Assivavi Agbogbe | March 19, 2023
Mrs. Assétou Diallo Traoré is a 56-year-old woman and mother of five children. She lives in Sévaré, in the Mopti region of Mali, where she has been processing rice into products such as rice flakes and attiéké (a cassava product) with a co-operative called Les Fourmis Laborieuses (The worker ants) for about 20 years. Mrs. Traoré and her fellow co-operative members created the business to process local producers’ rice into various food products. In this way, they help to reduce farmers’ post-harvest losses by processing unsold produce into marketable products such as broken grain rice, products similar to maize flakes and attiéké, as well as porridge, couscous with herbs, and flour that can be used to make cakes or cookies. The co-operative includes a dozen women, who make a living by marketing rice products. The profits allow them to cover their expenses and care for their children.
Mrs. Assétou Diallo Traoré is a 56-year-old woman and mother of five children. She lives in Sévaré, in the Mopti region of Mali, where she has been processing rice into products such as rice flakes and attiéké (a cassava product) with a co-operative for 20 years.
It’s Monday morning and, as usual, Mrs. Traoré is travelling to the village of Takoudi to visit the processing branch of Les Fourmis Laborieuses (The worker ants), a local co-operative created in 1999. Mrs. Traoré is the president of the co-operative and, this morning, the members are holding their weekly meeting to determine their responsibilities.
Mrs. Traoré and her fellow members created the business to process local producers’ rice into various food products. They are helping to reduce farmers’ post-harvest losses by processing unsold produce into marketable products.
Mrs. Traoré explains: “Before our co-operative was established, [locally-produced] rice was not valued. Apart from that sold to wholesalers and industrialists, the rest of the rice was neglected and wasted.”
To source the rice for their products, Mrs. Traoré and the processors work with local rice producers. Mrs. Traoré explains, “We work with the Institute of Economics and Research in the Mopti region. This partner usually supplies us with paddy rice.”
But the group often needs to contact rice producers in surrounding villages because production in Sévaré is not enough to meet their needs.
Mrs. Traoré and her group process up to ten 75-kilogram bags of paddy rice into different products each week, and market their products throughout Mopti.
Mrs. Traoré says: “We have several products that we create from rice. Paddy rice is processed into parboiled rice, which is then processed into broken grain rice. We also use parboiled rice to make products similar to maize flakes and attiéké. We also process white rice into porridge, into couscous with herbs, and into flour that can be used to make cakes or cookies.”
The group uses various methods to maintain the quality of their products. Mrs. Traoré explains: “When we collect the paddy rice from farmers, we sort it to remove the dirt before steaming it in small heaps. After steaming it, we put it in the sun to dry. This process allows us to have high quality parboiled rice. We also have a machine that allows us to make broken grain rice without much effort—the manual technique is very physically demanding.”
After processing, the products are sold in food stores in the surrounding villages, or to individual consumers. The co-operative also participates in national and international fairs and exhibitions that sell and promote products made with Malian rice.
Dr. Adama Bamba is a nutrition specialist in the Yorosso health district. He says that locally-produced rice and rice products are very much appreciated by Malian consumers. According to an organization responsible for coordinating and promoting rice production in Mali, locally-produced rice accounts for 80% of national consumption.
Mrs. Traoré agrees on the popularity of local rice and rice products. She says the amount of rice that the co-operative buys is usually not enough to meet regional demand for rice products.
The women’s co-operative helps drive this demand for locally-produced rice. This allows producers to avoid storing their rice, which is a source of post-harvest losses.
The co-operative includes a dozen women, who make a living by marketing rice products. The profits allow them to cover their expenses and care for their children.
To her fellow women, Mrs. Traoré says: “Sisters, we have to work hard, because you know that through this work, we earn money that we use for our needs and those of our children. It is also thanks to this work that we are able to save money.”
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.
Left to right: Mrs. Korotimi Camara, Mrs. Koné Awa Sidibé, Mrs. Traoré Assétou Diallo and Mrs. Binta Coulibaly, members of Les Fourmis Laborieuses.