The first exchanges between Fert and the Union Régionale des Maraichers du Gbêkê (URMAG) began in February 2019 in Côte d’Ivoire. The union, created in 2014, brings together 15 cooperatives in the Gbêkê region, in the centre of the country, with nearly 500 active producers selling an average of 14,000 tons of market garden products per year (mainly tomatoes). In 2020, URMAG and Fert will set up at the wholesale market in Bouaké and work on marketing issues in greater depth.

A look back at Fert’s support for this young union seeking to develop activities in a market gardening sector that is still not very structured

During the first months, meetings and field visits allowed Fert and URMAG to get to know each other. URMAG’s elected representatives are dynamic and have the ambition to set up a marketing service for the benefit of their members who are experiencing difficulties in adding value to their production. The discussions and exchanges have made it possible to specify the Union’s project and the support system to be set up.

The contours of a partnership were thus gradually outlined with several lines of work beginning in August 2019:

Technical and economic support for producers

Two Fert advisors have been installed in the region. After an initial diagnostic work with the groups making up the union, they initiated community school fields, i.e. plots held by the group. There, the advisors lead collective training and advice to improve farming practices and diversify production.

Example of a school field

The field school of the Farmer Organization (FO) Eklounwadjô (meaning “our hearts are appeased” in the local Baoulé language) based in Zangokro wishes to diversify its market gardening production with the cultivation of onions (learning the technical itinerary of the onion).

Development of URMAG services to its members

Farm advisers also introduce management tools to groups to facilitate the planning and monitoring of market gardening campaigns.

URMAG has also initiated collaborations with a microfinance organization and input suppliers in order to promote the acquisition of inputs by market garden producers.

Specific support in setting up a group marketing service

Exchanges with Fert have made it possible to engage in dialogue and negotiations with the Bouaké wholesale market. At the end of 2019, URMAG was thus able to obtain the provision of a store that will serve as a space for grouping productions. This marks the return of producers and market garden produce to this wholesale market, the main one in West Africa.

URMAG’s elected representatives are mobilizing to seek commercial outlets. Collaboration with the Bouaké Wholesale Market and the partnership with Fert will enable them to strengthen their knowledge of the markets and better equip them in negotiations with buyers.

A reflection is also underway on the improvement of post-harvest management procedures (grading, packaging, transport, etc.).

Leaders” within the FOs ready to invest in the action and experiment the grouped marketing service are also being identified with the support of Fert.

Strengthening the organisation of the Union

The establishment of a transparent information and management system and the improvement of information channels to producers are being worked on to strengthen the links between the Union and its primary producers.

The advisors also help FOs that are members of the Union to better organise themselves to set up monitoring and mutual assistance services.

In collaboration with several actors involved in the market gardening sector, Fert will continue to support URMAG in 2020 on these 4 axes.

In addition, a joint office is scheduled to open in March 2020 at the Bouaké Wholesale Market; it will facilitate the partnership and the operationalization of the marketing service for market garden products deployed by URMAG.

URMAG is delighted with this partnership with Fert, which is supporting it in its reflections and in the search for solutions that will make its project a reality. For this motivated and persevering Union, it is a question of seeing 5 years of internal reflection come to fruition. It has a great vision and ambition to contribute to the development of the market gardening sector in Ivory Coast.