Guinea: Women profit from urban gardening (IPS)

| July 30, 2012

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Market gardening in the peri-urban areas of the Guinean capital Conakry is growing quickly, raising the income of women’s groups and giving them some independence.

A gardening association of 14 women is farming a low-lying parcel of land in Kobaya, just outside Conakry. The women lease the fertile three-hectare plot for 130 US dollars a month.

Most group members grow their own vegetables for home consumption. But in 2007 they joined together to begin commercial gardening.

Fanta Camara is president of the association. She lists the group’s crops as “tomatoes, potatoes, onions, lettuce, peppers and cucumbers.”

The group has a shed to store farm implements − hoes, rakes and watering cans − as well as sacks and boxes for transporting their produce to market. They have two wells that provide water for irrigation.

Moïse Koundouno is an agriculture extension worker in Conakry’s Ratoma district. He says, “Market gardening has both a social and an economic role. It provides jobs and it constitutes a source of income.” Mr. Koundouno says it accounts for more than 50% of the income for half of the peri-urban gardeners.

Dramane Fofana is an extension worker who has worked with the group. He confirms that the group is getting good harvests from each 10 by 10 metre block dedicated to a particular crop. The Kobaya association relies on manure to produce vegetables year round.

The women are making vegetable growing their principal off-season activity. Their vegetables reach the market in the simplest way possible, via direct sales from their farm, or through a community wholesaler.

For market gardeners around Conakry, bringing vegetables to market during the November to April dry season is crucial, particularly in January and February. Vegetable prices vary greatly in the city, with the price of fresh produce three times higher when vegetables are scarce.

Ramatoulaye Touré is the group’s treasurer. She estimates their annual profits at around $10,000 dollars. She says the income is shared after deducting the cost of land rental and inputs.

Many of the group members are happy with the results, including Hawa Dabo, a mother of five. She says, “I got around 500 dollars at the end of 2011. That money’s allowed me to look after my children and support my husband who’s unemployed.”

One challenge for the women is post-harvest losses, with unsold produce rotting and going to waste. Since 2010, the group has addressed this by processing some of their harvest on site, making a puree from peppers and carrots. The puree is preserved and sold in the dry season when vegetables are scarce. It receives twice the price of fresh vegetables alone.

Market gardeners also face challenges accessing land. In outlying areas of the capital, customary law is still in force. Land is generally only acquired through inheritance or as a loan, with outright sale forbidden.

Taliby Sako is a local restaurant manager. He says urbanization is also a threat to vegetable growers. “They are increasingly forced to move further from the capital. The added distance to the fields leads to an increase in the price of fresh produce. A kilo of tomatoes today costs eight times what it cost five years ago.”

The Ministry of Agriculture leads government support for market gardening in Guinea. With assistance from international partners, it is financing projects to support poverty reduction.

Ms. Camara says the group aims to benefit from these programs. “We plan to register ourselves with the Ministry of Agriculture to see what we can gain from this project − or any other program which is interested in promoting market gardening.”