Yacouba, craving for white gold

Yacouba is the manager of the provincial Union of professional farmers of Nayala (UPPA/N), the granary of Burkina Faso. It’s a small union. Its members grow sorghum, millet and maize and belong to different grassroots groups. Although sorghum can give you some financial profit, they prefer to keep it rather than to sell. Sorghum is their staple food, it procures them a certain prestige. And Yacouba wants to grow enough to feed his family … and to have a beer at home. Yes, sorghum is also used to make beer, sorghum is a very interesting crop. For all these reasons, sorghum growers try to produce and store as much as possible.

But look, the FEPAB (Federation of agro-professionals of Burkina Faso) which signed a contract with the World Food Programme (WFP) contacts Yacouba. The WFP, according to its policy of buying locally produced foods from farmer organizations, ordered large quantities of white sorghum from the local market for which it will pay a good price. If the UPPA/N could mobilize these quantities meeting the required quality standards, Yacouba bets he can honor the contract with the WFP. And if he can satisfy the WFP, Yacouba is certain he will gain more, improve the quality of his life and of the members of the UPPA/N.

So Yacouba will set up a functioning union that better organizes its members and offers an interesting price to sorghum growers, encouraging them to sell to the UPPA/N. And Yacouba wins the first bet: he collects 157 tons of white sorghum, which the UPPA/N sells to the WFP.

But! They sold at a loss! Indeed, Yacouba and the UPPA/N concentrated so much on quantities that they forgot other aspects of business. True, they do not master the market procedures, nor the crop management practices, nor the production cost of sorghum. They are not well informed about quality standards and do not have an efficient system to collect. All this has to change!

And Yacouba goes straight ahead, he negotiates a credit for the UPPA/N with COOPEC, a local branch of a savings and credit cooperative. With this money, collecting white sorghum becomes easier, as the UPPA/N can pay its members a good price in cash. The UPPA/N also gets technical assistance from a technician of the WFP to improve its capacity to increase the quantity and improve the quality of sorghum.

And it pays off! The second year, 241 tons of sorghum are collected. This stock is completely sold to the WFP at a very good price. With the money earned, the Union pays its members a higher price than they get on the market and with the rest the Union sets up a fund.

Yacouba is glad. With the results obtained, it is normal that more farmers grow sorghum now. Good quality white sorghum, the quality required by the WFP. Wow, Yacouba has never seen such large quantities! But where to stock these? Thanks to the improved negotiation capacities of Yacouba and the UPPA/N, the Union receives a grant to construct a storage device.

Yacouba is not only happy because he won his bet and that the UPPA/N has now a storage place, but also because the sorghum farmers have improved their standard of living. Some of them could buy a bicycle, others a motorbike, others upgraded their houses or put in a new roof.

Tonight there is a little party at Yacouba’s place. He is very grateful and wants to show his happiness. All the sorghum farmers are there, all have been invited to drink sorghum beer! And the beer flows like water!

Written by Marie Loosvelt and Toon Defoer

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