Congo-Brazzaville: Village farmers travel road to success (by John Ndinga-Ngoma, for Farm Radio Weekly)

| June 3, 2013

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Until last year, Blaise Mantsié was not in the habit of taking his own produce to the city. The roads linking his village with the capital, Pointe-Noire, were pot-holed and rough. So he was forced to wait for traders to come to the village and buy his produce.

Like other farmers around the village of Mayéyé, Mr. Mantsié did not think he was getting a fair price for his goods. He says urban traders earned at least three times more than he. He recalls one incident: “The traders were buying … a 50 kilogram bag of shelled peanuts at 10,000 CFA francs (about $20 US), and then re-selling it in the city for more than 40,000 CFA francs ($80 US).”

But since last May, Mr. Mantsié has been travelling to the city on a truck loaded with sacks of groundnuts and cassava chips. The roads between Mayéyé and Pointe-Noire have been repaired and paved. He can now sell his goods for a higher price.

He explains: “I came to understand that the poor road meant poor business. I realized that in the past, traders took advantage of the difficult access to our villages to cheat us.”

Today, life has changed for Mr. Mantsié. Previously, his family lived in a wooden house. Now his two wives and six children spend their nights in a house made of more durable materials. The interior of the house, the living room, television, dining table and even the clock on the blue-painted wall are testaments to the family’s current lifestyle. Upgrading rural roads has changed the villagers’ lives. But the urban traders are far from happy.

Espérance Moukoko is a trader from Pointe-Noire. She has noticed a change in the farmers’ attitudes. She  says: “Lately, when I go to the villages, I am offered produce for the same price as we sell it for in the city. Haggling is no longer possible.” Mrs. Moukoko attributes the change to the better roads. She adds: “It doesn’t matter the time of day; there are always vehicles. So, as far as I am concerned, I have decided to come to the village to grow crops for myself.”

Many traders are following her example and growing their own produce. The Ngot family moved to Mayéyé a year ago. The couple expects to harvest their first two hectares of cassava soon. Mrs. Diane Ngot says, “Sometime you have to change your tune. Otherwise, we were about to give up.”

As for Mr. Mantsié, he dreams of becoming a major agricultural producer. He says: “I just bought an ox, three goats and six chickens … From being a small-scale farmer today, I might become a major supplier of agricultural products one day.”