Six years ago, farmers struggled with access to enough good quality seed of key crops at affordable prices. The formal seed sector was able to meet less than 6% of the national demand for seed. When available, high quality seed was very expensive and often found in shops that were far from farmers’ villages. This left farmers with no option but to continuously use self-saved seed, which led to low yields since the health and quality of the seeds were not assured. Naturally, this meant that neither the farmers nor the country as a whole produced enough rice and other important crops.
Bobo Dioulasso is a key agricultural region located southwest of the capital Ouagadougou. Today, 1,300 rice farmers in Bama Province of Bobo Dioulasso are all smiles as they witness the power of using certified seed of improved varieties, coupled with good agronomic practices. Their yields have nearly doubled – from an initial 3.5 t/ha to the current 5.5 t/ha, and they are making a good return from selling the rice seed.
“There has been a real improvement in my livelihood,” says Ouattara Kalifa, a rice seed farmer in the Bama Province. “I’ve acquired three bicycles, a motorbike and much needed cellphones because of my participation in the NAFASO network,” says.
Neema Agricole Du Faso (NAFASO) is a local seed company and one of AGRA’s key partners in the country. NAFASO and its network of farmers produced 3,116 tons of seed rice from 1,371 hectares in 2013. This notably increased the incomes of farmers in the network, and in turn, NAFASO made US$ 1.8 million that year selling the seed it purchased from participating farmers.
AGRA’s partnership with NAFASO involved promoting the production and marketing of improved certified seed of maize, rice and cowpea. Slowly but steadily, NAFASO has changed the face of rice production in the country, beginning with the Bobo Dioulasso region. Through collaboration with the national research institute (Institut de l’Environnement et de Recherches Agricoles), NAFASO accessed seed of high-yielding rice varieties adapted to the region’s conditions, which it then multiplied. In addition, the firm worked with the national seed service (Service National des Semences) to get the seed certified. Extension service officials assisted with organizing farmers into viable rice seed production groups and promoting the importance of the use of certified seed and good agronomy. NAFASO also engaged the association of agrodealers in Burkina Faso (AGRODIA) and AGRIFARE, a large private agrodealer, to create a sizeable network of agrodealer shops to increase farmers’ access to quality seed and other inputs.
Lastly, farmers were trained in basic financial management, to be able to operate their farms as the businesses they should be. Farmers were empowered to train other farmers in all these aspects, and together these interventions contributed to making rice farming profitable for the region’s smallholders.
Life in the community is changing too. By creating employment opportunities and empowering farmers to profit more from their rice farming, NAFASO has had a positive impact on the community. As a result of bountiful local harvests, residents were able to purchase a communal ambulance, and food is being provided to schools and less privileged homes.
“I have benefited a lot from the training and technical support AGRA has provided, and it has enabled me to more efficiently operate this large and growing seed company,” says Abdoulaye Sawadogo, the head of NAFASO
Through aggressive sensitization campaigns on radio, television and print media, complemented by farmer field days organized with the relevant partners, NAFASO created awareness among farmers of the new varieties available and where to obtain them. This has effectively strengthened demand for the high quality certified seed produced by its network of trained seed growers.
Farmers growing seed rice for NAFASO have made an average of US$ 1800/ha. Buoyed by this success, they have increased the planted area to 1,200 hectares, and stand to earn as much as US$ 11.9 million in 2015. A green revolution is underway in Burkina Faso, and in Bobo Dioulasso, it is being powered by rice.