Ivory Coast: Farmer earns a better living by switching from cotton to maize

| April 13, 2015

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Yeo Nangalourou used to grow cotton. But the 52-year-old Ivorian farmer decided to switch to maize.

Mr. Nangalourou explains: “I left school [early] and I had to start farming – I grew cotton like my parents did. But I started growing maize in 2011 because the cotton prices fell so drastically.”

The cotton industry in Côte d’Ivoire has faced many problems during the country’s recent decade-long political and social crisis. One of those problems is falling market prices.

Today, Mr. Nangalourou is one of the major maize growers in the Boundiali area of northern Côte d’Ivoire. Boundiali, about 500 kilometres northeast of the capital, Abidjan, is much better known for large-scale cotton production.

Much of the maize seed grown by farmers in Boundiali is bought by the Inter-professional Fund for Agricultural Research Council, or FIRCA. FIRCA then redistributes maize seed to farmers elsewhere in the country who grow the crop for home consumption. FIRCA’s work is part of a national program to encourage national food self-sufficiency by producing more maize.

Mr. Nangalourou is certain that his decision to switch to maize has improved his standard of living. He says: “If the weather is good, I harvest between three and four tonnes per hectare. I sell a kilo of maize for between 300 and 387 francs [$0.49-0.64 U.S.]. I’m doing all right. Maize means I can live – I have built a house, my children go to school and I have bought a motorcycle.”

Though FIRCA buys the bulk of his seed, Mr. Nangalourou can sell any seed that FIRCA doesn’t buy at the local market.

Mr. Nangalourou’s success has inspired several local farmers to follow his lead. He says, “A student who has a [higher technical diploma] even came to me to learn how to grow maize.”

Fofana Sibiri is that young student. Mr. Sibiri says: “I returned to the village from Abidjan with my [diploma] in finance and accounting. Mr. Nangalourou gave me one hectare on which I grew maize. My harvest meant I could pay 200,000 francs [$330 U.S.] towards my civil service examinations, and I have bought a field and a motorcycle. I look after my mother, too.”

Dr. Koné Miaman is an Ivorian economist. He says, “There is a need for maize, and it is getting greater, but it is yet to be met. The national production is limited by low yields.”

Overproduction and falling prices mean that many cotton farmers are beginning to reduce their cotton acreage in order to profit from maize.

Mr. Nangalourou has ambitious plans. He says, “I want to expand my cropping area, but I’ll need to buy oxen for ploughing.”

Photo credit: Issiaka N’Guessan