Jobs that are intellectually satisfying, economically rewarding and low on drudgery are the biggest draw for youth anywhere in the world. This is exactly what is drawing youngsters to farming in Burkina Faso, contrary to the trend in many developing countries. The introduction of seed production through projects funded by the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, USAID and others, have led to win-win situations for farmers, agro-dealers and the farming community at large. The growing seed production business is pumping improved varieties into the farming system, improving farmer incomes and providing additional gains to seed producers.
Improved varieties have an impressive yield and selling the seed is even more profitable. Mr Noyeza Bonzi, president of a union with annual seed production capacity of about 500 tons of sorghum, 60 tons of cowpea and 20 tons of groundnut.
Sowing seeds of prosperity
“Seed production is highly remunerative. Farmers who have taken up this business or as an add-on to their regular farming, report a significant increase in their income,” says Mr Noyeza Bonzi, a sorghum farmer, seed producer for more than a decade and president of the specialized union in boucle de Mouhoun. The union has been able to bring together a large number of farmers into seed production to form an association that has more than 4,500 producers, including 105 grassroots groups and 700 seed producers. Annually, the union has a seed production capacity of about 580 tons of sorghum, cowpea and groundnut. These crops are improved varieties developed and disseminated through the Harnessing Opportunities for Productivity Enhancement (HOPE) and AVISA projects, both funded by the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation.
Mr Noyeza, who owns and farms 120 ha in Kosso village, Burkina Faso, is an early adopter of the improved varieties Sariasso 15, Sariasso 16, Sariasso 18 and Sariasso 20.” During the 2019 cropping season, I harvested 33 tons from 30 hectares. From the 2020 cropping season, I expect between 55 and 60 tons of seed from 50 hectares,” states Noyeza. He expects to sell his produce at a market price of 500 and 800 FCFA/kg (about US$ 1 and US$ 1.45) for grain and seed respectively.
High income, mechanization and seed knowhow draws next generation
Noyeza’s gains and capacity to buy farm machinery has prompted his son Augustin Bonzi to take an interest in the day-to-day farm operations. Today, he manages the business with a team of seven and knows the ins and outs of seed production in Burkina Faso. What Augustine likes the most about his job is working with tractors with which he ploughs and weeds his own field every year.
I work twice as fast and the result is satisfactory at harvest time. Augustin Bonzi, manager of the Bonzi seed production business
Teacher turns farmer
Mr Konkobo Sibiri, a teacher by profession, joined the seed production union while on a teaching break in 2019. The gains he got from seed production on his 150-ha field was far beyond his imagination. “I can never earn that much as a teacher. Seed production made me a respectable person. I bought a car, three vans and one tractor for transporting harvests and ploughing fields. I gave up my career as a teacher to be a seed producer and I am proud of the result today.”
Per year, the sale of sorghum, millet, groundnut and cowpea seeds earns him about 40 million FCFA (about U$$ 72,000). In 2020, this farmer produced seed – 27 tons of sorghum, 6 tons of millet, 8.5 tons of cowpea and 5.6 tons of groundnut. “I sold each kg of sorghum and millet at 750 FCFA (about U$$ 1,35). For cowpea and groundnut seed, I sold 1 kg at 1,200 FCFA (about U$$ 2.15).
Mr Sibiri says his four daughters like his new job better. “Seed production is a very profitable business and my daughters like it because today I am able to better take care of them,” he says.
My earnings are on par with that of a civil servant in this country. Mr Konkobo Sibiri, teacher-turned-seed producer
Seed production puts her back on her feet
Among women farmers of the union, Ms Kafando Koutou Assetou, a widow and mother of many children, has been able to cope with the death of her husband. She is into cowpea improved seed production, especially the variety “Komkale”. “I have been producing seed every year for more than 10 years on 30 hectares of land for different crops, including cowpea, sorghum, millet and groundnut,” she says. This year because of the insecurity in Burkina Faso and increasing number of attacks, she found a new farming plot in Dedougou where she cultivated 12 hectares. She produced 2 tons of cowpea and sold it for more than 3 million FCFA (about US$ 5,450) from an initial investment of about 850,000 FCFA (US$ 1,540).
Thanks to seed production, I am able to run my family. Ms Kafando Koutou Assetou, a woman seed producer
In Burkina Faso, many small farmers have become seed producers thanks to the help of farmer organizations that support capacity building of the actors through training and other related activities such as field visits and demonstrations plots. From Dedougou to Toungan and Toma, many other farmers are awaiting their turn to fulfil their dream to be called “seed producers”.
Authored by Moussa Magassa, Communication Assistant, ICRISAT, West and Central Africa with inputs from Jemima Mandapati, Senior Communications Officer, ICRISAT
Dr Baloua Nebie, Sorgum breeder, ICRISAT – WCA
Dr Hailemichael Desmae, Regional Breeding Lead, ICRISAT – WCA and
Agathe Diama, Head Regional Information, ICRISAT – WCA