Amadou Hassane surveys the stocks of rice, sesame, millet, and other crops grown and stored by his fellow villagers. The storehouse is piled high with bags. Mr. Hassane says he is satisfied, although a little anxious about an oversupply of baobab leaves.
Mr. Hassane lives in Magou, in the western Nigerien region of Tillabery. He and his fellow farmers want to sell the baobab leaves before the rainy season starts. With the arrival of the rains, fresh leaves sprout, and the price of baobab leaves falls.
He says: “Life is hard because it is difficult to know when the first rains will come…. But we are lucky to have this [storage] system in place, because it means we can sell when the price is good, rather than being forced to do so right away after harvest.”
Right after harvest, prices are lower because supply is plentiful. Farmers who store their harvest can earn more income by selling when supply is lower, and therefore prices are higher. Prices often peak right before the next harvest.
Storage facilities can also help farmers cope with increasingly erratic weather. Floods and droughts are hitting harvests, making it difficult for many people in West Africa to grow or afford enough food. Many families cope by eating fewer meals. In addition, up to 40% of harvested crops in the region are lost before reaching market due to a lack of proper facilities for storage, processing, and transport.
But a rural credit scheme is giving farmers better access to money to purchase food or household items, while also promoting crop storage.
Through the scheme, farmers can use their stored harvest as collateral for obtaining a loan. Loans to farmers tend to be 70% to 80% of the value of their crops. They pay back the loan in the dry season when they can sell their harvest for a better price. This is part of a project launched by two international organizations: the UK Department for International Development and the NGO, CARE International.
Penda Diallo is a senior resilience adviser at CARE International. She says: “[This system] builds resilience because, by selling produce for higher profit, you can absorb climate shocks better … and avoid resorting to negative coping strategies, like eating fewer meals.”
Because of the initiative, 500 people in several communities in the Tillabery region are storing tonnes of cereal, vegetables, and forest products such as baobab leaves and moringa. The project is designed so that the extra money farmers make by selling in the dry season covers the costs of storage and credit.
Farmers are also being encouraged to broaden the range of crops and products they grow and store, given the increasing threat of poor harvests due to climate change. Diversification protects farmers from price fluctuations and provides them with products to sell throughout the year.
Ali Badara is a local partner in the project, based in Mooriben. He says, “Varying and expanding [storage] beyond one crop makes the collective fund stronger, and encourages people to also turn to non-agriculture ventures, like making soap, oils, and jewellery.”
Fati Boubacar is one woman farmer who is benefiting from access to loans. She has invested in new ways of earning money, such as making health and beauty products, as well as improved farming practices. She says, “Without access to the money … we wouldn’t have been able to increase our crop yield.”
One major challenge in the project is the lack of storage facilities. Catherine Simonet is an adviser with the Overseas Development Institute, a London-based think tank. She says, “Storage infrastructure is generally poor across the region, and this should be addressed quickly.”
But the returns are good for villages that invest in good storage facilities. Adamou Soumana is a farmer and leader in Kubio village. He tallies local farmers’ stock with delight. Mr. Soumana explains, “Our stock’s value went up from 730,000 CFA francs [$1,245 US] to 840,000 CFA [$1,430] in one year. We were so happy.”
Farmers in Kubio have been storing their products for three seasons. Mr. Soumana says, “We now have a range of different products in storage and are confident we can handle whatever surprises come our way.”
This story is based on an article from Thomson Reuters Foundation, titled “Loans for storing crops help Niger’s farmers absorb climate shocks.” To read the original article, go to: http://news.trust.org/item/20170516001250-h716w/?cid=social_20170516_72376507&adbid=864377333834174465&adbpl=tw&adbpr=15762575 
Photo: Amadou Hassane inside his village’s storage facility. Credit: Kieran Guilbert / Thomson Reuters Foundation