The partnership also involves a number of other organizations:
Daouda Bamba wears many hats. He is a small-scale farmer, leader of a maize producers’ organization, and president of the governance platform that oversees 2SCALE’s yellow maize partnership in Sikasso, Mali. We spoke to Bamba about how 2SCALE has impacted on incomes and livelihoods, and about future prospects.
This partnership is now 3 years old. What have you achieved?
The impacts are clearly visible. I will mention just a few. First, yields have increased from about 2.5 tons to 4 tons per hectare as a result of intensive farmer training and availability of inputs on credit, organized by 2SCALE and other partners. A few years ago, if I had told a farmer that it was possible to harvest 4 tons per hectare, he would have laughed at me. Today, some of use are getting even more than 4 tons. The project has also created linkages between farmers and other actors, particularly bankers and input suppliers. We do business together, and everyone profits: farmers, banks, fertilizer dealers, transporters, warehouse owners…
Another big change is with quality. 2SCALE has taught us about quality control. Today, our maize can go anywhere, even outside Mali, and this makes us proud. Every season, we are increasing the quantities we deliver to SONAF. Three years ago, 80% of SONAF’s maize came from Côte d’Ivoire. Today, 90% of their maize comes from Sikasso. This has made a huge difference to the local economy. SONAF now plans to set up a processing plant. This means the future is bright: the market will be bigger and more stable, and there will be more opportunities for young people in our community.
Youth play a big role in the yellow maize value chain. How do you make sure the youth benefit from your business?
Youth were always a priority for the community, even before 2SCALE. But 2SCALE has pushed us to do better, and to look at the specific needs of young men and young women. Incomes have to be shared more fairly.
The best way to make agriculture attractive for youth is to share farm revenue with them, in a fair and just way. The money I make from our family farm does not belong to me alone. I am just the manager. My job is to manage the farm well, so that it can provide my children with everything they need. We are trying our best, and we can already see the results. Few of our young people are migrating to the city. They prefer to stay here and to work with us, because they know they do not need to leave the village to look for greener pastures. We are doing well with our sons, but we still need to do more for our girls – and we will do so, with 2SCALE’s help.
What do you like most about 2SCALE?
There are so many things to like, because it has made such a difference to our lives. But one thing that is unique about 2SCALE is the way it brings people together to create a network. Today, all actors in the maize value chain in Sikasso are integrated into a network. We interact regularly, there is trust and solidarity between us. We know that 2SCALE will end this year, but we have been able to plan for the future through a governance platform that brings together all the actors. The platform is progressively taking over activities that were earlier done by 2SCALE. And we are funding this platform with our own money – we collect 250 FCFA on each bag of maize sold to SONAF by members of our network. I am confident we can continue even after 2SCALE exits. That is why I say that I have seen nothing similar to 2SCALE, wallahi!
You have talked only of successes. Have there been failures as well?
Not everything was perfect. Two years ago, 2SCALE facilitated a loan from BNDA bank and microfinance institutions Sôrôyiriwaso and Nyèsigiso. The scheme was this: SONAF gives us an offtake contract, based on which the bank gives loans to input dealers to provide us with fertilizer on credit. When we deliver the harvested maize, SONAF deducts the credit and repays the bank directly. The scheme was perfect, but the repayment rate was only 80% because some cooperatives diverted the loans for other uses. We noticed that the guilty cooperatives were usually the biggest ones, with thousands of members, often led by farmer-politicians. With small cooperatives (200 farmers or less), repayment rate was 100%. This taught us an important lesson: performance does not depend on size. At times, large size can even cause mismanagement and lack of transparency. In the small cooperatives, farmers know each other, we can monitor loans and use peer pressure to ensure repayment. We have learned this, and we now apply it to make future loan programs stronger. As the Bambara proverb goes: if you can learn from a bad experience, it is no longer a bad experience.