: “After discovering the strawberry, I talked to [the president of a local farmers union], who encouraged me to produce it. According to him, with strawberry I could earn much more than I earn with other vegetables, which is true.” Mr. Abdou found strawberry seeds in a garden after seeing the film. The National Federation of Farmers and Women Farmers of Comoros, known as Fnac-Fa, provides Mr. Abdou with technical support.

Mr. Adbou used to grow cucumbers, cabbages, chilies, peppers and tomatoes for sale. But he earned little. He explains: “I earned one million Comorian francs (around USD $2600) each year with my vegetables. This money was not enough to pay for the education of my children and cope with everyday life.” He decided to focus his efforts on strawberries, and now relies on the fruit for most of his income.

Life has been better for Mr. Abdou since he discovered strawberries. He has doubled his earnings. Mr. Abdou harvests three times a year, and each harvest produces an average of 500 kilograms. He sells most of his crop to hotels and supermarkets. He also sells strawberries at the farmers market set up by Fnac-Fa.

While he is doing well financially, growing strawberries brings certain difficulties. Every day Mr. Abdou has to walk three kilometres to reach his field. In addition, he is still learning the crop management techniques that will help him produce better strawberries. He explains: “Insects like strawberries. If there is a lot of rain, there is less chance of a good harvest. So I am not sure what to do.” Also, because strawberry is still a new crop for consumers, he does not always sell his entire crop. In future, he hopes to secure more contracts with more buyers.

Mr. Abdou is happy with his profits because as well as paying his children’s school fees, he can now meet his family’s daily needs, plus save money. He says, “I spend very little money growing strawberries because I produce the inputs myself. I do not use chemicals. And yet I earn a lot.