Congo-Brazzaville: Cassava scarce as farmers turn to growing pineapple (by John Ndinga-Ngoma, for Farm Radio Weekly, in Congo-Brazzaville)

| October 9, 2012

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Gaston Kaya grows cassava in Komi, a small village 80 kilometres east of Pointe-Noire, in Congo-Brazzaville. But since 2006, Mr. Kaya has been devoting more of his energy to growing pineapple. Cassava is a staple food in the region, but Mr. Kaya finds pineapple more profitable. He says: “On one hectare of cassava, I only earned about 100,000 CFA francs (US $200), while a hectare of pineapple gives me almost two million CFA francs (US $4000).”

Mr. Kaya is not the only farmer growing pineapple for the financial returns. Sabine Matondo Boudzoukoutou arrived in Komi two years ago. She grows and sells vegetables in Pointe-Noire. Ms. Boudzoukoutou gives a similar explanation as Mr. Kaya: “When I found out that pineapple grows well in Komi, I immediately began growing it. Many people buy pineapple and I sell it for a good price.”

Mr. Kaya moved to Komi in 2001 and has been growing cassava ever since. He says that cassava grows well here because the soil, vegetation and climate are all favourable. “However,” he says, “given the meager profits … I decided to devote myself to the culture of pineapple.” Now Mr. Kaya grows cassava only for his own consumption.

But the shift to pineapple is not without consequences. René Batola is also a pineapple grower and is aware that cassava is scarce in Komi. He says, “You can go two weeks without seeing cassava in the market.” Like Mr. Kaya and a growing number of farmers in Komi, Mr. Batola no longer grows cassava for sale, but only for his own family.

Gilbert Loukombo is a public radio reporter in Pointe-Noire. He also grows pineapple in Komi. He says, “Every weekend, before coming [to Komi], I buy cassava bread, rice and fufu in Pointe-Noire. Because I cannot find these in Komi.”

Gaston Kaya says it is only right that his village specializes in growing pineapple. He says: “Komi has become the capital of the pineapple. We provide pineapple to other villages, and they in turn send us what we do not produce.” He thinks this kind of bartering is a good thing. But farmers like Ms. Boudzoukoutou worry. She is urging her fellow farmers to diversify their crops.