I realise that I haven’t really described what I am doing here, in detail. In truth, it took a while to find out for myself. But I think after about half a year I have a clear idea.
My title is “chargé de mise en valeur”, which means responsible for the valorisation activities. The programme I am working in has activities in water availability (such as the provision of water wells), but also, once water is available, activities to capitalise this for the development of the area or village are possible. The most important examples of these activities are vegetable growing and rice production.
Vegetable and rice production are commercial agricultural activities, and not easy. First of all there are all the technical aspects: production techniques, the weather which we can’t control, and constraints on water and inputs availability. Giving villagers willing to produce vegetables or rice the knowledge how to do so is one of the main activities in this aspect. But once harvesting time comes around, another aspect appears: commercialisation. It is not enough to grow onions, to make a living you have to be able to sell them too! And this is an aspect with which we are struggling with right now.
It is a difficult subject, because the world of food production is becoming increasingly globalised and producers here have to compete with rice from taiwan and tomatoes from ghana. We are looking at ways to try and make these agricultural activities profitable and sustainable for these small farmers we are working with. Not an easy task, but interesting and challenging...