DRC Farmers Reaping Rewards of New Methods
Farmers in the Democratic Republic of Congo are
embracing a new variety of cassava which, in combination with
improved agricultural techniques, easily outperforms yields from
other popular types of this important crop.
Cassava is a staple food in many parts of DRC, and
farmers disappointed with harvests of the popular F100 variety,
which has proved vulnerable to a plant disease called mosaic, have
turned to a newer strain with great success.
"We produced 58 tonnes of TME 419 cassava from a two
hectare field in 2011," said 27-year-old Romain Twarita. "That’s a
yield of 29 tonnes per hectare, compared to the 10 or 12 tonnes per
hectare of F100 that we harvested in 2010."
Twarita, the coordinator of Action Jeunes Pour le
Développement de Nkara (AJDN), an association of 22 young farmers at
Nkara, 90 kilometres from Kikwit, the capital of the southwestern
DRC province of Bandundu, says the 2011 crop brought in more than
25,000 dollars for AJDN, against 10,000 dollars the year before, and
just 3,000 dollars in 2009, the year the association was
He said AJDN has also adopted "binage", a new method
of hoeing which maximises the benefits of irrigation –"worth two
waterings", as Twarita put it. Binage calls for the surface of the
soil to be broken up, to allow more rain to soak into it. The young
farmers also use compost and manure to enrich the soil with organic
and mineral matter.
"The big problem is a shortage of farm implements,
and the lack of understanding from landowners who ask so much money
for a plot – 40 or 50 dollars for half a hectare, depending on
location," he told IPS.
"The cassava is bought from farms here by traders,
then sent to the capital, Kinshasa, where it sells fast," said
Jacques Mitini, president of the provincial network of small
farmers’ organisations in Bandundu, which includes 255 smallholder
associations, nearly a third of these representing young farmers
between the ages of 21 and 33.
In the west of DRC, in Bas-Congo province, the
Comité de Développement de Kakongo (CDK) is planting trees to create
windbreaks and maintain soil moisture, boosting production of other
crops on a three-hectare plot.
"We are using intercropping, that’s why there are
these wind-breaks of moringa trees which also fertilise the earth
without us needing to use chemical fertilisers. Irrigation is also
important," said Espérance Nzuzi, president of Force Paysanne du
Bas-Congo, a network of 264 smallholder farmers associations,
including 87 created by youth.
"The 84 tonnes of TME 419 cassava harvested last
year earned us 39,960 dollars, compared to just 6,160 dollars from
14 tonnes of F100 in 2010," said Nzuzi.
On two hectares on the outskirts of Kinshasa, the
Congolese capital, another youth association, Jeunes Dynamiques de
Malulku (JDM), has also found success with the adoption of new
"We’ve only been practicing binage since we started
this venture in 2010. We produced 15 tonnes of TME 419 from a single
hectare that year, but in 2011 we harvested 28 tonnes from a hectare
and a half, applying a little bit of chemical fertiliser," said Anne
Mburabata, 32, president of the association.
"Before we started popularising TME 419 cassava, we
tested it carefully," said Didier Mboma, who heads the technical
innovation service at the Impresa Servizi Coordinati (ISCO), an
Italian NGO which is making free cuttings of the new cassava variety
available to farmers.
"Since the tests in 2008, we have planted 3,000
cuttings, and we have harvested 30,000."
Mboma said that young farmers are strongly
establishing themselves as productive farmers, while contributing to
the country’s food security.
"Young farmers must move towards
professionalisation, and take control of the entire value chain from
production, to processing, to marketing," said Dr. Christophe Arthur
Mampuya, from the Ministry of Agriculture, Fishing and Livestock.
"The TME 419 variety is a high-yielding one. It’s
also among the best varieties being promoted," he said.
Mampuya said emerging young farmers must also plant
woodlots, as adoption of the new cassava variety is scaled up.
"TME 419 is more popular in the west of DRC than in
the east, but step by step, the variety could spread across the
country," said Paluku Mivimba, president of the National
Confederation of Agricultural Producers of Congo.
By Badylon Kawanda Bakiman
Source: IPS News
Farmers in Mauritius Take to Fair Trade
In finding a way to survive a 36 percent cut in
sugar prices, Mauritian farmers are not only exporting a variety of
fruit and vegetables to the European Union, but they have also begun
farming in a more environmentally sustainable way.
