It’s seven a.m. in Nano, a small town in the Tandjouaré prefecture of the Savanes region of northern Togo. It’s the last Monday of the month and the city is covered with a thick fog. Dressed in a shirt made from African cloth, Compara Karsongue is getting ready to go to a co-operative meeting with his fellow farmers from Nano. Mr. Karsongue specializes in growing groundnuts along with soybeans and maize. He is one of the major agricultural producers in the area.
The Savanes region of Togo is known for its excellent groundnut production. But with the rise of other, more profitable cash crops, some farmers feel like the government of Togo is turning away from the groundnut sector.
Mr. Karsongue explains, “The rising popularity of cotton, maize, and soybean means that groundnut production is falling.” He says the result is disorganization in the groundnut sector, which no longer has formal groups to make major decisions about the groundnut value chain.
Instead of formal groups, many farmers are turning to small co-operatives for support, some of which are supported by non-governmental organizations such as GIZ, a German development organization. Through these groups, farmers are better able to organize their marketing and other kinds of efforts, and access training and financing—and even a four-hectare demonstration field where members can try out new practices.
Mr. Karsongue explains, “In these fields, we carry out experiments on soil fertility, improved seed varieties, and soil density, to name a few.”
Mrs. Kiyiezoa Tiem is a groundnut farmer in Doré village in Nano. She says that, thanks to what she learned in the demonstration field, she has been able to increase her productivity at home.
She explains: “We’ve learned how to flat plow with rakes, how to do seeding, and how to remove weeds. I produce groundnuts on five hectares in my own fields, and since participating in the demonstration fields, I have improved production on my one-hectare field from one tonne to two tonnes.”
Mr. Karsongue agrees—the impact of the demonstration field on his life has been very positive. Since it was introduced, he and other farmers in the region have learned many new skills, including how to choose seeds, how to maintain their crops, how to add organic matter to the soil, good harvest and post-harvest practices, and how to choose land.
He explains: “Choosing a field for growing groundnuts is crucial. Groundnuts grow in well-drained and aerated soils that are clean and free of weeds. Harvesting can be done by hand if the soil is moist. But in the absence of rain, when the soil is hard, it’s better to use a hoe for harvesting. For the drying, you need to use good, dry tarps to cover the crops.”
Mr. Karsongue continues: “Storage must be done in a well-ventilated but well-sealed warehouse, which can be made from pallets or bricks. It’s also important to prevent the groundnuts from touching the ground—if they become moist, you risk them being contaminated by aflatoxins.”
Yendoumban Bondjogou is a groundnut producer and the president of the Togo groundnut seed network. He explains that aflatoxins are caused by harmful molds, and can destroy groundnuts, or make them unsafe to eat.
According to Mr. Bondjogou, aflatoxins can contaminate groundnut seeds before, during, or after production and their consequences on human and animal health are serious.
He explains: “We want to control this disease at the production level and share prevention and control techniques with producers. For the moment, we are encouraging farmers to combine good groundnut growing practices, including good field choice, respecting sowing and harvesting times, and [using] good drying practices [along] with a product called Aflasafe, a product applied to groundnuts to protect them against aflatoxins.”
Mr. Karsongue says his newfound learnings are just one of many ways that he benefits from the groundnut co-operative.
He says: “Together, we have reached an agreement with wholesalers to buy our products. In the future, we hope to work more with women’s co-operatives in processing, as well as with transporters and exporters.”
Source: Farm Radio International