Nelly Bassily | May 21, 2012
Like many rural youth in Guinea, 29-year-old Abdoulaye Soumah spent a few years in the capital city of Conakry, trying his hand at various jobs in the big city. But he has returned to his home village of Somayah, 50 kilometres from Conakry. There, he has transformed a seven-hectare plot of land inherited from his parents into a model of success.
Mr. Soumah produces about three tonnes of rice per hectare. Last November, his harvest totalled 20 tonnes. He keeps enough rice to feed his family and sells the rest. He explains, “A 100-kilo sack of rice sells for 650,000 Guinean francs (around 100 dollars). My harvest is generally bought up by rural traders and some from the city. They buy unprocessed rice, which they store before reselling it in markets in Conakry.”
Mr. Soumah doesn’t own any agricultural machinery. Since setting up his farm in 2008, he has relied on relatives and hired agricultural labourers on an occasional basis for planting, weeding and harvesting. He grows a local rice variety called Djoukémé, which is prized for the way it expands when it’s cooked. He also enjoys the support of local agricultural extension workers like Sékou Mansaré. Mr. Mansaré explains that, though there is plenty of rain in the region, farmers grow irrigated rice as this allows them to control water levels in the rice fields. A system of small embankments and trenches channel water through the rice fields. Mr. Mansaré says, “We sometimes use pumps to adjust the water level as needed during the different stages of growth, or to drain the water before the harvest.”
Mr. Mansaré also advocates the use of organic fertilizer, and advises farmers to use locally-available resources whenever possible. He makes fertilizer from agricultural waste like cow dung and chicken manure. Irrigation water comes from the nearby Mériyéré River.
With his rice farm providing him about 20,000 dollars a year, Mr. Soumah has been able to send his children to school, build a house for himself, and even reinvest some of his profits in a small flock of sheep and a motorcycle, which he operates as a local taxi.
Koleya Bangoura is a prominent citizen in Somayah. He says, “The Soumah farm should be an example for other youth who balk at working the land for a living. They should be inspired by his success. Farming is difficult, and young people don’t always have access to credit to finance their projects.”
Ibrahima Bangoura works with the Association of Youth for Agricultural Development, based in Conakry. He believes that credit has a bad image amongst farmers and others in the agricultural sector. Further, he thinks that it is the responsibility of the government and international donors to improve this image.
Since last year, Guinea has been working with international organizations to boost investment in agriculture and reduce dependence on imports by increasing domestic production by farmers like Mr. Soumah. The objective is to sustainably boost income and food security for poor rural people.
But farmers lack information on to how to access the new support. Mr. Soumah explains, “I heard that the conditions for selection for loans are very rigorous. In any case, I don’t want to become dependent on support like this.”