This is because a large number of farmers here on
this Indian Ocean island have become fair trade certified. Fair
trade is a social movement that promotes just terms for farmers and
workers and encourages sustainability in the developing world. Fair
trade certified products also usually command a higher price than
regular ones because of the high standards and ethics involved in
Mauritius is one of Africa’s largest sugar exporters
to Europe, and most of its refined sugar is exported to the EU. But
when the sugar price fell over a period of three years by a total of
36 percent at the end of 2010, small farmers here realised that they
could still earn a good income and do so in a way that would protect
the small island’s environment from harmful fertilisers and
"Our income was dwindling. So it was better to be
fair trade certified to earn some more money," said farmer Keshoe
Products labelled fair trade generally sell well in
Europe and the United States because they meet agreed international
environmental, labour and developmental standards. There are some
3,000 products that fall under the label, including sugar, coffee,
spices, vanilla and bananas. Consumers willingly pay more for fair
trade products, a premium of 585 dollars per tonne in the case of
sugar, above the normal price of about 525 dollars per tonne.
Jean-Philippe Zanavelo, Fair Trade International’s
representative for Mauritius, said that producers are at the heart
of the fair trade concept.
"Consumers are willing to pay more for good-quality
products, and this extra money goes directly to producers. They get
good markets and attain sustainable development," he told IPS.
As a result many local farmers are joining the
"We are now producing and exporting good-quality
food free of chemicals that trouble our health and our environment,
and earning additional income," said Kishan Fangooa, a farmer and
secretary of the Long Mountain Pineapple and Allied Growers
Cooperative Society Ltd. The society has almost five hectares of
land under pineapple cultivation in Long Mountain, northern
The fair trade movement began here in 2011, with
4,500 farmers from 32 cooperative societies. That year they earned
701,000 dollars in income, compared to 492,000 dollars in 2010, when
fewer farmers were members.
Becoming fair trade certified is an exacting and
difficult process, some farmers told IPS. But many feel it is worth
"The criteria may be constricting, but it helps
improve the quality of our produce and we are determined to earn an
increased income," Fangooa told IPS.
Producers have to be audited by the standard-setting
body, Fair Trade International, and an independent certification
body to ensure that the agreed standards are met. In agreeing to
fair trade, producers have to abide by criteria that include
democracy, transparency, good governance and the protection of the
Narain Phagoo, a fair trade certified farmer, said
that the products are routinely monitored.
"Apart from regular audits and inspection of the
fields, I understand there are laboratories in Europe that keep
checks on the quality of our produce that we export. They’ll know if
we use prohibited products and they’ll reject our exports," he told
"We better observe the regulations and get our
increased income," he added.
Rajen Hemoo, secretary of the Victoria Cooperative
Society, said that the fair trade concept was good for small
producers and the requirements were not difficult to comply with.
"It’s a new model of operation, a disciplined way of
producing. It’s an old concept but we discovered it only recently,"
"There are both direct and indirect benefits to this
concept. Our inputs are subsidised, we obtain cash grants and loans
at low interest rates. We also get involved in the community in our
region," he said from his sugar cane field in Congomah, northern
Farmers are required to share some of their proceeds
with their local communities by funding social activities or aiding
in the development of villages. There is, however, no prescribed
amount of how much they should donate.
But not everyone is keen to be fair trade certified
here. In the south of the island, members of the Southern Planters
Association (SPA) are reluctant to join the movement.
"We produce the canes and the sugar. Yet, the
communities get the extra money and manage it for themselves. We
thought the extra money obtained from fair trade would go into the
pockets of small producers directly to help them manage the rising
costs of production," SPA president Gassen Modely said of the
requirement for producers to give back some of their profits to the
Modely does not believe farmers will benefit from
the fair trade concept after they pay audit fees of between 1,000 to
3,500 dollars annually per cooperative society in order to remain
certified. Currently these fees have been subsidised by government.
"This is very high," Modely told IPS.
Inder Rajcoomarsingh, a member of the Sebastopol
Multi-Purpose Cooperative Society, agreed.
"Such high audit fees and to get peanuts in return.
Many people do not know that the government has supported us to pay
the audit fees for fair trade. That’s how we make extra money. Had
we incurred the expenses ourselves, we would not have seen any
profit in this concept," he told IPS.
He said that he finds that the criteria are rigid
and interferes with the way things have always been done here.
"A chairman’s mandate under the cooperative
legislation is three years but nobody abides by it. Many chairmen
have been here for the past 20 years. Now, Fair Trade International
is insisting that it be only a three-year mandate. Cooperative
members are not happy."
Business and Cooperatives Minister Jim Seetaram said
that they want small producers to have the choice between
traditional farming and farming with fair trade policies, which
brings about sustainable development. He believes Mauritian farmers
can also export litchis, flowers, fruits, lemon and honey under the
fair trade label.
