BioTropic starts another PPP in Ivory Coast

Anfang dieses Jahres haben wir in der Elfenbeinküste ein weiteres PPP (Public Private Partnership) initiiert. Projektpartner dieser öffentlich-privaten Maßnahme ist ‚Ivoire Organics’, eine Erzeugergemeinschaft in der Elfenbeinküste, mit der wir von Anfang an zusammenarbeiten. Damals im Jahr 2008 haben wir ein erstes PPP im Land angestoßen und damit gleichzeitig auch den ersten offiziellen ökologischen Anbau in der Elfenbeinküste eingeführt – los ging es mit Bio-Ananas. Die gute Zusammenarbeit mit Ivoire Organics ermutigte uns einen Schritt weiter zu gehen, um den Bio-Anbau in der Elfenbeinküste langfristig zu sichern.

Back in 2008 we kickstarted the first PPP in the country and this means that we simultaneously also introduced ecological farming officially in the country for the first time – it started off with organic pineapples. The good working relationship with Ivoire Organics encouraged us to go one step further and to ensure that organic farming has a permanent future in the Ivory CoastIvory Coast.

This PPP is part of the BMZ* special initiative One World, No Hunger, which is committed to tackling the challenge of establishing the right of everyone in the world to food. We submitted our PPP application to the ‘Deutsche Investitions- und Entwicklungsgesellschaft’ (DEG) [German Investment and Development Company] – it administers after the PPP on behalf of BMZ and provides an investment of 200,000 Euro. Our investment is in excess of this sum.

The PPP serves as a tool, the purpose of which is to

• increase the production of organic pineapples and as a result support regional development

• secure jobs and income for the local smallholders and employees over the longer term

• augment local knowledge by providing practical and theoretical training

• produce high-quality organic food able to compete with international competition

• introduce modern compost management to maintain soil fertility

We at BioTropic regard ourselves as the link between the smallholders in the Ivory Coast and the market for organic food in Europe. In comparison with the neighbouring states the infrastructure in the Ivory Coast is outstanding, since it has its own fully-functional ports and a relatively good road network. In addition to this, the farmers were able to demonstrate that they already had many years of experience in conventional cultivation methods for pineapples and other exotic fruit.

In recent years our expertise and the know-how of Ivoire Organics have become better and better. In the meantime about 80 containers of organic pineapples, mangoes and coconuts are exported every year. The premises for grading, packing and despatch have been expanded with a rented packing shed near Korhogo in the north of the country where mangoes and cashew nuts are grown. And the first crop of mangoes has already been dried in a drying station built by Ivoire Organics and exported.

In parallel with the PPP, a modern packing station will be built in 2016 close to the city of Abidjan by BioTropic and Ivoire Organics. Organic pineapples will be processed and dried, and in addition to this, organic coconuts and organic pineapples will be packed for export there.

The project leader of the PPP in Ivory Coast is BioTropic’s Africa specialist Kuemkwong Siemefo, who will be assisted by Marnie Lara Kathem, who also works for BioTropic – both of them are agricultural engineers and are familiar with the business. They have already supported the PPP on site on many occasions. We have a few questions to ask them:

1) What does your vision for agriculture in the Ivory Coast look like?

Marnie Kathem:
We want to increase the yield from pineapple crops. We hope to achieve this on one hand by renting more land which will be farmed in accordance with organic principles. On the other hand, this is done with measures to increase soil fertility. This can be achieved, for example, by planting break crops in rotation. Legumes which are typical for the region such as beans and ground nuts are suitable as break crops. They add nitrogen to the soil and the legume crops are sold in local markets.

Kuemkwong Siemefo: Many of our original visions have in the meantime become reality through the commitment of many great people. In the meantime about 200 or so smallholders and employees are benefitting directly from BioTropic and the Ivoire Organics producer group. Assuming that an average family in Ivory Coast consists of five people, this means that, at present, a total of 1,000 people can benefit from this Hand-in-Hand project. In addition to this, every mango season a large number of pickers will be able to find work at harvest time.
It can also be seen that an increase in organic farming generating an increasing number of jobs does not preclude high social standards. Since last year we have been certified by Naturland. This internationally active organic association is currently the only association which has also anchored social standards in its directives.

2) What firm plans do you have for the immediate future? How will the PPP develop?

Marnie Kathem:
We have already brought in and tried out technical equipment and other material for treating compost in the Ivory Coast in March this year. This is because modern organic farming also requires modern machinery. In November I shall be travelling to Ivory Coast again, to start up a seed drill and an agricultural sprayer and to show the employees there how to use it. This equipment is used in our pineapple fields. The seed drill helps to make sowing efficient, while the agricultural sprayer assists organic leaf fertilization.

Kuemkwong Siemefo: In addition to this, we intend to extend the processing of the fruit crops. Just recently we began with drying the mangoes and we would like to expand our range with dried pineapples. This means that the raw materials are also processed in the country of origin and thereby provide the people there with more jobs.

3) What actually made you become an agricultural engineer?

Kuemkwong Siemefo:
I wanted to study agricultural engineering, so that I could make a commitment to my home country, Cameroon, in a professional capacity. As a graduate in Agricultural Economics, I have landed up at BioTropic by a circuitous route however, and I have been looking after various eco projects in different African countries for several years now.
You never stop learning in this profession either, and I appreciate that. At the beginning of the year I was in Costa Rica, for example, to be trained in the processing techniques for pineapples. Everyone ought to know that Costa Rica is the leading pineapple producer in the world. I shall be able to apply much of the knowledge I picked up there in Ivory Coast. For similar reasons I also attended a workshop in the Philippines which has a lengthy tradition in mango drying.

Marnie Kathem: Although I was a typical townie as a child, even as a teenager I wanted to study something to do with agriculture, since it had always interested me. I also regard this work as being worthwhile, since after all, everyone has to eat. And what we eat should, of course, be good quality food produced by healthy sustainable farming methods. I studied Agricultural Science at the University of Göttingen, and my main subject was and is Crop Management.

*BMZ = Federal Ministry for Collaboration and Development

Text: Visnja Malesic
Pictures: BioTropic GmbH

Tags: Pineapple (GB), BMZ (GB), DEG (GB), Ivory Coast (GB), Ivoire Organics (GB), Coconut (GB), Kuemkwong Siemefo (GB), Mangos (GB), PPP (GB)

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