Nelly Bassily | October 9, 2012
Eight years ago, Henriette Adou began growing cassava on a one-hectare plot of her family’s land in the village of Dabou, in southern Côte d’Ivoire. She found that growing cassava can be a discouraging business. One year, she harvested less than three tonnes. So Ms. Adou decided to take a break. But her friends encouraged her to try again with new, high-yielding cassava varieties. The results exceeded her expectations.
In 2010, Ms. Adou harvested 33 tonnes of cassava – ten times the yield from her previous harvest. Her fortunes grew again last year when she harvested more than 65 tonnes, earning 3,000 dollars.
The new cassava varieties that Ms. Adou grows are known as Bocou 1 and Bocou 2.These varieties are being promoted by the country’s National Centre for Agricultural Research through the Cassava Project. The new varieties produce higher yields than traditional varieties. They are also resistant to pests and disease.
Women in Côte d’Ivoire have been eagerly adopting the new varieties. They are not only growing the crop, but also processing and selling cassava products. As a result, they are achieving greater economic independence.
More than 150 cassava farmers are members of the Association of Women Attiéké Producers. Attiéké is a fermented food made from cassava. It is popular in Côte d’Ivoire and neighbouring countries.
Albertine Niamien is a member of the association. She works with ten family members to grow cassava, then process and sell attiéké. Through this undertaking, they earn enough to cover their basic needs.
Other farmers sell unprocessed cassava. Cécile Adjoua is one of these farmers, growing new cassava varieties in the east of the country. She sells to a foreign-owned business that has set up in Côte d’Ivoire. She says the guaranteed market for her crop is very motivating.
Ms. Adjoua explains her next challenge: “Now, we’re fighting so that our husbands and parents will grant us larger plots.” She has just half a hectare on which to grow cassava. She would like to expand, but her spouse is eyeing her land for his rubber plantation.
On her land in southern Côte d’Ivoire, Ms. Adou faces a similar problem. She is trying to negotiate with her brothers to use more of the family land. So far, one of her two brothers has agreed.
Still, Ms. Adou has plans for the future that are within her control. She intends to process and market various cassava products, including attiéké. She has also put aside money for a house. Ms. Adou says with a smile: “I’m putting it up at my own pace because I’ve become the head of the family.”