Today, like every Thursday morning, Kouadio N’Guessan Agbassi is roaming her plantation in search of plantains to satisfy her customers.
Mrs. Agbassi is a plantain farmer from Bongouanou, a town in the Moronou region, 200 kilometres from Abidjan, the capital of Côte d’Ivoire. Many of Mrs. Agbassi’s wholesaler customers make the long trip from the capital to buy her plantains.
Mrs. Agbassi is also the president of a co-operative called “3B du vivrier,” created in 2014, which represents more than 150 members. The name stands for the “3B’s” that, for her, represent good business: “bonne culture, bonne structure, et bonne base de competences” or good farming practices, a well-structured group, and a good set of skills for her members.
Last year, the co-operative produced more than 150 tons of plantains. One hundred and fifteen tons were sold locally, and the remaining 35 tons were transported to Abidjan.
Despite this success, Mrs. Agbassi is the first to admit that the co-operative faces logistical problems, including transportation and storage. These result in the plantains rotting or getting crushed en route to market, which decreases their final price.
Mrs. Agbassi explains, “There is a lot of loss as we load trucks and travel to the capital. The lack of adequate packaging means that we lose a lot of produce on the way.”
She also says that, due to the lack of storage facilities, her plantains must be sold soon after harvest in order to earn a profit.
She continues: “If, for example, I have one hectare of plantains, I can sell only two-and-a-half tons of the full three to five tons that are produced. Many of them will spoil in the field even before harvesting.”
Given these challenges, 3B du vivrier gives women plantain producers a chance to pool their strengths, make greater profits, and overcome these challenges together.
By pooling their savings, co-operative members now rent trucks to bring their plantains to market every week, helping them sell their produce before it spoils.
With other earnings, the women collectively purchase more planting materials and inputs in order to increase production, including irrigation systems which help maintain plantain yields when rain is scarce.
The rest of the earnings go to the women in order to pay their families’ expenses.
Arlette Koffi Gbamé is an agricultural engineer and head of the food crop department at the Ministry of Agriculture in Côte d’Ivoire. She says the challenges faced by the members of 3B du vivrier are common, but the consequences are felt disproportionately by women.
Mrs. Gbamé explains, “The plantain sector in Côte d’Ivoire is dominated by women—at least 70%.”
She says this is why the government of Côte d’Ivoire is now asking producers, especially women, to organize themselves into co-operatives, in the hope that they can be reached more easily with loans and training.
As for Mrs. Agbassi, she says that women producers need to be committed and work together in order to succeed.
She adds: “Agriculture is a profession. They must first love it despite the difficulties … [This] could serve as a channel to help them better structure their co-operative and be profitable in the future.”
This resource was supported with the aid of a grant from The Deutsche Gesellschaft für Internationale Zusammenarbeit GmbH (GIZ) implementing the Green Innovation Centre project.
Photo: Banana and plantain market at Ikire, Osun state of Nigeria. Credit: Adebayo for the IITA.