Conception and implementation of the Gaoual-Koundara Rural Development Project in Guinea
Intervention, from 1987 to 1992 in the Republic of Guinea on behalf of the French Company for the Development of Textile Fibers (CFDT). We were in charge of creating and implementing the Rural Development Project in the prefectures of Gaoual and Kundara in the North West of the country. The project was funded by the Caisse Centrale de Coopération Economique (today the French Development Agency). it aimed at raising the income of farmers in this region by using cotton farming as a locomotive to improve food crop yields, diversify farmers' sources of income and boost their organization. Our intervention covered:
the drafting and validation of the feasibility study for the first 3-years phase of the integrated agricultural and rural development project;
The building of the teams and infrastructures for the integrated agricultural and rural development project;
The implementation of this first phase which included, in addition to the introduction and development of cotton production, the support for food crops such as groundnut, rice and millet, the equipment of smallholders into cultivation tools and the training of plough oxen, the production of vegetables (tomatoes, onions, potatoes), the support to villages' organizations (cereal banks, seed banks, cotton producers' groups) and the repair of rural roads;
The drafting of the feasibility study of the project's second phase.
Agricultural and rural development: support to food crops production chains:
The feasibility study concluded that it was necessary to include the food crops and particularly the production of groundnuts and cereals (rain-fed rice, sorghum and millet) in project's scope. Sorghum and millet were indeed the staple food for rural populations and groundnuts provided a source of monetary income complementary to cotton.
Support for these cultures took the form of:
The popularization of a groundnut-cotton-sorghum/millet rotation. The root systems of these three cultures indeed explore different soil horizons. In addition, cotton benefits from the nitrogen fixed by the groundnut the previous year and the cereal benefits from a rear effect of the applied manure on the cotton crop;
The design, the test in a farming environment and the vulgarization of Good Agricultural Practices as well as the monitoring by the project technicians, of the cultivation operations;
The dissemination of seeds of improved varieties of groundnuts and rice and the establishment of groundnuts seed banks;
Farmers used to sale peanuts and cereals on local markets.
Agricultural and rural development: Access to harnessed cultivation.
To support the development of food crops chains, the agricultural and rural development project facilitated the access of farmers to cultivation equipment such as:
ploughs to be used with oxen or donkey;
multi-cultivators equipped with scarifiers, ridgers and weeding tools;
donkey pull carts.
These materials were sold to farmers on credit over several years. The annual repayment was taken directly from cotton sales. Total of outstanding loans (fertilizers, pesticides, others inputs and equipment) was limited to 30% of expected cotton income. Credits for the purchase of pairs of oxen were also tested. We also organized training sessions about oxen taming, about how to handle driving them and what cares they need.
Together with the development of animal traction, the project trained farmers on the production and use of manure to maintain the level of organic matter in the soil. The project thus supported the construction of stables with a relative success. The bottleneck for the extension of the use of manure is the large volumes of material to be handled: straw to spread in the stable, manure to come out of the barn, to turn over during its maturation and to spread on the field and the water for maintaining a minimum humidity of the maturing manure during the dry season. It represents an important amount of work coming into competition with other activities on the farm. The necessity to have a cart to carry the material also limits the spread of this technique.
The use of dry feces collected on the place where flocks are kept at night has also been vulgarized as an alternative to stables, although the impact on the level of organic matter in the soil is lower.
Agricultural and rural development: supporting vegetable production
A component of the rural development project supported the development of the production and commercialization of vegetables. This action aimed more specifically women and had two objectives:
The diversification of the diet with the integration of salads, tomatoes and other vegetables in the preparation of meals;
The generation of incomes' sources for women through the commercialization of onions. Women sold the production on local markets where traders bought it to send it to Conakry and Boké. The project helped women organize themselves to sell their produce directly to Conakry and to reduce losses during the storage and transport of onions.
A potato production trial was also carried out for two years, inspired by the example of farmers around Labé. However, the temperatures in the Gaoual region are not low enough to obtain good tuberization.
Agricultural and rural development: strengthening farmers' organizations
Within its activities, the project encouraged the establishment of various villagers' organizations and in particular cotton producers groups as well as the creation of seed banks.
These seeds banks were set to support the production of peanut. At harvest time, farmers faced treasury issues and were often obliged to sell their entire production without keeping seeds for the next crop. When the sowing time came again, they had to go into debt to buy peanuts seeds at a very high price. To support peanut producers, our seeds bank bought the peanuts at market price during harvest time. These peanuts were sorted, protected with the application of a fungicide and stored in a warehouse built with the project's help.
The peanuts seeds were sold back to members of the group at the time of sowing, which also corresponds to the lean season. Even if the seeds banks managed to generate a margin sufficient to cover their costs, the sale price was much lower than the market during the same period. It was was very helpful to reduced the indebtedness of the farmers and help them grow larger surfaces of peanuts
Cereal banks have also been set up along the same operating principles to guarantee the supply of basic food during the lean season.
Motorized rice hullers have been installed to facilitate women's work and create jobs in the villages.