By Nasseem Ackbarally
Source: IPS News
Nigeria Gets Its First Porsche Luxury Car Dealership
Ultra-luxury cars gleam through walls of glass at
Porsche’s new dealership, in Lagos, Nigeria.
This is only the second dealership in West Africa
for the high-end brand, which sells some models for around $200,000.
Michael Wagner, brand manager for the Lagos branch,
says Porsche is a good fit for one of the world’s fastest growing
"Nigeria, as the biggest country in Africa with a
population of 150 million and the sixth largest oil producing
country, certainly has the earning potential to support - and has an
affinity for - luxury brands," said Wagner.
Protests rocked Nigeria in January after the
government announced it was ending a fuel subsidy that kept gas
prices under 40 cents a gallon – one of the only ways poor Nigerians
benefit from the nation’s vast oil wealth. The demonstrations grew
into a movement also focused on the ever-widening gap between
Nigeria’s rich and poor.
But the showroom, which opened in mid-March, has
gotten a good reception from the public, Wagner said.
"I think if you look at the brands that are driven,
Nigeria appreciates top quality brands, considering Nigeria’s one of
the largest consumers of the most expensive Champagne and really
have a taste for these finer goods, we’re really catering for the
market that is already there," said Wagner.
According to the United Nations, despite Nigeria’s
fast-growing economy, 71 percent of the population still live on
less than a dollar a day.
The new dealership employs 13 people, though not all
of them are Nigerian. Wagner said the Nigerian nationals they have
hired are offered an extensive training program and earn salaries
that are competitive with what other local companies pay.
"Obviously the history of Nigeria and the unions
dictate salary, which is a national issue and is not particular to
any particular company," he added.
Wagner said the dealership’s customers come mostly
from the private sector.
"The type of people and customers we’re dealing with
are all mainly in private enterprise. They all have their own
companies," he said. "So I think that’s very much different to …
some countries where politicians are assumed to be driving expensive
January’s fuel subsidy protests eventually ended
after President Goodluck Jonathan agreed to reinstate the subsidy,
though at a lower level.
By Ricci Shyrock
Source: VOA News
Mobile Phones are Getting Smarter in Rural Africa
Imagine you are in Yokadouma, a rural community in
eastern Cameroonwith little electricity and inaccessible roads. You
have an old, inexpensive mobile phone with which you can only make
and receive calls. The good news is that it is now possible for that
phone to be smarter — to send and receive e-mails, check a Facebook
account and chat online, even without internet access.
ForgetMeNot Africa, owned by Lon-Zim and ForgetMeNot
Software, developed the Message Optimizer (MO) service in March 2009
to enable telecommunications operators to provide messaging services
to customers at no extra cost, without any new applications or phone
upgrades. Popular chat services such as MSN Messenger, Yahoo!,
Windows Live and Gtalk are all incorporated into the MO.
"Message Optimizer turns every mobile phone into a
mobile computing and mobile authentication device," states
ForgetMeNot Africa. The MO allows "more and more of our subscribers
to get access to the internet without having to purchase expensive
smartphones," according to Douglas Mboweni, the chief executive
officer of Econet Wireless Zimbabwe, a mobile network.
How does the MO deliver messages without the
internet or a personal computer? First, a mobile phone subscriber
sends an SMS to a given short code. The message is received in the
mobile company’s message centre, which then forwards to ForgetMeNot
Africa’s internet servers. The servers process, route and deliver
the message to the subscriber, who can then respond.
Many factors account for why ForgetMeNot Africa’s MO
is spreading speedily, especially in rural areas. Africa has about 1
billion people. Some 72 per cent of them live in the countryside,
while internet penetration overall is just 11 per cent, largely in
Yet mobile phone use is increasing at a fast pace.
In Nigeria, for instance, there are about 90 million mobile phone
users, while only 12 million people are connected to the internet.
By providing low-cost access to people in rural areas, ForgetMeNot
Africa aims to capture the huge market of mobile phone users.
The company currently has around 48 million users,
having made inroads into east, west, southern and Central Africa. In
late 2011, it started targeting 23 million Portuguese-speaking
Africans, beginning with 100,000 Cape Verdeans, following
collaboration with T-Mais, a mobile company in Cape Verde.
Jeremy George, the chief operating officer of
ForgetMeNot Africa, says that the company "can now serve the vast
majority of people across the continent, no matter whether they
speak English, French or Portuguese."
On their success so far, Mr. George adds that the
company has been able to offer "a new revenue stream from their
[mobile companies’] existing subscriber base, while offering
customers a unique service." With every phone becoming
smart,Africa’s rural dwellers can proudly now hold aloft their
By Kingsley Ighobor
Source: African Renewal