10 September 2008
Yesterday was my first real day of “work.” I went to a meeting with the “encadreur”. I think he is basically a government-appointed liaison to the groupements.
The meeting was basically a sales pitch from an NGO called EDT (Entreprise de territoires et developpement) They work with rice and soja farmers to help them get fertilizer, herbicides, and a market for their products. In order to set up shop in an area, though, they need at least 80 local people signed up to work with them.
It sounds like a good deal to me – EDT provides some training and agricultural aids, sets them up with a processor, and buys a contracted amount of the product from them. The current system is that farmers get an advance from [someone, the government possibly?]. but then they have to pay it right back in rice. This means they can’t stock up and store the rice to sell it out of season for higher prices. They are forced to sell it at the lowest price.
With EDT, farmers would seek out their own initial financing (something I could possibly help with) and they can work out the terms for their loans separately.
The meeting was supposed to start at 9 – in a big compound on the road between Mission Tové and Kovié. Farmers didn’t start showing up until 10.30, many of them saying they hadn’t been pre-informed about the meeting.
The meeting started at 11. It was held entirely in Ewe. Luckily, one of the men with the NGO was French, so another NGO employee gave him a running translation that I was able to share.
The issues farmers brought up:
1. help with the mud (flooding)
2. lack of motorized equipment
3. having debts to pay off
4. the low offering price EDT made
1. Suggestions like moving the fields slightly further away from the river bank. Also not how lucky M Tové is to have the huge amount of water that it does.
2. There are some tractor-things here that the government has provided, but farmers need to pay to rent them and pay for the fuel.
3. EDT doesn’t necessarily take all of the field’s crop – can use part of field to only pay off an already existing debt.
4. EDT guarantees it will buy at 150F/kilo. I have no idea how this measures up to the market, but the fact that it’s a guaranteed, contracted sale is very good.
The meeting was long and exhausting, but it was really nice to feel like I’ve gotten started on my work (even if it’s all observing without contributing yet)