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Côte d’Ivoire: Women plantain growers create marketing co-operative

This morning, Houphouët-Marie Thérèse Soro is meeting with her fellow co-operative presidents in the Bongouanou region of Ivory Coast. Mrs. Soro is a plantain producer in the M’batto department, an area that produces much plantain. She is the president of the Moronou “equitable” plantain producers’ co-operative. The co-operative was created in 2016 when two competing co-operatives joined forces.

Mrs. Soro explains, “When I arrived here, the co-operatives were competing against each other. I asked for the union to be stronger, to help each other with field work and to seek funding.”

Producers in M’batto grow three varieties of plantain, which are named by local women: the Agnrin, which is long and thin, the N’glétia, which is shorter, and the Afoto, which is the largest.

The price for plantain was often low and the women had difficulty selling their produce. But now the women in M’batto have joined together in co-operatives to sell their plantain and benefit from the fruits of their labour. Mrs. Soro recalls, “We sold in disorder and individually … at a low price. There were even people who came to take our produce and did not bring us money.”

With the “equitable” co-operative, Mrs. Soro is revolutionizing the co-operative movement in M’batto. She says: “Each of the women or men who are members of the co-operative contributes their harvest. We assess it together. Then we gather the harvest and sell in the big cities.” She adds that after the sale, the group members collect their share of the profit, which amounts to 12,000 FCFA ($21.50 US).

In Gohitafla, an area in the Marahoué region, women also struggle to market their plantain. Victoria Voui is a retired teacher. She created a food production and distribution co-operative to help women who lose their produce during transport.

She says that it’s difficult to load bags of plantains onto buses. To address the problem, she arranges for buyers and transporters to pick up the harvest from co-operative warehouses directly. Mrs. Voui explains, “Before, plantains rotted in bus stations. Now pick-up happens quickly and therefore there is no excess in the local markets.”

But not all producers can join a co-operative. Twenty-eight year-old Martine Hien is a plantain producer in Pinhoun, in the Guémon region, more than 500 km from Abidjan. Mrs. Hien sells her produce alone. She explains, “I don’t sell with a co-operative because there isn’t one in my area.”

After paying expenses related to harvesting and transportation, Mrs. Hien struggles to make ends meet. She explains: “I hire between six to eight labourers per day at 2,000 FCFA ($3.60 US) per person to help my brothers. Harvest is done between 7 a.m. and 5 p.m. Transport is difficult because, without a car, I often leave the village at 7 p.m. to arrive in Duékoué at midnight [to get the plantains to a transportation pick-up spot].”

Judicaël Constantin Dou transports plantains for the women in Duékoué. Mrs. Hien and others deliver their harvest to him so that he can transport it to Abidjan.

Mr. Dou explains the process: “A 50 kg bag is sold at 1,200 FCFA, and the 65 kg bag is sold at 1,700 FCFA. Of this amount, 200 FCFA per bag is given to the transporters for the truck loaders. The cost of a bag of plantains is currently 2,000 FCFA.”

Thanks to co-operatives, plantain producers are organizing themselves to get a better price for their products. The result is more income for the women to support themselves and their families. To help increase their profits even more, plantain producers have also started to add value to their planting by processing it.

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.